Both teams depend on the running game, though the Owls handled Army’s in last year’s 35-7 win. They meet again in the Homecoming matchup.
The Owls host Army this Saturday in their Homecoming game in search of their fourth victory in a row. With a 24-19 win over Ball State last weekend, the Owls sit at 3-2, atop the Mid-American Conference, while Army comes to Philadelphia with hopes of exacting revenge from last season. Here are three things to watch from each team on Saturday as the Owls look to keep their winning ways going:
Kings of Homecoming: During coach Al Golden’s four-year tenure, the Owls have come to play on Homecoming. Their only win of the season in 2006 came on Homecoming, a game-winning field goal in 2007 made it two in a row, and last year, the Owls dropped a tough one, 7-3. After opening last season with a 35-7 drubbing of Army and their strong play on Homecoming, expect a good showing this weekend.
Continue to pound the rock: It’s safe to say the Owls have become a running team led by freshman back Bernard Pierce. On Saturday, Pierce rushed 26 times for 125 yards and scored two touchdowns. He became the first Owl freshman to rush for 100 yards in three straight games, the most since Tanardo Sharps had four straight 100-yard games in 2002.
Defense has to step up: With Army planning to pound the ball this weekend, the responsibility falls on the Owls defense. In the win against Ball State, the defense produced five sacks, two interceptions and nine tackles for loss. Army succeeds when it can control the clock and wear down opposing defenses, so making stops on third down and getting off the field will be crucial.
Looking for revenge: An overtime field goal from Alex Carlton beat Vanderbilt last Saturday, and the Black Knights improved to 3-3 heading into Lincoln Financial Field this weekend. The win snapped a two-game losing streak for Army, which opened the season with wins against Eastern Michigan and Ball State and a loss to Duke.
Serious ground game: Expect a lot of running Saturday. Led by freshman quarterback Trent Steelman, the Black Knights ran the ball 57 times in their overtime win against Vanderbilt. Army, which has roughly 1,000 more yards rushing than passing this season, ran for 221 yards compared to only 47 yards passing. They held the ball for more than 36 minutes.
A freshman find: The main threat for the Black Knights offense is Steelman, who does most of his damage on the ground. Though he only completed seven passes last Saturday, Steelman rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown. The question is whether he can be effective through the air. He has only completed 46 percent of his passes this season.
Pete Dorchak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.