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ARMY: FIRST LOOK

Navy takes on Army in the 117th meeting between the two teams on Saturday in Baltimore.
The most important game of the Mids season will take place this weekend as the traditional Army-Navy clash is played. After the disappointment of the American Athletic Conference Championship Game loss, this could be just the tonic Navy needs to get back on track.

Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

Season so far

The Black Knights enter this game with Navy with a 6-5 record and a place secured in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against North Texas.

Army was 2-10 in 2015 so no one really knew what to expect from the team in their third year under head coach Jeff Monken. The Black Knights though came roaring out of the gates, winning their first three games in increasingly dominant fashion. The highlight of this initial win streak was an opportunistic victory on opening night against eventual AAC Champions Temple (28-13).

After three wins to open the season the Black Knights then suffered through a stretch of three losses in four games. The first was an overtime loss (23-20) to Buffalo that would have been a win but for kicking game problems. Next up was a 13-6 loss to Duke in the remnants of Hurricane Matthew. A win over FCS Lafayette provided a small boost, but an abysmal seven-turnover performance, Army’s worst game of the season, had the Black Knights at 4-3 just over half way through the year.

The closing stretch of games began with a spirited win over a better than advertised Wake Forest squad on the road. This win gave some hope that Army would be able to beat Air Force for the first time in year’s, hope that was extinguished early as the Falcons won 31-12 in West Point. A big (44-6) loss to Notre Dame put Army on the brink of missing the postseason at 5-5 (4-5 in terms of bowl eligible wins) before the team rallied and hammered Morgan State (60-3) in their last outing on November 19.

Injuries and Suspensions

With three full weeks to prepare for this contest, it is not surprising that Army has relatively few injury concerns for the game against Navy. The only two players listed on the injury report are defensive backs Marcus Hyatt and Steven Johnson, who are both done for the season with knee injuries. Army though has known about both problems since before their last game, so they should have no problem with making adjustments and getting backups to fill those roles.

Challenges

The challenge here is quite simply one of attrition for Navy. When the Mids joined the AAC the possibility arose that Navy would come into this contest against Army having played for six, seven, or even eight weeks in a row. With the rescheduling of the ECU game, plus the run to the conference title match, that scenario played out in 2016. That Navy was so clinically beaten by Temple, and that all-everything quarterback Will Worth was lost for the season, means that the Mids come into this one with a greater layer of uncertainty than if the result last week had been reversed. Navy will have to find a way to take some of the pressure off of new quarterback Zach Abey as they Mids try to beat Army for the 15th straight year.

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