In one of the more potentially interesting rematches for the upcoming season, Buffalo will make a return trip to Army West Point to face the Black Knights after a 2016 clash that saw the Bulls pull out a last second overtime victory on their home turf.
Coming into this game, Buffalo had a tight tussle with the PJ FLeck-led Minnesota Golden Gophers, but ultimately couldn’t seal the deal on the road, losing 17-7. Army, meanwhile, ran roughshod over the FCS Fordham Rams, scoring 64 points and running for over 500 yards in their home opener.
For more information on what expect from the officers in (football) uniform, we talked to Army football expert Alex Funderburke of Forgotten5.
Hustle Belt: Army West Point shut down any chance Fordham had for trying to pull off an upset on Saturday, scoring 60+ points with zero passing yards in a victory. What were your immediate takeaways from the game, positive and negative?
Alex Funderburke: I think Army showed that they can run their offense effectively with anyone on the roster on the field, sure it was FCS Fordham, but the triple option is a really hard system to run and the 2nd and 3rd string players came in a didn’t miss a beat, going on scoring drives.
Army’s defense was really impressive, they held one of the best running backs in the country, Chase Edmonds, to 42 yards on 15 carries. I thought they’d have problems replacing Andrew King and Jeremy Timpf, but they didn’t miss a beat, consistently getting in the back field and getting after the QB.
Special teams was the most impressive part of the Fordham game, 2 blocked kicks, one of which was returned for a touchdown. They made all but one extra point which is a huge improvement. Lastly, almost every kickoff was a touchback and the ones that weren’t, the returner didn’t get past the 20 yard line, that shows the special teams guys were flying down the field.
Khalil Hodge had 20 tackles last week vs. Minnesota, showing himself to be a capable run stopper and tackler in open space. How can Army neutralize such a threat to their triple option offense?
Khalil Hodge will definitely make plays but all of the movement that the triple option should slow him down a little bit. If QB Ahmad Bradshaw gets flustered and forced into the wrong reads, expect Hodge to have a big game. Bradshaw is an experienced leader though so I don’t see that happening.
Who is/are the player(s) to watch on offense for Army and why?
Slotback Kell Walker. He was suspended for the Fordham game and is an explosive back who had his coming out party in the Army/Navy game last season. I expect a big game in Walker’s return.
I’d also watch out for B-Back (fullback) Darnell Woolfolk. Last year in week one, B-Back Andy Davidson introduced himself to Army fans and throughout the season we saw spirts of Darnell while Andy was hurt. Now Woolfolk is the starter and Davidson is coming off the bench. Woolfolk is a stud that is extremely hard to bring down and eats up yards.
What about on defense?
Look out for DB Gibby Gibson. This guy is an absolute stud. Gibson broke up a pass play last week that would have given Fordham a big first down really early and that set the tone for the rest of the game. He only had one tackle last weekend, but he will be a bigger part of this game. He will give Tyree Jackson problems in the passing game.
As an Army fan, what about Buffalo makes you the most nervous?
Just the fact that they beat Army last year and will have a lot of confidence coming into West Point. Tyree Jackson also gave the Black Knights problems last season and he is capable of doing it again.
Last year was a thriller at UB Stadium, as the Bulls scored 17 unanswered points to win the game 23-20 in overtime. Besides a win, what marks of progress do you want to see out of Army in this return game at home?
Special teams, special teams, special teams.
The Black Knight kickers won’t miss kicks in the clutch again to throw away the game like last year. The kicking game is what lost the game for Army last year, that won’t happen again.
How do you predict the game will go?
I think Army will have some trouble in the first quarter but after that I expect Army to run the Bulls into submission. Army is getting Kell Walker back and they ran for 500+ yards without him. I expect another big win for the Black Knights going into a big game in Columbus, Ohio against Ohio State.
Army 49, Buffalo 17
Thanks to Alex Funderburke for providing us a preview of the upcoming game. You can follow him on Twitter @AlexFunderburke. You can read his recap of the Army-Fordham game here.
Alex writes for Forgotten5, a blog dedicated to covering all schools within the Group of Five, including FCS schools. They can be followed @RememberF5.