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There is quite a bit of relief at West Point as Army approaches its annual clash with Navy in a series that goes back to the 1890 season.
That’s because the Army football team does not go into its 3 p.m. ET game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia with the great weight of a long losing streak hanging over its head. The game will be televised by CBS.
Army (8-3) ended its 14-game losing streak to Navy (6-5) a year ago with a 21-17 triumph, and it will try to reverse the momentum in the series by turning that victory into a two-game winning streak.
Army has not had a winning streak in the series since taking five games in a row from 1992 through 1996. The Black Knights trail 60-50-7 in the all-time series between these two service academies.
These teams are mirror images of each other, as both academies run the option attack and are going to run the ball on most plays.
Army leads the nation in running with 4.049 yards rushing, and they keep the ball on the ground more than 90 percent of their snaps. The Black Knights also rank fourth in time of possession.
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Navy also uses the run as its primary weapon and has gained 3,822 yards this season. Middie quarterback Zach Abey is more likely to put the ball in the air than Army signal-caller Ahmad Bradshaw.
Bradshaw threw just 39 passes this season, completing 12 of them for 259 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. However, he ran for 1,472 yards while averaging 7.8 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns.
Running back Darnell Woolfolk is a key contributor for Army with 668 yards and 11 touchdowns. Kell Walker and Andy Davidson have both rushed for more than 500 yards while combining for 10 touchdowns.
Abey has completed 30 of 70 passes for 803 yards, and he has seven TD passes along with seven interceptions. He is quite a force on the ground, gaining 1,322 yards while averaging 4.8 yards per attempts and scoring 14 TDs.
Malcolm Perry is a huge factor with 818 yards, an 8.9-yards-per-carry average and eight touchdowns. Chris High added 494 yards and two scores, while Anthony Gargiulo has rushed for 383 yards and three touchdowns.
The two teams will likely take turns hammering each other with the running game, and the team that can come up with a couple of stops at the most opportune moments is likely to come away with the win.
Navy, which has played a more challenging schedule, is a three-point favorite with a total of 44.5, according to OddsShark.
The key to this game will be the execution of the triple-option by both teams. The team that runs the ball more effectively with the fewest mistakes is almost certainly going to win. However, the passing game, which seems to matter less to these two teams than any other pair in the nation, may have something to say.
The passing game can’t be an afterthought for either team. If Army can complete two or three passes in this game, it could give them the opportunity to stretch their winning streak in the series to two games.
However, If Abey throws one or two TD passes that result in quick scores, that could turn things in Navy’s direction.
Navy has had a problem with fumbling, tying for 83rd in lost fumbles, while Army ranks tied for sixth in that category. That will give Army the win in this low-scoring game that will stay under the 44.5-point total.