Key Matchups: Army vs. Georgia State

Jeff Monken and team. (U.S. Army Photo)
Jeff Monken and team. (U.S. Army Photo)

The seventh game of the year matches the Army West Point Black Knights (3-3, Sagarin 85) and the Sunbelt East Georgia State Panthers (4-2, Sagarin 93).  This is the first meeting between these two teams. The Panthers enter the game on a two-game win streak with the last one coming on the road.  The Black Knights are on a two-game losing streak, searching for an identity.

Last Week

At Bowling Green, KY

The Hilltopers limited Army to 117 yards on 34 carries until the final drive of the game and nearly shut out the Black Knights enroute to a 17-8 victory.

Senior Quarterback Tye Storey was 21/30 for 140 yards in the air, and he also rushed 17 times for 62 yards and two touchdowns.  Overall, Western Kentucky rolled up 350 yards and held the ball for 38:07.

I read some post game commentaries that criticized the Army defense.  In my opinion, the defense was stellar.  The Black Knights were on the field for two thirds of the game and still gave the team a chance to win.  Senior Linebacker Cole Christiansen made up for a tough game against Tulane and played his best game of the season, making 13 tackles.  Senior Defensive Back Elija Riley played like an NFL draftee, making 11 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and two pass break ups.  Junior Defensive End Edriece Patterson lead the Defensive Line with five tackles.  The team hit hard the entire game and never gave up.  Army’s best defense is an offense that keeps the ball and allows them to take chances to make a couple of stops.  That game plan is completely ineffective when the offense cannot gain first downs and sustain drives.

I thought Brent Davis was going to be dedicated to the fullback dive and that Army would prevail in a boring grind it out game.  As it turned out, Western Kentucky was completely ready for that game plan.  Army was three and out on four possessions.  This resulted in Army running only 48 plays and holding the ball for only 21:53. What we have not seen for a couple seasons was the Fullback Dive nor the Quarterback follow not work.  Army gained 137 yards on 36 carries for an average of 3.8 yards.  That is not far off the pace of what the offense needs to do, but an extra yard on first and second down make all the difference in the world.  Unlike the last two years, a fourth and one is no longer a guarantee and Army punted twice in such situations.    Junior Fullback Sandon McCoy lead all rushers with 41 yards on 11 carries.  Senior Running Back Kell Walker went down with an injury and we saw Senior Malick Hancock.  He seems to be a great athlete with real speed, I wonder why we have not seen more of him.

The game was close and we think that coaches Davis and Monken felt that they would eventually wear down the Hilltoppers and kept the offense very vanilla.  Ultimately, that costed Army the game.  Senior Offensive Guard Jaxson Deaton and Junior Center Peyton Reader were out of the game and it did make a difference.  This team is missing the Offensive Line/Fullback combination that we took for granted over the past three years.  When the defense puts nine in the box, Army needs to pass over it.  Air Force and Navy play conference schedules against teams that have learned to defend the triple option and have learned that passing is essential to keep linebackers and cornerbacks out of the backfield.  Army is going to need to learn this quickly before this season gets out of hand.

Last Week

In Conway, SC

Georgia State gained 472 yards in total offense, with 350 coming on the ground as the Panthers cooked the Chanticleers 31-21.

Senior Quarterback Dan Ellington gained more than half of the Panther yards as he was 16/24 for 122 yards, a touchdown and an interception.  He also gained 128 yards on 19 carries.  Senior Running Back Tra Bennet gained 110 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.  Sophomore Seth Paige gained 104 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

The Panthers limited the Chanticleers to 105 yards rushing on 27 carries.  Coastal Carolina did most of their damage in the air as the two quarterbacks were 19/31 for 217 yards and two touchdowns.

Who is favored?

Army is favored by five points

What to look for?

The Panthers average 35.5 points per game, and their opponents average 37.5 points per game.  They average 491 yards per game and are balanced with an average of 235.5 yards rushing and 225 yards passing per game.

Georgia State runs the Spread Option offense, the same offense that Army has faced the first six weeks of the season. Quarterback Dan Ellington is very agile.  He is hard to tackle and keeps plays alive with his feet.  He tends to scramble to the right.  He averages 225 yards passing and 73.5 yards rushing per game.  He completes 64.9% of his passes and will challenge the Army Offense.  I expect Army Linebacker Cole Christiansen to spy Ellington and reduce his ability to scramble for yardage.  Their Offensive Line has good size, with two players over 300 lbs.  This will create holes for their leading rusher Tra Barnett.

Georgia State has the worst defense of any of Army’s opponents thus far this year, as their opponents average 452.8 yards per game.  They are allowing 199.8 yards per game rushing with a 5.6 yard average.  Their defensive scheme is a 3-4, very similar to Western Kentucky’s and they will often blitz linebackers and corners.  Look for the Panthers to put all four linebackers and two corners in the box and crash the fullback dive and outside option.  Junior Nose Tackle Dontae Wilson weighs in at 280lbs.  Senior Defensive End Terry Thomas is 265 lbs. and Junior Defensive End Hardick Willis weighs in at 228 lbs.  Junior Inside Linebacker Trajan Stephens-McQueen (215 lbs.) leads the team with 49 tackles.  The other Inside Linebacker Senior Ed Curney (225 lbs.) is right behind him with 46 tackles.  I suspect that they will be very active at the line of scrimmage and the Army offense will be dependent on their success.  Based on their performance versus the run, their lack of exposure to the triple option and their size, the Army Fullback dive may actually work.

This game will rest on the Army Offensive Line.  Offensive Guard Jaxson Deaton and Center Peyton Reader were out last week.  Will they be back?  If not, this may be a very interesting game.  The Army back-ups are getting some great experience, but there is a real difference when the starters are not in the game.

The Panther Defense will be exactly what the Cadets need to get back on track.  Army will not have a three and out and will gain more than 300 yards on the ground.  Look for Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins to have his best game of the year.  I suspect he will throw several times to keep the linebackers off the line of scrimmage.  The Army defense will stop Ellington on half of their possessions and the Cadets will get a little swagger back.

Final Score – Army 35 – Georgia State 21 (predictions in 2019, 3-3)

 

This game will be shown on ESPN+ at 7:00 PM EDT.

Picks from the Ridge

West Virginia +33.5 over Oklahoma

Stanford -7 over UCLA

Miami (OH) + 2.5 over Northern Ill

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