For a military unit that focuses on the ground attack, the Army football team ironically finds most of its success through the air.
The Black Knights average 198.5 passing yards per game. While that’s nothing too flashy, it’s better than the 59.75 they average rushing, which ranks them 117th among the 119 Bowl Subdivision teams.
That might bode well for Temple on Saturday, when the Owls face the Black Knights at Michie Stadium at 12 p.m.
The Owls rank 50th nationally in pass defense, surrendering 210 yards a game. They have allowed an average of 209 yards rushing, which ranks 100th.
But the Owls (0-4) didn’t fare so well against Bowling Green’s passing game last weekend, surrendering a season-high 351 yards through the air. In their first three games, the Owls gave up 78, 190 and 222 passing yards against Navy, Buffalo and Connecticut, respectively.
Golden compared the Bowling Green’s passing game to Navy’s ground attack. Simply, it’s the nature of the beast. The Falcons top the Mid-American Conference in passing offense, averaging 352 yards a game.
“A team like that is going to get their yards,” Golden said. “That’s a high-powered offense.”
The Owls’ rushing defense limited Bowling Green to 96 yards rushing, a season-low. Golden said the defense has played better the last two games, but still isn’t where he wants to see it.
“It’s time for them to shake the stigma that we’re a young team,” Golden said. “That’s my challenge to them this week.”
Junior running back Wesley McMahand has handled the bulk of the Black Knights’ carries, rushing for a team-best 193 yards and two touchdowns. Army will look for McMahand to establish a running game early, an aspect the Black Knights (1-3) could not do in their most recent game, a loss to No. 14 Boston College.
The Black Knights managed just 44 yards against the Eagles.
If the Owls can keep McMahand at bay, they’ll have an easier time focusing on quarterback Carson Williams. A sophomore who took the starting reigns two games ago, Williams has completed 47 percent of his passes for 504 yards. He’s thrown one touchdown and three interceptions.
“If they get the running game going, the play-action goes off of that,” Golden said. “They can run the ball well and they’re playing good teams.”
While the Owls hope to contain the Army offense, they’ll also have their hands full penetrating Army’s impressive pass defense, which ranks 26th in the nation. The Black Knights yield just 179 passing yards a game.
“They’re always in the right spot and they’re good against the run,” Golden said. “It’s going to be quite a challenge for our guys this week. We’ll see if our guys can step up.”
Owls quarterback Adam DiMichele found his niche last weekend, completing 27 of 41 passes for 299 yards and four touchdowns, all career highs. He also did not throw an interception, just the third time he’s done so in his career and first occurrence this season.
DiMichele hooked up with wide receiver Bruce Francis eight times for 92 yards and a score. In all he connected with 10 different players, hitting a different player for each of his four touchdowns.
DiMichele was aided by the success of Jason Harper, who rushed for 88 yards. The sophomore has emerged as the Owls starting tailback, shoring up a unit that struggled through the first two games.
The Owls will need Harper and DiMichele to be at the top of their games if they expect to top an Army team that hung tough against Wake Forest and Boston College.
“From a physical standpoint, [the Black Knights] have what you’re looking for,” Golden said.
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.