Key Matchups: Army vs. Western Kentucky

Army mule

The sixth game of the year matches the Army West Point Black Knights (3-2, Sagarin 72) and the Conference USA East leading Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (3-2, Sagarin 111).  The Hilltoppers lead the all-time series 2-0, with the last victory coming in 2014, when they walloped the Black Knights 52-24.  The Hilltoppers are coming off a conference win against Old Dominion, while Army is coming off their first home loss in nearly three years.

Last Week

At Michie

The Green Wave gained 525 total yards, won the time of possession and beat Army in every facet of the game to win 42-33.

It has been a while since Army has been outclassed by an opponent at home.  You have to go back to November 5, 2016, when Air Force came into Michie and thrashed the Cadets 31-12.  Even though Army was coming off a bye week, Tulane was better prepared.  The coaches had a better game plan, the team was bigger, faster and made fewer mistakes.

It has also been a while since there has been a game where Army missed so many tackles.  We don’t know if the Cadets had mid-terms or if they have just not faced a big, athletic Running Back like Senior Darius Bradwell.  The Army defense seemed to be in the position to stop him, but it was often the fourth Cadet who brought him down several yards past the line of scrimmage.

Army had difficulty stopping the run and the pass.  Tulane rushers ran 53 times for 324 yards (6.1 yard average.)  Speedy Senior Running Back Corey Dauphine let rushers with 75 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Senior Quarterback Justin McMillan was 15/21 for 201 yards and a touchdown.  He did have two fumbles, however.

The Army Offense had a decent game, but certainly not good enough to keep pace in a shootout.  They gained 193 yards rushing on 44 attempts.  Kelvin Hopkins lead the way with 132 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.  What was interesting is that Defensive Coordinator Jack Curtis took away the outside option.  The Fullback Dive and the Quarterback follow were very effective, but Army went to the outside option five times on later downs that resulted in drive-killing losses.  We are not sure, but if they had kept the offense between the tackles, especially once that had tied the game in the second half, Army may have had a better chance to win.

Senior Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins was effective in non-passing situations.  He was 9/24 for 170 yards and a touchdown.  On the third and long situations however, he was 1/6 and under tremendous pressure.

The bright side of this game was that the Cadets never gave up.  They made a valiant charge at the end of the game and if it were not for early two-point conversion tries, they may have had a chance to tie or win on the last possession.  The Army defense, while missing many tackles and failing to cover the outside gap, forced two turn-overs and hit hard all day.  After a tough loss to Michigan, we felt that this team still had tremendous potential.  Now with a dose of reality, each game will be a challenge.  The new focus is on the Commander in Chief’s Trophy as Navy and Air Force look solid.

Last Week

In Norfolk, VA

The Hilltopers limited the Old Dominion to 163 total yards and three points as they dethroned the Monarchs 20-3.

Senior Quarterback Ty Storey was 21/28 for 193 yards with one touchdown and an interception.  Junior Wide Receiver Jahcour Pearson was his main target gaining 67 yards on 7 receptions.  Junior Running back Gaej Walker gained 114 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.

Western Kentucky had two turnovers, but the Old Dominion Offense was only able to convert them for their three points.

Who is favored?

Army is favored by four points

What to look for?

Since an opening loss to Central Arkansas, the Hilltoppers are 3-1 and their defense has steadily improved.  They are only averaging 2.8 yards per rushing attempt and 303.4 yards per game.  The Hilltoppers play a 4-3 defense and have two Defensive Tackles with size, Senior Jaylon George (6’3,290 lbs.) and Junior Jeremy Darvin (6’1, 305 lbs.).  They get much smaller and more athletic in their Defensive End Positions with Junior DeAngelo Malone (6’4, 230 lbs.) and Sophomore Juwuan Jones (6’3, 270 lbs.).  Malone leads the team with 46 tackles, 13 for a loss and seven sacks.  Junior Linebacker Kyle Bailey is an active linebacker with 42 tackles and Junior Devon Key is their sure tackling Defensive Back with 40 tackles.

The Hilltopper run the same spread option offense that we have seen in the previous five games.  They are led by Quarterback Ty Storey who has played in half of their games and completes 69.2% of his passes.  His favorite target is Jahcour Person who has 28 catches for 291 yards and three touchdowns.  Gaej Walker will lead their rushing attack.  He has 448 yards and four touchdowns on 97 carries.  The offense averages 331.4 yards and 21.8 points per game.  They average 3.1 yards per rushing attempt and only 97 yards per game.

The Hilltoppers are not Tulane nor Michigan.  They are currently 3-0 in Conference USA, but will most likely finish the season 6-6 and play in a pre-Christmas bowl game.  They are athletic enough to challenge Army if the Cadets come into the game lackadaisical and continue to commit drive-killing penalties.

I expect Coach Brent Davis and the offense to be predictably boring.  I look for a steady dose of fullback dives and Quarterback options.  I think that the Army Offense will rack up more than 400 yards rushing and Hopkins will throw fewer than three passes.  For a week, all will seem right in the world.

Final Score – Army 28 – Western Kentucky 14 (predictions in 2019, 3-2)

This game will be shown on the Stadium App 7:00 PM EDT.

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