The Army Black Knights regard their annual showdown with Navy as their marquee game.
So after Army (8-4) fell to the Midshipmen 17-13 on Dec. 11, the team had to regroup before preparing to face Missouri (6-6) in the Armed Services Bowl on Wednesday in Fort Worth, Texas.
“They’re hurt,” Army coach Jeff Monken said of his players regarding the loss to Navy. “For most competitors that really care, it’s not going to go away in 24 hours. It’s not going to go away for a while. And that’s OK. It tells me that they care.
“I mean, if they came in and they were laughing and joking and it didn’t bother them, I’d be worried. But it bothers our guys. It bothers me. I’m mad and dejected. You’re gonna feel that way. It’s our biggest game of the year, our biggest rivalry. We want to beat them more than we want to beat anybody.”
However, Monken added, “I’m glad we don’t have to finish the season on that disappointing loss. We get a chance to play again. There will be motivation to try to win the last one, try to beat Missouri in the bowl game.”
The matchup will send one of the nation’s top rushing attacks against one of the country’s worst run defenses.
Army averages 286.4 yards rushing per game, second in the nation, with its triple-option attack. Missouri ranks 125th out of 130 FBS teams in run defense, allowing 228.8 yards per game.
The Black Knights have a balanced ground game with running backs Tyrell Robinson (603 yards, three touchdowns), Jakobi Buchanan (438 yards, 11 TDs) and Anthony Adkins (347 yards, five TDs) joining with quarterbacks Christian Anderson (586 yards, seven TDs) and Tyhier Tyler (478 yards, seven TDs).
Both Anderson (28-for-59, 653 yards, five TDs, no interceptions) and Tyler (17-for-20, 285 yards, four TDs, no interceptions) can make plays in the passing game as well.
“They’ve got two dynamic quarterbacks,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “Both of them present different strengths. We’re going to have to prepare for the option, but they do spread out and run some conventional offense, too, which creates a whole other set of issues.”
Army struggled against the Midshipmen on the ground, gaining just 124 yards on 33 carries.
“They beat blocks, they just destroyed blocks,” Monken said. “They just did a much better job defending us than we did attacking them on offense. We tried different things and none of them worked. We just got outplayed.”
Missouri’s offense is more focused, with running back Tyler Badie (1,604 yards rushing, 330 yards receiving, 18 total touchdowns) doing the heavy lifting.
Quarterback Connor Bazelak has passed for 2,548 yards and 16 TDs this season, but he has been pushed by backups Tyler Macon and Brady Cook during the bowl practices.
“It’s been really good, great competition,” Drinkwitz said. “And been wide open, been rotating who goes with the (first team). … We’re continuing to improve our decision-making and accuracy downfield.”
–Field Level Media