Raise your hand if you thoroughly enjoyed that Notre Dame-Navy game last weekend!
*crickets and blank stares*
Guys, did you hear me?
Oh, okay. Well, if you liked that one...
*still crickets and blank stares*
...you’ll love what’s coming this Saturday in the Shamrock Series, as your 3-6 Fighting Irish take on the 5-4 Black Knights of Army in San Antonio!!!!!
I realize it’s pretty difficult to get excited for this ND team and that most of us have probably had enough of this garbage season, but Army was considered the Irish’s best shot at winning another game down the stretch, so maybe (doubtful) there’s hope!
I spoke to Jake Schmied of Underdog Dynasty to learn some more about the latest triple option offense to dominate time of possession against Brian Kelly, and we even talked about Edgar Allan Poe, Brian Kelly dancing to Sia, and mules. So, if that’s not enough to entice you to scroll down right now, I don’t know what is!
1. Jeff Monken is in his 3rd season at Army, and after going 4-8 and 2-10 in his first two years, he's already sitting at his best record yet, 5-4. What has he done to continue to bring this program along, and how successful do you think Army can be with him at the helm?
Prior to Army, Coach Monken was the head coach at Georgia Southern. Many Army fans do not know this, but he led the Eagles to three consecutive FCS playoff appearances. He has brought experience to Army. The Black Knights have a winning record this season because Coach Monken has developed quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw.
Also, Army is more confident because they are used to Monken at the helm. I think the Black Knights can be very successful with him. The confidence level the players have in him is more so than in his first two seasons. They understand that Coach Monken operates on organizing practices; this system has proven to be the right one for Army.
2. For the second week in a row, Notre Dame will face a triple option team, and Army has actually been even more productive on the ground than Navy has been in 2016. Do you think ND continues to struggle to stop the option attack? How do you think Army's offense matches up with the ND defense?
Notre Dame struggled against Navy because they are not used to playing triple-option teams. Army is similar to Navy this season in that both teams rely more on the run than the pass. Notre Dame had some trouble running the ball against Navy because the Midshipmen use different defensive schemes than other FBS schools. Army's rushing offense will have success running the ball because the Irish's defense has problems stopping the run.
They gave up 4 rushing touchdowns and 320 total rushing yards against Navy last week. Army has depth in the backfield. Andy Davidson, who played linebacker last season, has accumulated 7 touchdowns. Coach Jeff Monken also likes freshman Kell Walker. Walker scored his first TD of his career against Air Force, last week. He totaled 32 rushing yards in that game, as he is utilized in short-run situations.
3. To build off of the last question, who are the X-factors for the Army offense? Who do Irish fans need to be afraid of?
As I mentioned in the previous question, Army's depth in the backfield is a reason they have won games this season. In addition to the running game, the passing game has improved over the last few games. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw is the leader behind center; he runs the read-option well. He averages 67 rushing yards per game and has scored 5 touchdowns.
Last week, Bradshaw passed more against Air Force because they have a top rushing defense. His primary target who Notre Dame will have to double-team is Edgar Poe. Poe caught his first TD of the season last week. He is a skilled receiver who the Irish will have to watch out for.
4. Statistically, the Army defense looks stifling. Ranked 6th in total defense and 13th in scoring, on paper this is the best defense ND has faced all year. Do you think that dominance continues against a talented but terribly inconsistent ND offense? Will the Irish continue to struggle to establish any sort of running game against the Black Knights?
Even though Notre Dame is 3-6, DeShone Kizer poses a challenge for Army's passing defense. Yes, they are ranked in the top 15 nationally; however, the past two games the Black Knights have been burned. Air Force's Arion Worthman, in his first start, threw for almost 200 passing yards and 1 TD.
Army's secondary did a poor job of covering Air Force's receivers, Jalen Robinette in particular (3 receptions for 104 yards and a TD). Irish fans should be afraid of the defensive line, however. The line did a good job of pressuring Worthman; the quarterback was just able to throw the ball in time.
5. Who are the defensive players the Irish need to watch out for? Who will be critical in shutting down DeShone Kizer and the ND offense?
Senior linebacker Andrew King has been having the best season of his career. He has accumulated 42 solo tackles and has recorded 7.5 sacks this season. Named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list at the start of the season, King is a quarterback's worst nightmare, as he has speed and fights through the offensive line to pressure the pocket.
