Army to Invade Beaver Stadium
Not much. While the boys have won the past three games and should easily win this one, the running game is now imperiled by the loss of Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley, which means that there will have to be a re-emphasis on the passing game. That’s a welcome thing for a lot of you, especially since in last Saturday’s second-half effort Christian Hackenberg proved that he still had it in him to be a productive passer, even when cowering behind the sieve-like Five Traffic Cones.
Now it’s time for the topic paragraph, which is way past due. At high noon Saturday the mighty Penn State Nittany Lions (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) will host the Army – West Point Black Knights (1-3) before an outsize crowd, partially due to the fact that we like to celebrate the Armed Forces, who fight our wars that politicians start, and partially due to the fact that Penn State has not played Army since 1979.
The Black Knights are coming off a crazy-ass 58-36 “pitchers’ duel” with the Brick Dick boys of Eastern Michigan, while the Lions are basking in the glow of a 37-21 slopfest win over San Diego State.
This is the final tune-up, cupcake, cream puff game of the season. After this, it is on to the Big Ten Conference “meat”. From cupcakes to meat. Seems ass-backwards, doesn’t it? But let me not get mired in bullshit. I’m digressing, as usual.
In the all-time series against Army, the Nittany Lions hold a slim 13-10-2 advantage. The first game in the series was played in West Point in 1899, and I’ll have you know that our very own pink and black Nittany Lions won that one 6-0. That didn’t last. Through the Earl Blaik years at West Point, the muleys rode roughshod over the Nittany Lions, as they were doing with everyone else, replete with several undefeated years in which they produced three national titles as well as Heisman trophy winners like Doc Blanchard, Glenn Davis, and Pete Dawkins. However, commensurate with the advent of big-time, big-money college football, Penn State established dominance over Army, enjoying a 10-0 record since 1968. Army’s last win over Penn State occurred in 1966, but as I mentioned before, the two teams haven’t met since 1979
About Our Opponent
They’re there to protect us, man, so why don’t they have a defense? Good question. Glad you asked. Hell, I don’t know. Let’s move on.
This year, the Black Knights are honoring U.S. Army combat units, wearing helmet stickers for different divisions each week. For this week’s game, they’ll be honoring the 101st Airborne Division. I don’t think the paratroopers will be helping much with their defense. Wishful thinking, I suppose.
So look, already, Army might not have much of a defense, but their rush-skewed offense might just give our vaunted defense a little trouble. You don’t see many triple-option oriented offenses anymore in the FBS, but behold, this is one of ’em.
Last week’s game with Eastern Michigan was the first win of the year for Army, and a road win at that. It was a wild and woolly game in which 1127 yards of total offense were produced by the two mortal combatants.
“Not much defense on either side, eh?” you say. Why no, but surely the fine folks of Ypsilanti were entertained by the field gobbling offenses, of which Army produced the Lion’s share (no pun intended) with 654. All but about 100 yards of that was gained on the ground, which confirms Army’s reputation as an option-oriented running team. A total of 53 first downs in the game tells more of the offensive oriented story, further underscored by the fact that Eastern Michigan punted only three times, whereas Army punted nunce! That’s a big zero. Zilch. Nada.
To call the Black Knights a “possession offense” is probably an understatement. They more than doubled up on the Brick Dicks, with an almost unheard of 41:21 time-of-possession to EMU’s 18:39. Oy vey!
But the cornerstone of that offense, Ahmad Bradshaw, the Black Knights’ leading rusher, might not play against Penn State. The sophomore quarterback left the game due to a leg injury in the second quarter.
“Forsooth! What does this mean for Penn State?” you ask. Vell, I’ll tellya. PSU just found its passing offense last week, now ranking an earth-shaking 109th in the FBS, but Army never had one. They rank 125th. However, on the other hand, you have five fingas: Army ranks ninth overall in rushing offense. They’ve got an option, and they know how to use it. In the Brick Dick game, they threw but nine passes, completing five of them.
Penn State has the 14th ranked rushing defense in the FBS, of which we are always proud, but it has shown itself to be vulnerable to big, outside plays. That means that people on defense are going to have to maintain discipline (i.e., “stay at home”, in Sportscasterese). With talented linebackers who excel at reacting quickly, there is always a danger that they overcommit. PSU must stay at home — not literally, although noon starts are indeed problematical in that regard to the extent that ya think that half the damn team stayed home, at least for the first half. But that’s neithah heah nor deah.
