The Black Knights’ chances of upsetting Ohio State at 4:30 p.m. Saturday are slim. Army has not defeated a team ranked in the Associated Press poll — Ohio State dropped from No. 2 to No. 8 this week — since knocking off No. 15 Air Force in 1972.
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Even Army coach Jeff Monken recognizes how big of an underdog his team is, while at the same making sure his team has some hope.
“Nobody outside of this room is running around saying, ‘Man, Army is going to beat the heck out of Ohio State,’” Monken said. “We’re 30½-point underdogs. Everyone is saying we’re going to get our butts whipped. I’m not walking in here telling the guys to start preparing for Tulane because we’re going to get our butts whipped. That’s not the way we’re wired, and I don’t know a team or a coach in the country that would prepare that way. We’ve got to look at their team and find the things we can do to be successful on offense, defense and special teams, practice them and try to go execute.”
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Army beat Fordham 64-6 in its opener and rallied from a 17-7 deficit in the final quarter to beat Buffalo 21-17 last week. It’s the first time it has started 2-0 in back-to-back seasons since 1979-80.
Army presents a different challenge than Ohio State’s first two opponents. Indiana threw for 420 yards against Ohio State. Oklahoma threw for 386. The Buckeyes rank last among the 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision in passing yards allowed per game (403).
Army ranks second in the nation in rushing offense (417.5) and last in passing offense (8.5). Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw has attempted 10 passes and completed two. He completed 2-of-8 passes for 17 yards against Buffalo.
Monken would like to eliminate the passing game all together.
“We’ve got to run the ball if we’re going to be successful,” he said. “We’re not going to win a bunch of games if we chunk it all over the place. We’ve got to pick our spots. We tried to pick them on Saturday, but we had a couple of opportunities that we missed. No one feels worse about it than Ahmad (Bradshaw) does. But we’re going to hit some of those too sometimes. We’ll keep taking our shots every once in a while.”
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Army has a long history of playing teams from the power conferences. It beat Wake Forest 21-13 last season. In 2015, it lost 31-21 to Rutgers and 20-14 at Penn State in 2015. Next season, Army plays at Oklahoma.
This is Army’s first game against Ohio State.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity for our players,” Monken said, “and I think, like everybody who probably plays football and has aspirations of playing college football, they dream of playing college football at the highest levels, in front of the biggest crowds, against the country’s best teams. This is one of those opportunities. It’s really a great privilege and honor for us as a program, and it gives our players a unique experience, which I think is really special.”
Army at Ohio State, 4:30 p.m., FOX, 1410