Your Army Black Knights face a tough road test in Week 3 when they’ll take on the UT – San Antonio Roadrunners in a Friday night showdown at the Alamo Dome. Both teams dropped heartbreaking road losses in Week 1 but bounced back in Week 2. That makes this a critical early season match-up across the board.
The Roadrunners have called for an “Orange Out” to hype their fans for the game. That’s a far cry from the typical Military Appreciation Nights we usually see for Army Football. Why? Because they really want to win this game!
Despite the hype, the AFF Crew has 4 Keys to Victory this week.
Who's ready for Friday Night Lights in Texas? pic.twitter.com/hGEMSri6N9— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) September 13, 2023
Keys to Victory: UTSA
1. Get After the Quarterback
Coming into the season, we expected UTSA to put forth an explosive offense coupled to a solid defense. This is not what we’ve seen at all. Instead, UTSA quarterbacks have gone a combined 44/74 passing for 423 yards (59.5%) with just 2 touchdowns against 3 interceptions and 6 sacks. QB Frank Harris is normally an outstanding runner, but this year he’s been hit enough times that he left last week’s game against Texas State limping. Harris came back after the break and finished the game with a win, but he’s questionable this week, and if he plays, he’s not expected to run very much.
Army’s defense has got to take advantage of this opportunity. The Black Knights have been good on defense so far this season, but they’ve sometimes let mobile quarterbacks break contain and either throw or run for first downs. That can’t happen this week, especially with a guy on a bum wheel. The Bad Boys need to get in Harris’s face, force mistakes, and put him on the turf — hard. Maybe make him wonder why he’s still playing college football in his 7th year while most guys his age are long-since established in professional careers.
2. Bottle up RB Kevorian Barnes.
Without Harris’s running, the load will fall to UTSA’s outstanding running back Kevorian Barnes. Barnes has run for fully 4.9 yards/carry this season, and it’s a good bet that they’ll run him a lot to try to slow Army’s pass rush and protect Frank Harris’s ankle.
The flipside of that, though, is that if the Black Knights can keep Barnes contained, UTSA will have to go to a quick passing game, and Harris hasn’t been accurate enough this season to drive the full length of the field with just a quick passing game. Not reliably enough to win, at least.
If the Black Knights defense can force a couple of stops in the running game and a missed throw on 3rd-and-long, they’ll get off the field. That’s been their base plan for years.
𝐏𝐀𝐂𝐊 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐃𝐎𝐌𝐄‼️— UTSA Football 🏈 (@UTSAFTBL) September 14, 2023
We've got your Friday night plans covered! Check out the link below for information on UTSA's matchup with Army and help us Orange Out 🟠 the @Alamodome #210TriangleOfToughness #LetsGo210 | #BirdsUp 🤙https://t.co/GGQllFRfE4
3. Use the Option
If UTSA’s offense has struggled some this season, their defense has played lights out. This is a team that allows just 66 rushing yards/game, good for 14th in FBS college football. They’ve allowed just under 2 yards/carry overall.
When a team can stop the run like that, they can also usually get after the quarterback. That’s true here. UTSA has 9 sacks — 4.5 sacks/game! — as a team, tied for 5th in the FBS. LB Trey Moore leads the team with 12 tackles, 8 solo, of which 4 are sacks. That’s insane after just two games.
Thankfully, the good Lord created option football for those times when teams couldn’t necessarily get everyone blocked. Army is not going to win this game running power up the Midline. However, they have a chance if they use their core option concepts to create unwinnable situations for specific defenders and then take advantage of whatever opportunities these create. They’re going to need to move QB Bryson Daily out of the pocket early and often, creating run/pass/pitch options on the edge that both keep Daily on his feet and allow for some opportunities to move the football in space.
4. Take Care of the Football
At best, this game is going to be a defensive struggle. UTSA’s defense has been too good for things to go any other way, but if Army’s defense plays to its potential, that’s liable to go both ways.
We’re going to see plenty of punts in this game. That’s fine. What Army cannot afford is turnovers. The Black Knights will win if they can keep it close and make fewer mistakes.
UTSA is one of college football’s worst teams on turnover margin. They currently sit at -4 overall, tied for 126th in the FBS with 3 interceptions and a fumble lost. The Black Knights have absolutely got to make that work without turning the ball over themselves.
UTSA has an outstanding team, but they have yet to play anywhere close to their potential. On top of that, the Black Knights are catching them with their star quarterback hurting. Maybe Harris plays, and maybe he doesn’t. Either way, this is exactly the time to go for the kill.
Kickoff is tonight at 7:00 pm on ESPN. Download the Varsity Network app to hear Rich DeMarco’s radio call if you can’t take the TV announcers.
National accolades for 11 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/O4FtP8lCVv— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) September 11, 2023
Go Army! Beat UTSA!!!
Cover image via Flickr: West Point – The U.S. Military Academy.