Meanwhile, if Lynch and Barkley are still out injured, the Nittany Lions running game is in deep shit, so this would be a great time for Christian Hackenberg to show off his newly rediscovered passing capabilities against the 94th ranked pass efficiency defense of Army. Eastern Michigan’s Brogan Roback completed 27 of 39 against them for a total of 280 yards and two touchdowns, though he was intercepted once as well.
As for the injuries, all head coach James Franklin said he could tell us was that he didn’t think they were season-ending. His depth chart remains unchanged for the Army game, which means it is meaningless. Like I always tell ya, when ya hiyah clowns, ya get a circus.
Penn State’s Keys to the Game
- Show up. Yeah, it’s a noon start, which means no one will be wanting to play until the second half at least. No one on the Penn State side, anyway. The Army guys are tacticians, and they know this. They will have a battle plan prepared.
- Don’t get sloppy. Penn State has been watching the ball pretty well this year and is maintaining a positive turnover ratio for a change. Keep it up, damnit!
- Watch the outside. Last week, the vaunted Penn State defense showed some vulnerability to off-tackle runs. Facing an option offense, that ain’t good.
- Use the vertical passing game. We just found out that Penn State had one last week. Now, it must become the centerpiece of the Nittany Lions’ offense due to injuries to running backs. Receivers need to get open and Hack needs to use his legendary arm to hit them.
- Convert third downs. It would be a complete embarrassment if the Lions don’t convert more than 50% of third-down situations. Hell, don’t even go deah!
Alumnus of the Week
I could have easily picked Coach K of Duke basketball fame, but nahhhh, you know your Turkey. Who the hell wants to hear about basketball, anyhow? Instead, I go for the dramatic. First, though, a caution. To those who come here for the porn star of the week, sorry, that’s not really what this feature is all about. So there’ll be no Asian porn stars once again. However, I did find a blonde for you.
George Armstrong Custer, West Point Man from Start to Finish
George Armstrong Custer graduated last in his class from the United States Military Academy in 1861, just as the Civil War was cranking up. After establishing a reputation of daring and brilliance in battle, Custer served as an aide to Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, Class of 1846, during the Peninsular Campaign and was commissioned a brigadier general at the age of 23. After conducting several successful operations in 1864, he was placed at the head of the 3rd Division, Calvary Corps, and was brevetted major general of volunteers.
During the Civil War, Custer was frequently termed “The Boy General” in the press, reflecting his promotion to brigadier general at the age of 23; during his years on the Great Plains in the American Indian Wars, his troopers often referred to him with grudging admiration as “Iron Butt” and “Hard Ass” for his physical stamina in the saddle and his strict discipline, as well as with the more derisive “Ringlets” for his vanity about his appearance in general and his long, curling blond hair in particular.
In 1876, he and his regiment of 655 men were defeated at the Battle of Little Bighorn. It was there where Custer died at the ripe old age of 36. Inasmuch as you all are already familiar with Custer’s Last Stand, I won’t belabor the point.
Back Home to West Point
Following the recovery of Custer’s body and that of his brother Tom, the remains were buried on the battlefield side by side in a shallow grave, after being covered by pieces of tent canvas and blankets. One year later, Custer’s remains and those of many of his officers were recovered and sent back east for reinterment in more formal burials. Custer was buried again with full military honors at West Point Cemetery on October 10, 1877.
Man, it’s been raining in State College. Like really raining, and it’s also expected to rain on Saturday, with some gusty winds. It ain’t Native American Summer in Pennsylvania, so don’t even go deah! (On the uddah hand, there are five fingas, but I digress.) The expected high temperature is 56°F.
Sooooo, I expect another slopfest. The slippery ball and slippery field will be anathema to both offenses. Army will have a rough time getting traction on the field, while Hack will have a rough time getting traction on the ball. The vertical passing game in particular is an iffy proposition under inclementary weatheristic circumstances.
So, damned if I know who has an advantage due to the weather. The football gods will determine who wins and who loses.
Official Turkey Poop Prediction
It’s that time again. Unfettered by porn star research and uncolored by external input, your turkey is now ready to issue his game prediction. There is no Las Vegas line on this game, but if there was, Penn State would probably be favored by about three touchdowns. While the gamblers aren’t touching this one, the Nittany Turkey will go forth boldly and make a prediction. Hack gets his attack back, man, and you don’t even want to go deah! Penn State 42, Army 14. Army can score on big running plays. Hell, if the Aztecs scored three TDs, Army can score two. There ain’t no over/under, but dat’s neither heah nor deah. Now, go spank your mule.
I’ll be back after the game for a turkey wrap and a beer.