Lookahead to Rice/Army

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I had a good feeling about Army @ Temple and I have similar good vibes about Rice coming to West Point this Saturday. It's back to the Saturday noontime kickoff, and that is an important groove to get into... winning the nooner at home. Winning all home games isn't a huge task with Army looking at home games vs Lafayette, North Texas, Air Force and Morgan State, but it would have to be considered a disappointment if the Cadets don't hold serve at home.

I would like to think 6 wins would get Army a bowl game, but that's about as unsatisfactory a season as I can picture: having to petition the NCAA for permission to participate in a postseason bowl. Expectations are higher and they should be higher not solely by virtue of the Temple outcome, but by the newfound feeling of stability that the Monken coaching regime has ushered in.

The Rice/Army game notes are up and there is plenty of good reading there. It's got perspectives on the past Temple win for those who may want to revel a bit longer - and examination of the upcoming challenge. Rice is coming off a loss to Western Kentucky last week, they have some work to do as they got absolutely scorched by WKU's passing attack. Rice football game notes can be found here. This week will be Rice's second consecutive eastern road trip, and it will be another tall task for the owls. I doubt the Owls are looking past Army, but their athletic site suggests they have bigger fish to fry next week in their home opener against Baylor. If I were an Owl, I would be paying more attention to the counter for the end of game 12. The Rice Owls will require maximum focus and superb execution this week as they play an Army team that is only beginning to find its stride on both sides of the ball. It's a very exciting time for Army football fans.

Rice comes in looking to improve on their opening week performance against WKU. They have some big bodies up front but are most notable as a cerebral team that wants to run the football and dominate the time of possession.QB Tyler Stehling (first year starter) fits that exact mold as he's huge - 6'6" 230 and through their singular game leads the Owls in yardage, both passing and rushing. You'll recall from last year that they bring some interesting formations, threatening with their run game and pulling play action out of multiple formations. Key will be secondary play as Army's defensive backs will need to cover first and then recognize/support the run D, and the Army offense will need to find ways to challenge Rice's secondary. I don't expect the playbook to open up drastically unless Rice offers new and different defensive package. Last year it was a 4-3 over D sometimes 4-3 stack with a QB spy. One of the wrinkles last year was giving that spy a responsibility by splitting out a slotback, so Rice ended up committing a (4-4 or 4-3) LB into wide coverage. The thing about Rice then and now is that when they've been pressed into defensive assignments I haven't seen a lot of follow-through on those assignments. It's easy for me to say when I'm not the one getting burned, but if Owl defenders are lining up and then watching the game just like me, I think it's a fair critique.

Sal Interdonato has a load of fresh info for your enjoyment; there is analysis of Army's offense & defense from the Temple game tape, and a piece from Monken's presser.

It's a lot of fun following this team, and Sal's work makes it that much more engaging, big thanks to Sal Interdonato. Army is lucky to have such a dedicated beat reporter in their corner.




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