It has been two years since the Michigan Wolverines have faced a service academy on the gridiron, but that streak is about to come to an end this Saturday when the Army Black Knights come into town to torment Don Brown’s defense with the triple-option attack.
In case you didn’t know — but let’s be real, you probably know — Army gave the Oklahoma Sooners all they could handle last season in Norman, but eventually lost in overtime.
Since that close game last season, Army looming on Michigan’s 2019 schedule gave some fans the heebie jeebies. I can’t blame you if you feel that way, but let’s take a closer look at Michigan’s Week 2 opponent and see if your mind is changed at all.
The Army Black Knights
Last game: 14-7 victory over Rice
Offense in Week 1: 231 rushing yards on 56 attempts, 1 touchdown; 53 passing yards on 3-of-8 passing, 1 touchdown; 1 fumble lost
Defense in Week 1: 48 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 0 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 0 turnovers forced
We all know what Army is going to do offensively — run the hell out of the ball in the most annoying way possible. Every service academy does it, and they do it well enough to have middle-aged men yell expletives at their television for three and a half hours.
The Black Knights’ go-to guys on the ground — and on offense in general — are quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. and running back Sandon McCoy. The senior quarterback ran for 80 yards and 1 touchdown on 21 carries in the game against Rice, while McCoy ran 20 times for 70 yards. They will be the main guys Josh Ross and company have to pay close attention to.
But they will also throw in some trick plays. You know, those trick reverse plays that get Michigan’s defense nearly every time? Yup, Army did it against Rice last week and I am willing to bet it will be in the playbook again this week. Check the play below:
Meanwhile, the Black Knights bring veteran experience to the defense. Of the 13 defenders who played against Rice, eight of them were seniors. But the most impressive play on defense from Army against Rice came from junior cornerback Javhari Bourdeau.
Only standing at 5-foot-9, Bourdeau did a great job of slipping past the blocker to blow up the screen play. He also had a pass breakup in the game, so Bourdeau can get it done in both facets of the game.
The key defender on Army, however, is senior linebacker Cole Christiansen. He was a captain last season as a junior and was also elected captain in 2019. He only had six tackles his freshman season, but he turned it up as a sophomore by recording 84 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 1 interception. In 2018, he had 77 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble and 1 sack. He had 7 tackles — a team-high — last weekend against Rice.
Michigan has faced a service academy under Don Brown in the past, and the results were pretty good. When the Wolverines faced Air Force in 2017, they limited the Falcons to 13 points and 3.4 yards per carry. Sure, they ran for 168 yards, but when you are running the ball 49 times in one game, that is just what is going to show up in the box score.
Last week, I thought Middle Tennessee State would give Michigan a fight, in which it did. This week, I don’t think Army will put up as big of a fight as the Blue Raiders last Saturday. I expect Michigan to come out swinging and to not look back.