We’re 44 days from the return of Syracuse Orange football! While counting the days until the 2023 kickoff, we also encourage you to continue following our opponent preview series. The lacrosse fans on the blog are probably used to seeing this next foe.
After the Orange travel for round two against Purdue, they return to the Dome for the final non-conference game. It’s also the start of another home-and-home series - one that will last twice as long...
Army Black Knights
School: United States Military Academy
Nickname: Black Knights
Mascots: The Army Mules; BlackJack; the Black Knight (football only)
#BRAND Slogans: #GoArmy, “BEAT NAVY”
Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: #AmericasGroundTeam or “This Field We’ll Defend”
Recommended Blog: Underdog Dynasty
History vs. Syracuse: It’s been a long time since these programs have faced off. During the last game against Army, Paul Pasqualoni was SU’s head coach, sophomore Donovan McNabb was under center, and both programs were ranked in the Top-25. That November 1996 contest ended up a convincing 42-17 victory for the Orange, who are 11-10 all time against the Black Knights. They currently hold a three-game winning streak and are a perfect 5-0 in Syracuse (3-0 in the Dome). In addition to this game, they will also play the next three seasons, with scheduled trips to West Point in 2024 and 2026.
Coach: Jeff Monken, 10th Season. A 1989 graduate of DIII Millikin University, Monken got his coaching career started as a graduate assistant at Hawai’i. He had a flurry of stops throughout the country, including three seasons (1992-94) at Buffalo and six (2002-2007) with Navy before getting his first head coaching job with Georgia Southern in 2010. After four seasons and three FCS Semifinals appearances, Army named him their 10th head coach prior to 2014. He’s led the Black Knights to six winning seasons in the last seven years, four bowl victories in five tries, and a 64–49 overall record.
2022 Record: (6-6)
Recapping Last Season:
The Black Knights are one of only four remaining independent FBS programs. They started off 1-4 before turning things around, winning five of seven (including the final three) to finish with a .500 record. Wins were against Villanova, Colgate, Louisiana-Monroe, UConn, UMass, and Navy - but since two of those are FCS teams, Army was not awarded a bowl game. Losses were to Coastal Carolina, UTSA, Georgia State, Wake Forest, Air Force, and Troy.
The Army offense was one of the last remaining relics of true gridiron football, still running the triple-read option in most snaps. They had the second-most rushing yards per game in the nation (289.4), along with the second-fewest passing yards (76.7) - only Air Force was more extreme in both cases. QB Tyhier Tyler was the leading rusher with 663 yards and 12 touchdowns; he also threw 8/18 for 301 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Tyson Riley and Jakobi Buchanan, along with backup QB Jemel Jones, made up the other steady pieces of the option.
The Army defense had some very skewed numbers as well: they were the 4th-best defense in the country against the pass, but the 12th-worst against the run. (NOTE: the two other academies also ran option offenses, so that’s part of the equation here.) Linebacker Leo Lowin and Safety Marquel Broughton cleared the skies with a combined 184 tackles, six pass breakups, and five interceptions. Andre Carter had an extremely disappointing senior season, going from 15.5 sacks in 2021 to just three last year. Quinn Maretzki made 8/10 field goals, including the game-winner against Navy to close out the season.
2023 Season Outlook:
It’s another interesting mix for Army in 2023. Their six home games are against Delaware State, Boston College, Troy, UMass, Holy Cross, and Coastal Carolina. The Knights have four true away games at Louisiana-Monroe, UTSA, ‘Cuse, and LSU, along with a de-facto road game with Air Force at Mile High, and the annual Army-Navy game - which will be hosted by Foxborough for the first time ever in the historic rivalry.
Just as Adrian Autry is moving away from a full-time 2-3 zone defense in Orange basketball, Army football will retire its textbook formation - though it’s due to an NCAA rule change, not by choice. Monken said his new offense will run primarily out of the shotgun, with the common inside zone set to be their new base run. Junior Bryson Daily looks to be in line to be the new starting quarterback, though it’s truly anyone's guess how the receiving room will split targets. Riley and Buchanan return to run the ground game.
Captain Lowin should be the top weapon on defense once again, while seniors Jabari Moore and Quindrelin Hammonds lead the pass defense in the secondary. Austin Hill is the other defensive captain tasked with shoring up a Defensive Line that rarely got to the quarterback.
Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, September 23
Location: JMA Wireless Dome, Syracuse, New York
Odds of Orange Victory: 75%
Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:
While this was a game SU would have been slightly favored in with Army’s triple-read offense, the Orange should confidently take care of the new version without it. This drastic of a scheme change will take some trial and error to build an optimal system. The Army d-line could make this another slog, but there is enough of a talent disparity to call ‘Cuse clear favorites.
The biggest concern is that Army has very loose expectations right now, so if they score early, they can ride that momentum and get creative with their play calls.