2022 isn’t turning out to be the season Army West Point had hoped for. With a real chance to make some noise nationally, the Black Knights have dropped three close games to fall to 1-3 on the season. Army suffered a disappointing loss to previously winless Georgia State last Saturday, and it doesn’t get any easier for the Cadets this week.
Coach Jeff Monken will lead his charges into Winston-Salem this Saturday to take on the 15th-ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Most fans will remember last year’s game; a 70-56 game at West Point where Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman threw for 453 yards and five touchdowns on 23-29 passing. The light bulbs in the Michie Stadium scoreboard almost didn’t make it to the final whistle.
Scouting Report: Army Visits Wake Forest
Match-Up: Army at Wake Forest
Time: 7:30 ET
Broadcast: ESPN3/Regional Sports Network (RSN)
Current Odds: Wake Forest -167.5, O/U 66.5
Unfortunately for Army, these are two teams are heading in different directions. Wake Forest seems to have cemented itself as a yearly contender in the ACC and a team with national relevance.
Demon Deacons Offense
Hartman is back from an early-season medical issue that kept him out of the first game. In four games, the junior has 1,196 yards (299/game), 15 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and a 64% completion rate. Look for Hartman to continue to rack up gaudy numbers against Army. The Black Knights have struggled to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks and their back-end coverage, especially on deep routes, has been suspect as well. That’s a lethal combination against Hartman and this offense. Head Coach Dave Clawson brings a fairly balanced offense into this game as well. Running backs Justice Ellison and Christian Turner will provide the bulk of the carries. Wake Forest averages 133 rushing yards per game to complement Hartman’s All-ACC capabilities.
Demon Deacons Defense
The biggest difference between last year’s offensive explosion and this year’s game is with the Wake Forest defense. Linebacker Ryan Smenda leads an improved Demon Deacons defense. Smenda and defensive tackles Kobie Turner and Dion Bergan will be responsible for stopping Army’s inside rushing attack. Turner is having an All-ACC caliber season on the interior of the Wake Forest line.
Wake Forest is athletic enough to counter the Army quarterback rushing attack. Look for athletic defensive back Malik Mustapha to play close and be responsible for stopping the outside option game. It’ll be tough for Army to sustain drives against the Wake Forest defense, even if they bring improved play into the game.
Mistakes have hampered Army all season, and last Saturday was no different. Army had three turnovers, two against Georgia State. Tyson Riley and Tyrell Robinson’s fumbles were drive-killers well inside Georgia State territory. Other than the Ball State game, the Black Knights played mistake-free football for the entirety of last season. It’s been a completely different story in 2022. If Army can’t hold on to the football against Wake Forest, it’s going to get out of hand quickly in Winston-Salem.
On the defensive side, missed tackles and blown assignments continue to plague Army. Wake Forest will exploit those mistakes over and over again if Army can’t tighten up the basics on the defensive side of the ball. Clawson is a quality offensive coach, and he’s likely wide-eyed looking at the Army film from their games against Coastal Carolina, UTSA, and Georgia State.
It’s tough in the Army locker room. A look at the schedule, and bowl eligibility is now in question. Army will have to bounce back from a tough and very disappointing loss last week. No one expects the Army team to quit, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Black Knights come out with purpose and get back to playing their game, or if they continue to make fundamental mistakes that kill drives and momentum. Last week’s first half was, as Monken put it, “a waste of a half.” Coming off of a bye week, that was as surprising of a letdown as it gets with this Army team.
On the defensive side particularly, there’s an opportunity for more aggression and being better at getting to the quarterback. Keeping Hartman from having time to throw will be the only chance Army has to steal this game. Army needs Andre Carter to get back to last year’s form and start racking up the quarterback sacks.
Nothing is more dangerous than a talented team playing with its back against the wall. And Army can be that team if they want, but they haven’t shown yet this season.
Army is already short at several positions; they’ll need some luck as well on Saturday. The offensive line is a patchwork right now with multiple injuries to both starters and primary backups. Jakobi Buchanan was back in a limited role last week, but neither he nor Tyson Riley is fully healthy coming into this game.
The Last Word
What started out as a season of opportunity for Army has quickly turned into a season where bowl eligibility is now in question. The difference in a year shows on Saturday, as Wake builds a big lead in the second half and cruises to a win.
Wake Forest 56