December 22, 2010

Dallas challenge awaits Army's defense

Army's undersized defense faces a challenge almost every game it plays.

That will be the case again when Army (6-6) faces SMU (7-6) December 30 in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas.

The Black Knights' double eagle flex defense must find a way to contain a typically potent offense installed by SMU coach June Jones.

SMU employs a run-and-shoot approach in its offense which favors a wide open passing attack.

"Yeah, June loves to sling it," Army coach Rich Ellerson said. "He is very prolific at it, both as a player and as a coach throughout his career.

"But they do run the ball efficiently and effectively. They are not a one-dimensional outfit."

SMU averages 26.6 points, 414.7 total offense yards, 273.8 passing yards and 140.9 rushing yards per game.

Sophomore running back Zach Lind led Conference USA in rushing with 1,391 yards and ranked 16th in NCAA rushing statistics.

Quarterback Kyle Padron passed for 3,526 yards during the regular season, averaging 271.2 yards per game which was 16th best nationally.

"They are a pretty complete offense," Army linebacker Steve Erzinger said. "They have a good running attack and good passing. Their quarterback is pretty solid and they do things well."

Army ranked tied for seventh in turnover margin (1.08) and creating turnovers will be a key against the Mustangs.

"Turnovers are highly important," Erzinger said. "It can be seen on any team across the country. It's the key to any game. You need turnovers to give your offense the ball. If you are doing that you should have a good game."

Defensive back Antuan Aaron says the Black Knights defense will not back down against the Mustangs.

"Basically the whole mentality for our defense is to play every play, every down no matter what happens and you really have to trust the person next to you to be in the right place at the right time in order to make a play," Aaron said.

"Every time we take the field, it's always three plays and out. We don't want to play more than three plays and get the ball back in our offense's hands. We are always scraping to get a turnover or intercept a pass or just stopping them in three (plays)."

Scraping to force turnovers starts in practice.

"We have five key to victory," Antuan explained. "Winning the turnover battle is one of them. So as a defense we always focus on that in practice.

"We're always trying to get the ball out whether the play is going or if it is over. I know a lot of the guys on offense hate that especially when the play is over when we go over and knock the ball out of their hands. We are always thinking about ball security and getting the ball out."

Ellerson says Army will have to overcome the challenges presented by SMU's offense.

"We don't match up with them especially well, our defensive backs with their receivers," Ellerson said. "That continues to be a challenge for us. But, we're a little bit different on defense and they know that, and have had experience against us in the past.

"Conversely, our answers lie internally as well. We'll get our guys on the field with an opportunity to compete. We have to be able to generate pressure and we're going to have to keep the big play, the big ball, from going over our head, which has been a challenge for us."



 

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