The Army Black Knights (2-2) will play host to your Boston College Eagles (2-3) this weekend. The cadets had a bye week after a tough loss to our perpetual conference brethren Syracuse. BC of course flipped a switch at halftime to defeat UVA and will now look to build on that momentum and win a consecutive game — a feat they have not accomplished since 2021.
Michie Stadium was home to the last time these two met, back in 2012 with Army coming out on top.
Yours truly will be partaking in a boat ride up the Hudson to see our Eagles in combat. Now I’m realizing or may have been completely oblivious to it, but this was a huge missed opportunity for a Navy related pun. Perhaps too risqué for the Alumni Association.
I digress, here’s what BC will have to contend with.
New Look Offense, Still Running for Days
Gone are the days of the triple option. Jeff Monken has changed course in his tenth season here to an offense that operates primarily out of shotgun. With league rule changes last year eliminating cut blocking outside the tackle box, Monken had to make the change after a poor last season. Now things don’t change overnight, and the nature of the folks at West Point will hold true — they’re going to pound the rock and control time of possession.
There’s a bit of a drop-off now from the likes Air Force (1st) and Navy (5th), but Army currently has 14th rushing offense in the country. They might employ two backs in the backfield, and you’re still going to see plenty of option concepts. Quarterback Bryson Daily is the team’s leading rusher with 275 yards. He’s on the smaller side, but the junior has made three scores with his feet.
There’s a staple of backs as expected behind him with all sorts of versatility. Jakobi Buchanan the 6-0, 260 pound big guy handling the goal line and short yard work. Ay’Juan Marshall has the quickness out of the backfield, as does Markel Johnson. Hayden Reed already has hit the century mark once this year and is second to Daily overall. These options have allowed Army to go 13/14 on fourth downs so far.
No Penalties Please
With a physical offensive line bearing down, BC will need to prevent getting grinded out and get off the field. Hafley finally had his team limit the penalties last weekend while UVA was often flagged. Army however is averaging the fewest penalties in the country with only nine through 4 games. Nothing like going up against the disciplined nature of a United States Military Academy to test your mettle.
The good news, they’re still outside the top 100 in passing offense with Daily only completing 29/60 passes and the team averaging 169.5 yards per game. Interestingly, when they do pass, they are nothing if not efficient with over 10 yards per attempt and nearly 20 for completion, both among the best in the country.
Daily only has five passing touchdowns on the season to four interceptions. Maybe now the fact that there never seems to be a safety deep for BC will work because the bodies will needed more up front. Isaiah Alston and Noah Short far outpace the rest of the team combining for 20 catches and four of those score. Alston is 6-4 and averaging nearly 30 yards a catch. Short to his credit is picking up big gains as well, and has even logged two carries of his own. When they throw, they’re going for big gains.
The Army and BC defense do have one impressive similarity this season. Both teams have allowed a Hail Mary to the end the first half, but both teams overcame this lapse! Army blew a 10 point lead with only six minutes to go in their opener against UL Monroe. That fourth quarter included them running into a punter on fourth down, getting gashed for a 65 yard rushing touchdown, and a receiver fumbling the ball after a huge third down pickup.
Look at us! Who would have thought?
Army, however, comes out of the gates strong. They are one of only two FBS teams that haven’t allowed a single point in the first quarter this season. Fun fact, Louisville is the other... Now, part of that may be due to the nine minute opening drive of theirs verse Syracuse, but the point still stands, this defense holds.
Schrader from Syracuse and UTSA’s quarterback looked to throw with relative ease comfort against this Army secondary. Both had over 200 yards passing, not lofty by any account, but remember there was a huge disadvantage in possession time (26 & 15! minutes, respectively). It looks like the BC receivers can make plays, but then again three players do have three interceptions, and Cam Jones should have had his second on Schrader to the house. The secondary features players with a lot of career starts, and they are coming off a season in which they were third in pass defense.
In more troubling news, the Black Knights also had a scary incident in their last outing. Defensive lineman Andre Miller was carted off the field to the hospital after a collision. He has also fortunately been released and is now back at school.
Senior linebacker Leo Lowin leads the team in tackles and senior captain Jimmy Ciarlo continues to make impact plays all over the field. He forced a fumble in the UTSA game win, and and had one of two sacks Army had on the mobile Schrader.
Part of the problem last year was how easily teams were able to run on the Black Knights. They likely will be committed to containing Castellanos. They held the Syracuse QB to 50 yards on 10 carries, but the leading rusher did eclipse 100 yards on 5 a carry as well. The second half especially it seems as though the defense was stressed a bit more as the possession game flipped. That might be the key. BC might want to play more methodical against this Army defense. Show me Dino Tomlin and Lewis Bond catching shorter passes, while Garwo runs behind the line for chunk plays, with the threat of Castellanos creating running lanes.