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Gettin' Familiar with: Army

A bunch of y'all asked whether the fact that I'm now writing for Wildcat Report, the NU Rivals site, will effect (or affect) what I do for Sippin' on Purple. This makes me laugh harder than I previously thought imaginable. This site is my baby and I will coddle it intensely. I'll write a few things a week over there - things about NU's weekly press conference and practices that I haven't had access to for this site - but what you'll see here will be the same, with a tidbit more access and understanding.

Anyway, what I said in that article for WR holds true: when people talk about Army football, they sound kinda like people who talk about NU basketball. They run two lesser-used systems, the triple option on offense and the double eagle on defense, in hopes of beating teams who don't take precaution by preparing heavily for both. NU is putting in work making sure both systems won't catch them off guard.

After the jump I'll tell you about sports!

Thus far: Army is 0-2, with two losses against mid-major teams but, well, don't let that make you think this game is a walkover. Army went 7-6 with wins exclusively over extremely crappy teams last year, with a season-ending win in the Armed Forces Bowl over SMU. Their season-opener this year saw them get blown out by NIU, going down 49-6 before scoring 20 fourth-quarter points to make it respectable. Last week saw a nail-biter, as the Black Knights lost on a fourth-quarter field goal to San Diego State, 23-20. 

Us and them: Despite Army's historical relevance and Northwestern's lack thereof, NU is 3-1 against Army. Two of those wins came in the 1950's, the Cats went 1-1 against Army in the 80's with NU losing the last bout, a 23-7 game at West Point in 1988.

When they got the ball: Army runs the vaunted triple option. This basically means throw what you expect to happen when an opposing offense has the ball out the window, unless you expect the 1930's to happen a lot. The quarterback - Trent Steelman, who ran for a career-high 157 yards last week against SDSU - takes the snap, and then either does or does not hand the ball to the fullback. From there, it's a traditional option play, with the QB and RB running parallel to each other and the QB making a pitch if needed. This is called the wishbone because there are generally two RB's, one to either side, meaning the play could go either side. (I hope to put up a post on this later in the week, but you never know.) Anyway, passing isn't Army's game: Steelman, despite being the QB, has only thrown 15 passes on the year, completing only seven. (Army also has a QB named Max Jenkins who appears to come in for pass-related plays, he is 2-for-8 passing on the year.) This isn't to say "ignore the passing game", the Black Knights use it as a change-of-pace hoping for a big play. That in mind, they are verrrrrrrry successful on the ground: second in the country in rushing offense, the Black Knights got 402 yards on the ground last week against SDSU with seven guys getting over five carries. 

When we got the ball: Don't be confused by the "double eagle" nomenclature. You've probably heard of or seen the 4-6 or Bear defense. It hopes to put a lot of guys on the line of scrimmage and completely loads the box, with only the free safety and two corners deep. You'd think this would force the ball into the air, but it hasn't really. NIU thrived with Jasmin Hopkin rushing for 138 yards yards on only 14 carries - although Chandler Harnish did toss five touchdowns - and SDSU pretty genuinely struggled going to the air, going 8-for-18 passing.