Army faces Tulane on Saturday at Michie Stadium. Here are your three keys to an Army win over Tulane.
The Army Black Knights have had two weeks to flush the poor performance against Morgan State out of their system. Coach Jeff Monken was clearly disgusted with his team’s showing against an FCS opponent, and he had every right to be. This is not the standard Army has set – and increasingly improved – over the past few years. Army, if it plays like that against Air Force and Navy, will lose its hold on the Commander In Chief’s Trophy.
The Black Knights now get to return to the field and see if they have fixed their flaws as they face the improving Tulane Green Wave. Tulane knocked off Houston a few weeks ago and is legitimately in the mix as a contender for the AAC West Division championship.
Key 1 – Shut down big plays
The Tulane offense scored 38 points against Houston two weeks ago, but it did so without being consistent. It hit the big play, scoring touchdowns on pass plays of 38, 48 and 53 yards. A winning performance for Army begins with forcing the Green Wave to slowly move the ball down the field. Daring Tulane to make 12- or 15-play touchdown drives is a foundational element for the Black Knights in this game. If Tulane can be relentlessly consistent and win with remarkable reliability, Army can tip its cap to Tulane. As it stands, West Point needs to force the Green Wave to be deliberate and patient.
Key 2 – Confuse Justin McMillan
The Temple-Houston game, if you didn’t already know it, was a weird one. Tulane racked up 511 yards of offense because of a strong running game, but the Green Wave – as mentioned above – hit three huge pass plays of at least 38 yards apiece. Tulane rushed for 325 yards but did most of its scoring through the air, and not with 2-yard play-action passes, but home-run swings.
This was an odd statistical profile, but this is not fake news: Tulane quarterback Justin McMillan was 7 of 20 passing for 186 yards (over 26 yards per completion) and three touchdowns. He wasn’t consistent at all, but he hit the big plays he needed to make. Army should be able to bait McMillan into mistakes. Shutting off big plays is important in part because it forces McMillan to be more precise and consistent. Army needs to dare McMillan and tell him that no, he is not going to be able to play that way. Pouncing on a bad throw or read will come in handy for West Point on Saturday.
Key 3 – Effort
Army didn’t get out of the right side of the bed against Morgan State. A big part of this game is simply having the right mindset and roaring out of the tunnel with pure fire. Monken surely expects his players to be extremely focused and invigorated. A sleepy start to this game is not only unacceptable; if it happens again, Army will probably lose. Effort is the biggest safeguard against a loss.
Saturday’s game kicks off at Noon ET. Watch on the CBS Sports Network.