Safeties Alex Aukerman and Rhyan England have shut down opposing receivers this season. England has totaled 40 tackles this season and 4 sacks. He is a hybrid in the secondary; he can play both outside linebacker and safety. He also had an interception on Wake Forest's opening drive two weeks ago. Aukerman has long arms and is a constant threat to opposing receivers. He adds coverage, in addition to Army's cornerbacks.
6. Think Army is bowl-bound this year? If so, what bowl do you think they'll end up in?
If Army can beat Notre Dame, they will be bowl-bound. Otherwise, they will have a 5-5 record and could miss out on a bowl appearance.
If the Black Knights defeat the Irish, they could have a shot at the AFR Celebration Bowl or the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Army could also have a shot at the Military Bowl, played at Navy's Marine-Corps Stadium.
This could happen, as Navy would be at a higher level bowl game because they have a better record.
7. Army has a wide receiver named Edgar Poe.
I have a few follow-up questions to that fact:
- First of all, is his middle name Allan?
- Next question, has he penned any poetry or short stories, and if so, where can I read them?
- Next question: does Jeff Monken target recruits based on name? Because he's got quite a few amazing names on his team: Edgar Poe, Bayle Wolf, Gibby Gibson, Boomer Bakich Jr., Rod Stoddard II, Toese Tia, etc.
- Final question: who has the best name in this game - one of those guys, ND's Equanimeous Tristan Imhotep J. St. Brown, or someone else I might have missed?
I am unsure if his middle name is Allan, but I have heard broadcasters reference it. That would be hilarious if it was. He was nicknamed "The Raven" at his high school in Tuscon, Arizona. He has visited Baltimore because the Army-Navy game switches each year between Philadelphia and Baltimore.
I do not think Edgar has written any poetry or short stories. He probably has for his courses, but I do not know if that's even accessible.
Names are not a factor in recruiting, although it is interesting that Coach Monken has brought in some names. I had a chance to speak with Gibby Gibson at the Army media day back in August. He thought about that theory as well; he burst out laughing when he said it. Equanimeous Tristan Imhotep J. St. Brown takes the cake for best name, in addition to longest last name on a jersey.
8. Army is the Black Knights, but has a mule for a mascot. Please explain because I am ignorant here and have already spent a week being confused due to Navy's mascot being a goat.
The mule as the mascot dates back to 1899. An officer saw that Army needed a mascot to counter Navy's goat. Mules hauled Army equipment for decades. Hence, the mule became the mascot for Army.
As for the Black Knight as the team name, Army was originally called the Cadets. In the 1940s, numerous local newspapers dubbed them the "Black Knights of the Hudson." The USMA alternated between the Cadets and Black Knights, until 1999, when Army officially adopted the Black Knights as the name for their sports teams.
9. Jeff Monken vs. Brian Kelly in a dance-off. Who wins, and what songs do both coaches dance to?
I don't think Coach Monken can dance.
If he could - keyword “could” - it would have to be to “Over” by Drake.
I could see Brian Kelly dancing to “Cheap Thrills” by Sia and Sean Paul.
I'd have to give that to Coach Kelly.
10. Prediction time - give me a predicted outcome and score for the game and your reasoning why.
My prediction would have to be 28-20 Army. I think Notre Dame would be more successful at passing than the run game. As I previously alluded to, Army's run defense will have no trouble stopping Josh Adams, who was held to 73 yards against Navy.
Also, Army will have to adjust to Kizer's playcalling. He runs the read-option, like Arion Worthman did last week. Kizer has speed and is more versatile than Air Force's quarterback.
A key for Army to win defensively has to be containing St. Brown and Torii Hunter Jr. If the Black Knights can limit Notre Dame's passing game, then they can hold onto a win.
11. Anything else ND fans should know about Army's team, coach, program, tradition, fans, etc.?
Army's kicker Blake Wilson missed a PAT against Air Force (it hit the bottom of the goal post). The Black Knights miss kicker Mitchell Howard, who was injured against Buffalo in September.
I’d like to give Jake a special shout out and thank you for answering all the questions I sent over, and encourage you all to follow him and Underdog Dynasty for all updates and news heading into Saturday’s game.
Smell ya later, everyone, and enjoy Brian Kelly’s last chance at
success happiness proving he’s better than Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham as a coach this season!