Armed Forces Bowl Preview – Aztecs Face Vaunted Army Rushing Attack

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Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

San Diego State (10-2) vs. Army (9-3)

Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

Saturday, December 23rd at 12:30 p.m. PST ESPN-TV

The San Diego State Aztecs (10-2) are set to square off against the Army Black Knights (9-3) on Saturday, December 23rd at 12:30 PM in the Armed Forces Bowl at Fort Worth, Texas.

The Aztecs were hoping to face a Power 5 school in a bowl game this season, but find themselves playing Army instead. SDSU will not dwell on the missed opportunity to showcase its talents against a Power 5 team and will instead relish the opportunity it has in front of them.

San Diego State head coach Rocky Long on playing in a bowl game: “I think there are three great things about bowl games. Number one is that it’s a reward for a good season. We’re going to go to Fort Worth and have a good time. The bowl people will do a great job of hosting us. We get to play one more game and that’s more important to the seniors than anyone else. It’s a little less stressful than the regular season is because it’s a bowl game. The most important thing for the future of the program is the extra practice that you get for the young guys. I don’t know how you would put that in order of importance, but for the future of the program the most important is developing the young guys.”

The Black Knights pose an interesting matchup for the Aztecs.  Army is leading the nation in rushing as a team, averaging 355 yards per game with their variation of the triple option at seven yards per carry. San Diego State has played against this style of offense regularly when they play Air Force Academy, who runs a somewhat similar style of offense.

In their press conference, Long said, “Whenever you play an option team – and they don’t run much triple-option where they’re actually reading and pitching – they run a lot of speed option, which means the quarterback runs down the line of scrimmage and tries to carry the ball whenever there is an opening. If there isn’t an opening, then he will pitch it. Then they do a lot of things to make him the tailback with an extra blocker. They’ll run zone plays with the lead blocker, they’ll run power plays with two extra blockers. He’s the ball carrier. It’s not a typical triple-option team and they’re getting an extra blocker by making him the ball carrier. It’s a very difficult scheme to stop with any consistency. All you have to do is look at how many punts they’ve had for the entire season. Most people have had that many punts for the first third of the season. They haven’t punted the ball very much because they keep it away from you forever. If it’s fourth-and-2 or less, they are going for it. If you hear their coaches talk, they start a series first-and-8. Everyone else starts their series first-and-10. They start first-and-8.”

Army is led by senior quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (5’11”, 205) who will be the center of focus for the Aztecs’ defense.

Bradshaw has an excellent field of vision and makes great use of his athleticism to create missed tackles at the line of scrimmage. Bradshaw has 1,566 yards rushing this year with 12 TD’s.  He’s completed only 13 of his 40 pass attempts this year for 279 yards and one touchdown. Junior Darnell Woolfolk (5’9”235) will be Bradshaw’s first option. Woolfolk has 725 yards for the year and 12 rushing touchdowns as well. Woolfolk is a powerful back and can be a force to take down when running with a full head of steam.

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Not to be overlooked is Army’s third and fourth rushing threats, Andy Davidson and Kell Walker, who combined have over a thousand yards rushing as well.

On defense, the Black Knights are led by junior linebacker James Nachtigal (6’0”, 235), who leads the team in tackles with 98 for the year. Army averages 20.9 points allowed per game, 28th best in the nation. Long on Army’s defense: “They do a lot of things that try to make it difficult on you, like we try to do too. They give you a lot of different looks. The offensive line has to be very educated and make sure they block the right guys. They’re very aggressive on defense. The real trick on their offense is we are only going to get the ball five or six times for the entire football game. It’s very unusual, but for a true football fan it’s going to be very interesting to watch. If it wasn’t for the TV package and the commercials and all that, I’d say you’d be out of there in an hour and 15 minutes.”

One team leads the nation in rushing and the other has the nation’s leading rusher.  Both defenses will have their hands full. I believe that the Aztecs have the better talent on defense and should win this game.  Army will be facing a player in Rashaad Penny that they have not seen all year. Stopping him on offense is only part of the problem as Penny can make his presence felt in the kicking game as well.

Prediction:  Aztecs 35 – Army 21.

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