Snake bitten Army hosts Bucknell of the FCS on Homecoming
WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) Army has a little more than usual on its plate this week, recovering from its worst loss of what had been a season of close calls.
There's a lot to forget. Duke's 44-3 thrashing last Saturday at Michie Stadium was the worst home loss for Army (1-5) since a 55-0 setback to Baylor in 1979.
''It's a little humbling to experience that and be beat like that,'' Army coach Jeff Monken said. ''If you play long enough, it's bound to happen. There's a lot to learn from it.''
The loss was in stark contrast to the other four, which came by a combined 16 points, against Fordham and Wake Forest at home, and UConn and Penn State on the road. The Rams won the season opener for both teams, 37-35, and Army now faces another FCS team when Bucknell (3-2) visits Saturday on Homecoming.
''I think our guys have handled each week very well in terms of their ability to focus and refocus on the next game,'' Monken said. ''Probably any one of the first five games could have gone our way. We didn't make the plays to complete those games and win them.''
Monken said senior quarterback A.J. Schurr, who left the Duke game with a thigh bruise, should be ready to play, but was noncommittal on the starter. He was replaced by sophomore Ahmad Bradshaw, who missed the Penn State game with an ankle injury.
The Bison are coming off a 21-10 home loss to Lehigh in their Patriot League opener.
Some things to know when Army hosts Bucknell on Saturday:
FUMBLE HERE, FUMBLE THERE, FUMBLE EVERYWHERE: Army has fumbled 14 times in the past two games, its ground-oriented triple option losing three against Penn State in a 20-14 loss, and two in the lopsided loss to Duke. The Blue Devils took advantage of three errant pitches by Bradshaw, scoring off each mistake. Monken says it's been just a simple lack of communication.
''Not too many of our fumbles are contact fumbles,'' the second-year coach said. ''There's not many where we are carrying the ball and they come punch it out. They're happening on the exchanges, whether it is the center and quarterback exchange or ... a pitch. Not many are happening where somebody is just getting it knocked out, and I think that is a positive.''
DEFENDING THE LINE: Among Bucknell's starters on the defensive line are 6-foot-4, 295-pound tackle Abdullah Anderson, and 6-2, 270-pound nose guard Ben Schumacher, fifth on the team with 4 1-2 tackles for loss this year. Against Lehigh, the Bison had four players reach double figures in tackles for the second straight week, led by 13 stops from sophomore linebacker Mark Pyles, and they've had four sacks in a game four times this season.
''Defensively, they're big,'' Monken said. ''I hope we go perform on Saturday much better than we did last Saturday. If we don't, they've got enough weapons to hurt us and beat us.''
ROOKIE MISTAKES: Monken has been forced to play several freshmen - 12 were listed on the two-deep depth chart for Duke - and that inexperience has hurt. On Army's first play from scrimmage against the Blue Devils, offensive tackle Rick Kurz missed an assignment and a linebacker burst through his gap for a sack and 6-yard loss.
''There's going to be some mistakes that those freshmen make that have nothing to do with ability,'' Monken said. ''It's probably not having played as much.''
BISON BALANCE: Statistically, the Bucknell offense and defense are basically equals. The Bison offense is averaging 16.2 points and 297.2 yards per game, while the defense is allowing 16.6 points and 315 yards of total offense.
ARMY DOMINANCE: Army has won all five games against Bucknell in a series that dates back to 1900, and all five games have been played at West Point. The last was in 1995, a 37-6 Army win. This will be Bucknell's first game against an FBS opponent since 2001.