Bowling Green, Ky. (WBKO) --- When the Army Black Knights come to the hill on Saturday, they bring with them the challenge of the triple-option flexbone offense. This offense is not flashy and is not built of explosive plays. Instead, Army primarily keeps the ball on the ground, picking up four or five yards each play, just enough to keep the chains moving and chew up a lot of game clock.
Army will be a major test for both the Hilltoppers defense and offense. So here are my thought's on what WKU must do to earn a victory over the Black Knights.
Starting on the defensive side of the ball for Western, the Hilltoppers need to force Army into a long down and distance on second and third down. As I stated earlier, the Black Knights aren't built on big plays. If Western can win the battle at the line of scrimmage and force Army into long second and third downs, it limits the Black Knights playbook.
To do this, the Hilltoppers are going to have to be disciplined. The defensive linemen on the edge and linebackers on the outside will be assigned to watch either the quarterback or one of the running backs in the backfield. The backfield for Army, under the triple-option, can get extremely cluttered and make following the ball difficult. Whoever the defense is assigned to, they must stick with that player. If DeAngelo Malone is responsible for defending the pitch, Malone can't attack the quarterback until it's certain the quarterback isn't going to pitch the ball.
Shifting gears to the Hilltopper offense, Western needs to get off to a fast start. If WKU can jump out to an earlier two-score lead, it will put them in a great position to control the rest of the game. Remember, because Army's offense eats up a lot of clock, the Black Knights are not built to play from behind.
Against UAB and Old Dominion, Western started utilizing the wide receiver screen and look for the Hilltoppers to continue to run those types of plays.
The wide receiver screen gets the ball out of Ty Storey's hands quickly and into the hands of playmakers like Lucky Jackson, Jacquez Sloan, and Jahcour Pearson. Western needs to give those guys the ball in space and allow them to go make a play.
If the Hilltoppers can mix in the screen with deep shots downfield, it will keep the Army defensive line on their heels.
It is also going to be crucial this week that Western takes advantage of every offensive possession. Army limits their opponent's possessions by controlling the clock and keeping the opposing offense on the sideline. So this could be a game where Western only gets the ball six or seven times. Ideally, the Hilltoppers want to come away with points on every drive. However, even if Western can move the ball enough to then pin the Black Knights deep in their own territory, not giving Army the short field, that's a win for Western.
As a team, this game will come down to both sides of the ball doing their job. Neither the defense nor the offense can carry the team. I say this because Western's defense needs to get off the field in three plays, giving the offense as many extra possessions as possible. However, if the Hilltoppers continually go three-and-out on offense, it won't matter how good Western's defense is playing. Without adequate time to rest on the sidelines, the Hilltoppers will be gassed by the fourth quarter.
Both the offense and the defense need to carry their own weight against Army. If one side fails, so will the other.
The Hilltoppers and Army kickoff at 6:00 p.m on Saturday, October 12.