Trojans prepare for physical, rainy day at Army

Published 11:24 am Wednesday, October 11, 2023

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The Troy Trojans (4-2) will look to keep their current three-game winning streak going this Saturday, Oct. 14, against the Army Black Knights (2-3).

Troy has won its last three contests, while Army is coming off back-to-back losses against Syracuse and Boston College. Still, the Black Knights have been dominant at home over the last number of years.

“They’re 37-8 at home since 2017 and they’ve averaged eight or nine wins every since 2016,” Troy Coach Jon Sumrall said. “They’re similar to us defensively and offensively they’ve evolved a little bit but they still run a heavy option centered (offense) out of the ‘gun’ (formation).”

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Army’s physical rushing attack is averaging 166 yards per game this season but the Black Knights have been a bit more balanced than in previous years, throwing for more than 160 yards per game, as well. Quarterback Bryson Daily leads Army with 374 yards and three touchdowns rushing along with 697 yards through the air and six touchdowns.

“The thing I’m most impressed with is the style of play, they always fall forward,” Sumrall said of the Army offense. “They run hard behind their pads and are very physical. Every guy that touches the football on their team runs with physicality.

“Their quarterback is running the ball with real physicality. I’m not saying he’s Tim Tebow but he’s ‘Tebowish’ when running the ball. He’s a load, 215 or 220 pounds, and if you do not wrap up and gang tackle you’re going to have a real issue.”

The Trojans have plenty of familiarity with Army on their staff. Defensive coordinator Joe Gasparado, defensive line coach Eric McDaniel and strength and conditioning coach Rusty Whitt all previously served on Army’s staff.

“They have familiarity with how they do things there,” Sumrall said. “Offensively they’ve changed some, they haven’t been under center as much, but they’re still going to do some of the same things. We have to be prepared for some of that under center stuff even though they haven’t shown it this year. The offense presents real challenges.”

One of the biggest challenges in preparing for Army, though, is their tendency to go for it on fourth downs. The Black Knights have gone for it on fourth down 14 times this season and have converted it 13 times.

“They go for it on fourth down more than anyone else in college football, so third-and-five is really more like second-and-five to them,” Sumrall said. “On fourth-and-one from the minus 20 they’ll go for it. We have to be really good how we play those situations. It’s always four down territory for them, so that is a big challenge.”

Another challenge could be the weather as plenty of rain is expected for Saturday.

“We have a pretty high percentage chance of rain on Wednesday (in Troy) and I can’t wait to practice in it,” Sumrall said of preparing for the weather. “I’ve known since (last) Saturday night that it would probably rain (against Army). When we go out there for our run through (on Monday) I’ll be running around with a bottle making sure the snaps and holds have to be worked through with a wet ball. It is an issue, ball handing and those sorts of things.”

Troy boasts one of the most balanced offenses in the Sun Belt Conference this season, averaging 265 yards passing and 180 yards rushing per game. Running back Kimani Vidal leads the entire country in rushing with 835 yards along with six touchdowns. Quarterback Gunnar Watson has thrown for 1,539 yards and 10 touchdowns. On defense, Javon Solomon is second in the Sun Belt with 5.5 sacks. The Troy defense is giving up just 86 yards per game rushing and 199 yards per game passing, both rank second in the Sun Belt.

Troy and Army will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. in a game that will air nationally on the CBS Sports Network.