Here we go. This might be the toughest game on Army’s 2020 schedule. No, the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy games aren’t generally cakewalks, but Air Force is a mystery and Navy is not nearly as strong as it was a season ago.
One can make a very reasonable argument that this Saturday’s game at No. 14 Cincinnati is the biggest obstacle to an unbeaten regular season for the Black Knights. If college football does go through with non-playoff bowl games this winter (and little has been said about that topic up to now), this game against Cincinnati could be the difference between a premium bowl bid and a second-level bowl assignment for the Black Knights.
It’s a very big game. Let’s look at a few basic keys:
1 – Edge blocking and the finesse game
Cincinnati has a well-coached defense, guided by coordinator Marcus Freeman, who is expected by many in the college football business to get a head coaching job before too long, probably when the pandemic subsides. Army physically pounded Middle Tennessee and Louisiana-Monroe. The Black Knights will certainly try to be physical against Cincinnati, and to a certain degree, they have to be. However, it’s unlikely that Army can overpower Cincinnati with brute strength. The triple-option formula in this game is probably going to involve more production from quarterback keeps and pitchouts than from the fullback dive. Army’s blocking on the perimeter will be central to this game’s outcome. Lateral movements and beating Bearcat defenders to spots will be essential. Army will want to see if it can get to the corner before Cincinnati can. Using some misdirection plays and varying the tempo of its play sequences could get the Bearcats off balance. Army has to be clever with its running game. It probably won’t win a fistfight. This needs to be martial arts more than a street brawl.
2 – Make Desmond Ridder throw
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder is experienced. He’s a solid quarterback. Yet, Army has to make Ridder beat the Black Knights with the pass. Cincinnati ran for 276 yards in its one game this season against Austin Peay. Army has to take away the run and force Ridder to be a precision passer. There aren’t great choices for the Black Knights when they play defense, but they at least have a chance if they can take away the UC ground game. They won’t have much of a chance if they don’t. Cincinnati running back Gerrid Doaks ran for just 20 yards against Austin Peay; UC will try to get him going. Army needs to keep him under wraps.
3 – Taking a punch
Army has outscored its first two opponents, 79-7. It is likely that Cincinnati will give Army a close game at the very least. There are likely to be momentum shifts and instances of adversity for Army in this contest. Army will need to show it can take a punch; responding well to Cincinnati touchdowns or to negative plays will be a central key to a Black Knight victory.