At 5-1, Army is heading into it’s seventh game of the season to meet Mercer on Saturday afternoon with the hopes of extending their current three-game winning streak.
This is just the second of three games that Mercer will play this fall, as the Southern Conference — which is also home to The Citadel and VMI — has opted for a spring football season in 2021 amidst the pandemic.
Following a 34-28 loss against Jacksonville State, Mercer is coming off a bye week and will will face its biggest challenge yet in Army. The Bears will then take on Abilene Christian next weekend to wrap up their fall slate.
Against Jacksonville State, the team managed 153 rushing yards and were 8-for-16 on third down. What undid the Bears against the Gamecocks were their turnovers. Mercer fumbled a total of six times, and lost two of those fumbles. Mercer also threw an interception. Five penalties for a loss of 51 yards didn’t help either, and the Bears fell 34-28.
“They do some really unique things on offense, so defensively we just need to prepare for them,” Army head coach Jeff Monken said. “They have familiarity with the offense on their defensive staff. Bob Bodine, who was on staff here for a couple of years, is their co-offensive coordinator, so I’m sure he’s going to be able to provide some help there. We just have to have ourselves ready and hopefully we’ll be able to execute.”
Indeed. Bodine coached the offensive line and tight ends at West Point from 2014 through 2016. He and Monken were both assistants on Paul Johnson’s Georgia Southern staff from 1997 to 2001.
If anything, this season has shown this Army team is full of surprises: from a wicked sharp defense to a depth chart that has quarterback talent no one could have predicted. Against UTSA, quarterback Cade Ballard made his first career start while Tyhier Tyler also got in reps. In the games before that, Jemel Jones and Christian Anderson were the ones who shined under-center. It’s unclear who will start at quarterback for Army vs. Mercer, but it hasn’t seemed to really matter. Despite the game of musical chairs at the position, the Black Knights have kept winning.
The Black Knights are currently third in FBS in rushing, averaging 310 yards per game, led in part by Tyrell Robinson, who currently has 298 yards on 33 carries. Jakobi Buchanan is right behind him with 251 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
For Mercer, wide receiver Deondre Johnson seems to be the biggest weapon. He began their season opener with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown — the longest special teams play in school history. He also had four rushes for 12 yards and three catches for 49 yards and a score. They’ll look to get the ball to him in space anyway they can. Also, Tray Devezin rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown.
On defense for the Bears, freshman linebacker Issac Dowling racked up 16 total tackles, one of which was a sack. This is the type of aggressiveness that will keep the Bears competitive throughout the game, no matter who Army decides to give the ball to.
These teams haven’t met in 87 years, but it’s neither the first time Mercer has seen the triple option attack, nor the first time Army has met a strong FCS side.
How to Watch
When: Saturday, Oct. 24, 12:30 p.m. EST
Where: Michie Stadium - West Point, NY
Watch: CBS Sports Network | Ben Holden and Ross Tucker will have the call while Tina Cervasio reports from the sidelines.
(Active and Reserve service members can also stream the game for free.)
Odds: Army is favored by about 30.5 points in most sports books, with the over/under set at 40.5.