Key Matchups: Army vs. Navy

Corps of Cadets
(U.S. Army photo by Michelle Eberhart)

The thirteenth game of the year matches the Army West Point Black Knights (5-7, Sagarin 100) and their archrival, the American Athletic Conference West Navy Midshipmen (9-2, 7-1 Sagarin 29).  Navy leads the all-time series 60-52-7.  Last year Army beat Navy 17-10, as the Cadets forced three turn-overs.  That gave Army their third win in a row over Navy and their second Commander in Chief’s Trophy in a row, for the first time.  Navy enters the game on a roll, winning eight of their last nine games.  They are headed to the Liberty Bowl and a win will earn them the Commander in Chief’s Trophy.  Army has had a year very reminiscent of Navy’s 2018 season: injury riddled and fallen far short of expectations.  Army has been unable to consistently establish the fullback dive and corresponding offense and unable to apply consistent pressure on opponents Quarterbacks.  The Cadets have played hard and have had a chance to win each game, they have just missed a few attributes to pull out the close games.

Two weeks ago

In Honolulu, HI

The Rainbow Warriors gained 492 total yards and were able to hold Army on a couple of possessions, as they marched the Cadets off the beach, 52-31.

If you had told me that Army would rush for 411 yards, pass for 127 and hold the ball for 35:20, I would say that chances were nearly 100% of a Black Knight victory.  A couple of interceptions, one a 100-yard pick six were the difference.  Army had a chance to tie the game up late in the fourth quarter, but were held on downs.  On that drive they had a key third and five, but Christian Anderson was held to no gain and threw an incomplete pass on fourth.  Last year, two fullback dives would have continued the drive.

In the second half, Army was able to put a little pressure on Sophomore Quarterback Colt McDonald and it helped thwart a couple possessions.  But for the most part, both Quarterbacks were able to pick apart the Army defense unfettered.  The Warrior Quarterbacks were 26-41 for 359 yards and five touchdowns.

Junior Quarterback Christian Anderson led all rushers with 112 yards on 12 carries.  Junior Fullback Sandon McCoy had 91 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, it was certainly his best effort of the year. Unsung Junior Slotback Artice Hobbs caught a 69yard pass – he is a terrific player, watch for him to be a real producer in his senior year.

Sophomore Defensive Back Cedrick Cunningham had nine tackles.  NFL prospect Elijah Riley had six tackles.  Both Riley and Junior Javhari Bourdeau had really nice games in coverage.

Senior David Cooper successfully kicked a 32 yard field goal and three extra points.

In Houston TX

Sophomore Fullback Jamal Carothers gained 188 yards and scored five touchdowns on 18 carries as the Middies declawed the Cougars 56-41.

The Navy offense is rolling with 447 rushing yards on 56 carries for 447 yards.  While Carothers was their leading rusher, Senior Quarterback Malcom Perry gained 146 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.  It is a shame for Navy that they did not find Carothers earlier in the season as he is the perfect compliment to Malcom Perry.  An effective fullback opens the other options and keeps the Quarterback from taking a lot of direct hits.  Unfortunately for Army, they will have to face Carothers three times.

Navy’s defense was less than spectacular, allowing 527 total yards.  The Cougars gained most of their yards in the air (393) and they also gained 134 yards on 30 carries for a 4.5 yard average.

The difference in this game were the five Houston turn-overs that disallowed Houston from keeping up in the shoot-out.

Who is favored?

Navy favored by 10.5 points.

What to look for?

Until the streak was broken, Army found every way imaginable to lose this game.  Fumbles, blocked punts, botched trick plays were often the determining factor.  Ken Niumatalolo and his Navy team basically lined up, played a very vanilla game and let Army impload.

After an intense reorganization, Army got bigger and faster and eliminated the physical disparity between the teams and the games once again became competitive.  If it had not been for this very embarrassing 14 year losing streak, West Point would have never made the programmatic changes that have rejuvenated the program – just remember that.

Last year, the tables turned as bigger, more physical Army took advantage of three Navy turn-overs to win a relatively close game.  Of the two teams, Army is more physical and their defense hits harder.

The Navy Offense is averaging 39.3 points per game, while their defense averages 24.2.  The Army Offense averages 30.3 points per game, while their defense averages 22.3 points.

The Navy rushing offense lead the nation with 360.8 yards per game average and a six year per carry average. Army rushing defense allows 144.1 yards per game and a 4.2 yard average.

Army rushing offense is third in the nation averaging 311.7 yards per game and a 5.4 yards per carry average, while the Navy rushing defense allows only 109.7 yards per game and a 3.4 yard average.

Carothers and Perry are on a roll.  Army will most likely play with one safety and crash the middle as much as possible.  They must stop Carothers to have any chance in this game.  This is going to force many one on one tackles in the flats.  Army Corners Riley and Bordeau will have to be at their best.

Senior Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins will most likely start the game and play as long as he can.  We don’t know the extent of his injuries, but it certainly seems as though his left shoulder and ribs are hurt. Christian Anderson will probably be ready for the backup roll and Jemel Jones will be ready if need be.  Army will try to get the ball to Senior Running Back Kell Walker and don’t be surprised to see an early pass to Artice Hobbs.

Both teams played Air Force closely, however Navy beat the Falcons 34-25.  The final score was misleading as Navy returned a fumble and scored six points on the last play of the game.  Army lost to the Falcons 17-13, unable to convert a first and goal on the seven-yard line on the last possession of the game.  Navy beat Tulane at home 41-38, while Army lost to Tulane 42-33.

As like any game, for Army to win, they will need to move the ball effectively.  Navy will put nine defenders in the box and Hopkins will need to complete some passes early.  Offensive coordinator Brent Davis knows exactly what he is in for and I would expect a lot of wrinkles from what Army has done in the previous twelve games.

Navy’s offense has not been this dynamic in years.  Between Carothers and Perry, they put a lot of pressure on the defending Safeties to fill the holes and make tackles.  Army must contain these two speedsters, but do not be surprised if they make a couple of long touchdowns.  Expect Elijah Riley and Senior Linebacker Cole Christiansen to have incredible games.  These are two very talented players who will be very focused to leave their mark on this game and this program.

Army will have to win the turn-over battle, however on the year, Navy is +3 and Army is +1 on the year.  They will also have to win the time of possession.  Army has not beaten a team with a .500 record plus this season, but they have also been in every game and had opportunities to win most of them.

The early forecast is rainy, which will add more conservative play calling to a game that will have fewer than 15 passes; 10.5 points seems like a lot.  Army will have a chance to win this game, but they will have to execute on offense on key plays, which they have had a hard time doing all year.

This has been a year of almost for Army and I think that it will continue in their final game.  Maybe there is a fumble recovery, interception or blocked punt that puts the Cadets over the top for the fourth time in a row.

Final Score – Navy 21 – Army 17 (predictions in 2019, 5-7)

Final Tally – Picks from the Ridge (16-3)

This game will be shown on CBS @ 3:00 PM EST


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