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Army Black Knights vs UTSA Roadrunners Game Preview

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The Roadrunners face an option offense for just the second time in school history.

NCAA Football: Texas-San Antonio at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Records: UTSA (1-1), Army (1-1)

Game Time: 2:30 p.m., Saturday, September 14

Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, TX

TV: NFL Network

Radio: Ticket 760 AM

Live Stats: GoUTSA

Series Record: First meeting

Betting Line: Army -17, O/U 45


Army aims to next the step on offense

The Black Knights had the world’s attention last week as they took then-ranked #7 Michigan to the wire with a double-OT loss in the game’s largest stage. Army buzzed around the Wolverines’ heads all afternoon like a gnat, frustrating Michigan into several turnovers and botched plays that kept Army on top or tied with the Big Ten program up until the final score of the game.

Last week’s performance was a return to form for the Black Knights after a puzzling showing in week one. Missing fullback Connor Slomka, Army failed to break out against Rice, a team widely assumed to be among the worst in the nation. Army’s offense managed just two touchdowns against Rice in a 14-7 final, a far cry from the 70-14 beat down the Black Knights delivered in their last outing of 2018.

Army averaged 32.3 point per game in 2018 so it’s going to take another big showing against UTSA for the Black Knights to start inching back towards the offensive output Army showed last season.

NCAA Football: Rice at Army
Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. reads the defense in the Black Knights’ triple option offense.
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. leads the offense under center, crucially reading the offense both pre-snap and in motion to orchestrate Army’s flexbone attack. Hopkins Jr. is Army’s leading rusher on the season as he’s run for 121 yards and three touchdowns. The quarterback’s longest run this season is just a 12 yard keeper as running back Kell Walker and receiver Artice Hobbs have been the offense’s most explosive players.

You never expect an efficient passing game from a flexbone team, but Hopkins Jr. has really struggled with his accuracy this season. The senior has completed just five of his 12 passing attempts this year so expect UTSA to feel comfortable bringing their safeties right up to the line of scrimmage.

Defensively, Army is as good as ever. Army opponents are converting just 45% of their third down attempts as the defense has given up just four first downs against the pass this year. Army’s defense is fast, ferocious, and disciplined. You won’t see a player give up on a play for this defense, much less show anything less than top flight effort.

While Army is undersized athletically due to recruiting restrictions, the Black Knights lack little in terms of team speed or explosiveness. Army has already turned in eight tackles for loss this season, an impressive performance given that one of their two games was against Michigan’s highly-touted offensive line.

Roadrunners look for a clean slate

Quarterback Frank Harris’ debut against Incarnate Word had UTSA fans on cloud nine for the first time in a long time. It took little more than a three hour road trip to Waco for Baylor to remind UTSA fans of the misery of the 2018 season.

UTSA looked totally out-classed by the Bears as the senior-laden home team raced out to an effortless 49-0 lead before pulling their starters. Even the Bears’ back ups would skate around UTSA defenders as the game wrapped up at 63-14, good for a tie as UTSA’s worst point differential in program history.

It was a good old fashioned drubbing and UTSA will have to wipe their memories clean if they’re to avoid repeating the suffering with another formidable opponent on the schedule this week.

Whether caused by the schematic peculiarities of Army’s offense or in response to the beat down last week, Head Coach Frank Wilson made a few changes to the depth chart to give his team a boost. Several new linebackers were added to the depth chart after getting some game action against Baylor, while a youth movement has taken place at wide receiver with three true freshmen getting inserted into the rotation.

NCAA Football: Texas-San Antonio at Baylor
UTSA quarterback Frank Harris escapes a tackler against Baylor.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Most surprisingly, true freshman Josh Cephus has jumped two highly-recruited wide outs for starting snaps at “X” receiver. Cephus was UTSA’s leading receiver against Baylor despite having just two catches for 23 yards. A former high school quarterback, Cephus seems to have quickly adjusted to the nuances of playing out wide after spending just one year at the position in high school. The younger brother of former Rice stand out Aaron Cephus, the 6’3” wide out has good speed and ball skills. Cephus was also a standout on the baseball diamond and holds a personal best of 6-10 on the high jump.

The triple option will provide an interesting challenge for the Roadrunners as their defensive line is absolutely the strength of the entire roster. The Roadrunners are solidly three-deep across their front four. Dive plays should be snuffed out pretty quickly, and the Roadrunners should be able to create a healthy dose of negative plays.

Unfortunately for the Roadrunners, their linebacker unit is the exact opposite. UTSA starts two converted safeties at linebacker, both of which have struggled with getting off of blocks this season. If Army blockers are able to make it to the second level then the Black Knights should be able to sustain very long drives and wear the defense down over the span of the game.

Prediction

I have a feeling that UTSA’s offense will bounce back this week in yardage but not necessarily in scoring. The Black Knights’ red zone defense is notoriously stout, and the Roadrunners have yet to attempt a field goal on the season. I think UTSA will put forward a solid showing in a competitive game but Army should be able to pull this one out despite some big plays on both sides of the ball by UTSA.

UTSA 14 Army 17