Army looks for vic­tory over Wake For­est

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Aaron Beard

Army coach Jeff Monken and Wake For­est coach Dave Claw­son have spent three years build­ing their pro­grams to­ward bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity.

Their teams meet to­day with the host De­mon Dea­cons a win away from qual­i­fy­ing for a bowl, while the Black Knights are hav­ing one of their best sea­sons in years to put them at least within reach of that same goal.

Af­ter two straight 3-9 sea­sons, Wake For­est (5-2) can be­come bowl el­i­gi­ble for the first time since 2011. And Army (4-3) has al­ready matched its best sea­son win to­tal since last hav­ing a win­ning sea­son and bowl trip in 2010.

With both coaches in their third year, Claw­son sees par­al­lels in each pro­gram’s growth.

“I speak from ex­pe­ri­ence: when you’re in your third year, the kids un­der­stand the of­fense and the

de­fense,” Claw­son said. “So they’ve had the same of­fen­sive sys­tem for three years and the same de­fen­sive sys­tem for three years. They’re not play­ing a lot of guys they’ve re­cruited that have bought in, and now they’re more mul­ti­ple on both sides of the ball.

“So they’re not only do­ing what they do bet­ter, they’re do­ing more things that make them hard to pre­pare for.”

The De­mon Dea­cons are com­ing off a bye week fol­low­ing a loss at Florida State, while the Black Knights have lost three of four since a 3-0 start. Still, Army has reached four wins be­fore Novem­ber for just the sec­ond time since a 10-win sea­son 20 years ago.

Army is com­ing off a 35-18 home loss to North Texas that in­cluded the Black Knights com­mit­ting seven turnovers.

“Show me a team that isn’t down af­ter a loss and I’ll show you a bunch of losers,” Monken said. “When you care and you lose, it’s go­ing to hurt, and it should hurt. Hope­fully it will tick them off, and we’ll come back and play bet­ter. When that’s the case, then you know you have guys that care.”

Some other things to know about to­day’s ArmyWake For­est game:

HIN­TON’S STA­TUS

It’s un­clear whether mo­bile Wake For­est quar­ter­back Ken­dall Hin­ton will re­turn af­ter a fourgame ab­sence due to a knee in­jury. Claw­son said the sophomore is “mak­ing progress” but hasn’t looked fully ready at times dur­ing prac­tice. Hin­ton’s mo­bil­ity would cer­tainly help loosen things up for the of­fense, though ju­nior John Wol­ford has 28 ca­reer

starts.

NA­TION­ALLY RANKED

Army ranks sec­ond na­tion­ally in rush­ing of­fense (357.6 yards) and leads the coun­try in pos­ses­sion time at roughly 36 min­utes per game, led by Andy David­son (615 yards rush­ing, seven touch­downs) and Ah­mad Brad­shaw (494 yards, four TDs). And that ball-con­trol of­fense is a big rea­son why the Black Knights also rank third in to­tal de­fense (255.9) and 10th in scor­ing de­fense (17 points).

TURNOVER MAR­GIN

Turnovers could be a big fac­tor. Army’s seven turnovers led to 21 points in last week’s loss to North Texas, and the Black Knights are tied for 76th na­tion­ally in turnover mar­gin. Wake For­est is tied for 18th and has had two turnover-free games this sea­son. With an up-and-down of­fense, Wake For­est can’t af­ford to lose pos­ses­sions and give Army ex­tra chances to get its clock-eat­ing of­fense in a rhythm.

SERIES SUC­CESS

Wake For­est has beaten Army in four straight sea­sons, win­ning each of the past two by three-point mar­gins since Claw­son and Monken had taken over their re­spec­tive pro­grams. “We just haven’t been able to find a way to beat them,” Monken said.

BOWL MEN­TAL­ITY

Claw­son said the team talked in the pre­sea­son about the “re­al­is­tic” goal of be­com­ing bowl el­i­gi­ble, but he said the coaches wouldn’t bring it up this week. Se­nior de­fen­sive line­man Josh Banks said the play­ers know the pro­gram could make a big step by reach­ing six wins, but added: “By far we want to win more than six games.”

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