The road hasn't been kind to Army in two tries so far this season. Coach Jeff Monken is intent on changing that.
"We'd like to win a road game. We haven't done that this year," Monken said. "I talked to the guys about that."
The Black Knights (3-2) have won all three of their games at home, including a comeback 35-21 victory last week over winless UTEP on a windswept day at Michie Stadium. Next up is Rice (1-4), which is coming off a 42-10 loss at Pittsburgh .
The Panthers did what the Owls have become accustomed to, scoring on their first three possessions to quickly take control of the game. Rice registered only 14 first downs and was forced to punt seven times as Pitt held the ball for nearly 10 minutes longer.
"We only had two three-and-outs on the day, but a lot of our issues have been self-inflicted wounds," Rice coach David Bailiff said. "It's a receiver with a procedure penalty. That's focus. It's a running back on the wrong side of the quarterback. That's focus issues. We have to continue to work on focusing during the tough times. You can't have those times of breakdowns that are self-inflicted."
Army's triple option continues to purr behind senior quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw and its hard-running fullbacks. The Black Knights rank third nationally in rushing, averaging 363.6 yards and 6.2 per carry. The latter figure is tops among the three service academies.
"They're relentless offensively," Bailiff said. "They're averaging 33 minutes a game (possession time). So our offense, when we have the ball, has got to score points because you don't have the ball a lot."
Other things to know when Army visits Rice on Saturday:
Rice has scored more than one touchdown just once this season and has been unable to execute the ball-control style Bailiff strives for and Army thrives on. The Owls have been outscored 59-3 in the first quarter and 55-14 in the second. Against Pitt, Rice QB Jackson Tyner hit Austin Walter for a 70-yard touchdown. Take away that score and Tyner finished 14 of 31 for 152 yards with three interceptions.
"If you watch us, if we catch the ball for 10 yards, we're tackled at 10 yards," Bailiff said. "It's the same with the running backs. We're not getting a lot of yards after contact. We've got to start getting those. We've got to pick up those yards that everybody in the country is getting."
Army failed to complete a pass in two of its first four games, but things have suddenly changed for the better. Bradshaw completed 3 of 5 throws for 80 yards against UTEP, including a 42-yard TD to Jordan Asberry. It was Bradshaw's first scoring pass of the season.
Army's array of fullbacks includes Darnell Woolfolk, Andy Davidson, Calen Holt, and Connor Slomka, and they, along with Bradshaw, make the triple option go. Woolfolk is the starter, but he sat out the past two games with an injury and won't play Saturday. Davidson, Holt and Slomka have picked up the slack. Each scored against UTEP and they have combined to rush for 596 yards on 103 carries, an average of 5.8 yards a carry.
Rice cornerback J.T. Ibe had 13 tackles against Pitt and also forced and recovered a goal-line fumble. The redshirt junior leads the Owls with 24 solo tackles and is second overall in tackles with 30.
"He is playing really, really special football right now," Bailiff said. "I'm really thrilled with how he is progressing."
This will be the eighth meeting all-time between the teams, and Rice leads the series 5-2. Army won the first meeting, 14-7, in 1958, the last time the Black Knights finished undefeated. Army broke a five-game slide in the series last year with a 31-14 victory at Michie Stadium.