Army opens season Friday night at Temple
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Jeff Monken starts his third season at Army with one goal in mind - win the opener just like he did as rookie head coach of the Black Knights.
It promises to be a difficult task - the foe is Temple, and the Owls will be playing at home Friday night.
''What they've done and what they've built there is not just build a good team, but build a good program,'' Monken said about the Owls, who finished 10-4 last year and were ranked. ''It will be a challenge for us, but our team has really worked hard this preseason camp.''
Army finished last season 2-10, the finale against Navy a heartbreaking 21-17 setback. Lost in the emotion of the moment was that Army quarterback Chris Carter was a freshman making only his second career start leading the complicated triple option. And he nearly led the Black Knights to victory against a heavily favored Navy team led by record-setting senior quarterback Keenan Reynolds.
Carter returns along with junior Ahmad Bradshaw, the starter in 2015 before injuries sent him to the sidelines. Monken, who guided Army past Buffalo in his first game at West Point, has tabbed Bradshaw as the starter again, but it's likely both will play. The goal is to have 1,000 yards rushing from the quarterback position.
''They're tough, they're physical. They're a team that wants to wear on you, keep coming at you,'' Temple defensive lineman Haason Reddick said.
Seven of Army's nine losses last year were by 30 points combined, which means with 16 returning starters the Black Knights should be ready for a breakthrough victory or two.
''We're playing a scary opponent in Army,'' Rhule said. ''We know just how competitive he (Monken) is. He's going to find a way to win.''
Other things to know when Temple hosts Army at Lincoln Financial Field:
RUN TO SOMEWHERE
The Black Knights outgained opponents 2,931-1,982 last season, but their per-game average was just 244.3 and their 4.8-yard average per run was barely better than their opponents (4.5).
Monken sees improvement heading into the opener.
''From a schematic standpoint, we're doing a much better job of blocking for the run. We should be able to do that,'' Monken said. ''Overall, we're doing a great job blocking on the perimeter, blocking inside and we're doing a better job at getting to the second level with our offensive linemen. I hope that will improve our running game.''
Temple has 10 offensive linemen and two on the defensive front that weigh over 300 pounds, so Army expects to do a lot of rotating to keep players fresh.
''When you're facing a lot of guys that are 320 and 300 pounds, you're not going to bull rush anybody and knock them back,'' Monken said. ''You have to create other ways to do that.''
Army, which was forced to start two freshmen on defense last season, has some experience to count on this time with nine returning starters. Senior linebackers and captains Jeremy Timpf and Andrew King tied for the team lead in tackles with 92 in 2015. King also had 4 1/2 of Army's 15 sacks, while defensive Brandon Jackson had 50 tackles and three picks as one of those two freshman starters.
''The 3-4 defense is something we don't see,'' Rhule said. ''They do love to blitz. It will be imperative to us to not have negative plays, to stay on the field and keep that dangerous option off.''
NO QB SHUFFLE
Senior quarterback Phillip Walker has thrown for over 7,300 yards and ran for 833 yards in his Temple career. He threw for 2,972 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2015, while senior running back Jahad Thomas is back for another season after gaining 1,262 yards rushing and scoring 17 TDs on the ground, the first scores of his career.
Temple has won the last six meetings in the series, and the Owls have a 3-1 mark against the Black Knights at home. The last time the teams opened a season was in 2008 with the Owls winning at West Point 31-7.
Online: AP College Football Website: www.collegefootball.ap.org