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What to expect from Army’s offense and defense vs. Navy

Army has had success on both sides of the ball recently.

Wake Forest v Army Photo by Edward Diller/Getty Images

Heading into the 122nd edition of the Army-Navy game, the Black Knights are riding a four-game winning streak and have a lot of things working well for them on both sides of the ball.

At 8-3, the Black Knights are already keeping the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy in West Point, thanks to their 21-14 overtime victory against Air Force. Because Navy lost to Air Force, if the Mids were to beat the Black Knights, that would result in a three-way tie for the C.I.C. — meaning the trophy would remain with last year’s winner.

But obviously, Army wants to beat Navy and win this thing outright. The Black Knights have won the C.I.C. three times under Jeff Monken.

To see what the Black Knights have in their arsenal, here’s a peek at the offense and defense this team has stacked for America’s Game:

Offense

Army’s offense converts when it counts. The Black Knights are seventh nationally in fourth-down conversion rate and eighth nationally in third-down conversion rate. Keeping its offense on the field and converting on those key downs has helped Army lead the country in time of possession, a stat crucial to the success of the triple-option.

Since losing three straight, Army has notched wins over Air Force, Bucknell, UMass and Liberty. Army’s offense averaged 37 points per-game over that stretch.

The Black Knights have done a great job of sharing the rushing offense across their roster. It’s a strong possibility that Navy will see the likes of Tyrell Robinson, A.J. Howard and Jakobi Buchanan toting the rock. Robinson alone has netted 582 rushing yards, while Buchanan has 11 rushing touchdowns this season.

On the ground, Navy will also face what has been a unique strength for Army — its continued rotation of quarterbacks. When the season began, head coach Jeff Monken hadn’t revealed too many details of who would start, hardly a deviation from the 2020 season.

“I don’t know that it’s always great to rotate quarterbacks, but we did it last year and it worked pretty good for a couple of games there,” said Monken this past spring.

When senior Christian Anderson has the ball, he’s averaging 5.8 yards per-carry and has totaled 1,070 total yards from scrimmage in his nine games this season. Anderson’s stats are impressive, considering he sustained a shoulder injury during the Miami of Ohio game in week four. But Army’s opponents didn’t see its quarterback play slide when Anderson was on the sidelines.

While Anderson is likely to start against the Mids, Navy could still see Tyhier Tyler, Cade Ballard or even Jabari Laws under-center. Laws has thrown four touchdowns and zero interceptions this season, while Tyler has rushed for seven touchdowns.

As per usual under Monken, Army has one of the nation’s top rushing offenses, averaging 301.7 yards per-game, which is second nationally, just behind Air Force.

Navy’s challenge in defending Army’s offense will be accounting for multiple ball carriers and potentially multiple quarterbacks.

Defense

If you needed to describe Army’s defense in one word, I’d use “consistent.” Since the arrival of Nate Woody before the 2020 season, the Black Knights are allowing an average of just 18.8 points per-game. Army gave up more than 21 points only three times this season.

Leading the team this season is Andre Carter, who’s currently ranked third in the country in sacks (13.5), ninth in forced fumbles (4), and thirteenth in tackles for loss (15). Navy has seen tough defenses this season with Air Force and Cincinnati, but they suffered losses in both of those matchups.

Army has won four of the last five matchups against Navy with the last victory being 15-0 — the first time Navy had been shutout in the game since 1969. Army would like to see that happen again.

We previously questioned if Army could repeat its successful 9-3 season in 2020. At the time, it seemed possible, but not guaranteed. Now sitting at 8-3, the Black Knights could truly make it happen again.