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Preview, How to Watch: Army looks to bounce back vs. Abilene Christian

The Black Knights return to Michie Stadium as heavy favorites after a disappointing loss at Cincinnati. 

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Middle Tennessee State v Army Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

Offensive miscues hindered Army in what many thought would be a statement game last Saturday against the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Black Knights struggled against a robust defense, but suffered from many self-inflicted wounds. Now, they have a chance to lick those wounds at home against Abilene Christian, although Jeff Monken has made sure to note that Army is not taking the visiting Wildcats lightly.

Offense

Abilene Christian has just one game under its belt this season, a shockingly close 17-13 loss at UTEP (who are surprisingly 3-1 currently). It’s hard to establish any trends with one game, but we can highlight some likely impact players for the Wildcats in their upcoming matchup with Army.

Led by junior QB Peyton Mansell — a transfer from Iowa — Abilene Christian managed 308 yards against UTEP, with Mansell being responsible for almost 200 of those yards. Fellow junior Tyrese White led the rushing attack with 11 carries for 41 yards (just over four yards per carry). Aside from that, the Wildcats only averaged 2.9 yards per carry, which isn’t terribly impressive and not a great sign against Army’s stout defense.

For the Black Knights, QB Christian Anderson continues to lead the way with 122 passing yards on 11 completions (28 attempts) with an interception, along with 230 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Fullbacks Jakobi Buchanan and Sandon McCoy, plus slotback Tyrell Robinson are also in the triple-digit club with 148, 127, and 110 rushing yards, respectively. McCoy leads Army’s offense with four touchdowns.

In their first two games, Army’s offense had no trouble sustaining a healthy rhythm and distributing the ball well all over the field. Cincinnati managed to throw off that rhythm with several tackles for loss in addition to a number of Army penalties. Army will be looking to re-establish that rhythm at home against Abilene Christian.

Defense

What else can be said about Army’s defense this season? Nate Woody’s unit has been relentless, and extremely opportunistic thus far with eight turnovers forced, including Jabari Moore’s scoop and score against Cincinnati last weekend.

Four different Black Knights have registered interceptions, including leading tackler Jon Rhattigan, who has 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks on the season. And while the Army defense has been quite strong, the secondary remains somewhat of a weak point, especially with some of the blown coverages and big plays allowed over the top at Cincinnati. Abilene Christian generated most of their success against UTEP through the air, so you can expect they’ll be probing Army’s defensive backs as much as possible.

The Wildcats’ defense acquitted itself well against UTEP, allowing only 293 total yards with only 98 rushing yards. Arguably, they face a much tougher test from the nation’s top rushing offense in Army, so it remains to be seen just how good Abilene Christian’s run defense actually is.

Against UTEP, safeties Byron Robinson and Brian Bullock emerged as tackling leaders with seven and six tackles, respectively. Assuming Army sticks to its traditional ground-and-pound approach, Abilene Christian’s linebackers are likely to see a bit more of the action.

Things to Consider

Jeff Monken was very complimentary of the Wildcats this week and their effort against UTEP. He said the Black Knights are “just getting prepared for everything that they might throw at us because it’s clear that they’re fine with doing that.” Monken went on to mention preparing for a number of special teams contingencies should Abilene Christian decide to get creative.

Here are some things to consider as both teams are looking to rebound from losses.

  1. Army is favored by over 30 points in this contest, and it looks like they’ll be playing in front of a cadet-only crowd. So far, the Black Knights have lived up to the odds at home.
  2. Abilene Christian gave UTEP fits, and likely would’ve won had it not been for two lost fumbles. And it’s not like Army hasn’t struggled against FCS opponents in the past.
  3. Does Army learn from blunders at Cincinnati, and focus on proper offensive execution? Is the defense prepared for a Wildcats’ offense that will likely test their secondary with deep plays early and often?

It’s clear that Monken respects the visiting Wildcats and is rigorously preparing for them. Let’s just hope that the rest of the Black Knights are as well.

How to Watch

Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, October 3rd

Watch: CBSSN — Ben Holder will handle the play-by-play duties, the color analyst is Ross Tucker and the sideline reporter is Tina Cervasio. Active and Reserve service members can also stream the game for free.

Where: Michie Stadium – West Point, NY

Spread: FanDuel has Army favored at -30.5, with the over-under at 50.5.