‘Runners primed for a physical battle against the Black Knights

Former+UTSA+safety+Carl+Austin+III+walks+towards+the+field+prior+to+a+game+during+October+of+the+2019+season.+The+%27Runners+will+look+to+avenge+last+year%27s+loss+to+the+Black+Knights+this+weekend.+

Lindsey Thomas

Former UTSA safety Carl Austin III walks towards the field prior to a game during October of the 2019 season. The ‘Runners will look to avenge last year’s loss to the Black Knights this weekend.

Ryder Martin, Assistant Sports Editor

Following a hard-fought 27-20 loss to the Brigham Young University Cougars last week, the Roadrunners are looking to get back on track this week against the Black Knights of Army. Despite coming in as five-touchdown underdogs to the Cougars, the ‘Runners showed a tremendous amount of grit to keep the game close. Demonstrating once again their trademark resiliency established throughout the early part of the season, the ‘Runners overcame another injury to starting quarterback Frank Harris and, with redshirt junior Lowell Narcisse at the controls, came within a recovered onside kick of pushing the Cougars to the limit. The ‘Runners’ defense followed up their performance against the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers with another great effort against the Cougars, limiting big plays and keeping the game within reach throughout the contest. 

Moving on to this week’s matchup against the Black Knights, the ‘Runners are in for a grinding slugfest. The Black Knights enter the game with a 4-1 record on the season and a two-game winning streak. Army started their season crushing the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (1-4) 42-0 before beating the University of Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks (0-5) 37-3. A loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats (3-0), currently ranked number eight in the nation, saw the Black Knights culled from the ranks of the unbeaten, but back-to-back wins over the Abilene Christian University Wildcats and the Citadel Bulldogs, both FCS teams, have helped to right the ship for the Black Knights. This will be the second all-time meeting between the ‘Runners and the Black Knights, with their only other meeting coming last year in San Antonio, where the Black Knights rolled past the ‘Runners by a final score of 31-13.

The main key for the matchup this week is that the ‘Runners will need to make the most of their limited chances on offense. The Black Knights traditionally employ a ground-based attack that eats up time of possession and controls the flow of the game, and this year is no different. Currently ranked third in the nation in time of possession, the Black Knights are seeking to control the game against the ‘Runners and limit their offensive opportunities. The Black Knights lead the nation in rushing with 1,555 yards on the year, employing a committee approach to rack up that yardage. Freshman running back Tyrell Robinson leads the Black Knights in rushing with 264 yards, but it’s not just him, as three other Black Knights players have eclipsed the 200 yards rushing mark on the season. The ‘Runners’ defense will need to remain disciplined and committed to stifling the run because there’s little indication the Black Knights will look to push the ball down the field through the air. Black Knight quarterbacks Jemel Jones and Christian Anderson have combined to throw for 278 yards through five games this year, a welcome respite for a ‘Runners secondary that had to face presumptive NFL draft selection Zach Wilson last week. 

For the ‘Runners, once again the question turns to the health of starting quarterback Harris. Returning last week against the Cougars after missing the prior contest, Harris looked rusty before eventually leaving the game after appearing to tweak his previously sprained knee. The ‘Runners’ coaching staff has indicated Harris won’t play unless he is healthy, so it’s likely that Harris is held out this week for precautionary reasons. If Harris is indeed held out, Coach Jeff Traylor is assuredly set to turn things over to Narcisse once again. Narcisse entered for an injured Harris at the tail end of the first half last week, as Josh Adkins did against the Blue Raiders earlier in the year. Much like Adkins did, Narcisse excelled in relief of Harris, completing 17 of 20 for 229 yards and two touchdowns, displaying a level of poise and accuracy not seen during his starts last season. Sincere McCormick continues to lead the nation in rushing with 569 yards on the ground but is coming off a game in which the Cougars stifled him throughout the day, limiting him to 42 yards on 11 carries. McCormick will attempt to regain his rhythm against a Black Knights defense that held him to only 27 yards on five carries last year. 

On the other side of the ball, the ‘Runners are looking to continue the positive momentum of the last two games this Saturday against the Black Knights. The ‘Runners’ defense turned in perhaps their most impressive performance of the season last week against the Cougars, facing an offensive unit that came into the game averaging 49.3 points per game and holding them to only 27 on the day. Getting into the backfield continues to be the strong suit of this defense, as they currently rank second in the nation in tackles for loss with 44 and are 36th in the nation in sacks per game with 2.20, excluding teams that have only played one game thus far. The ‘Runners will once again be without one of their leaders for the first half of the game, as sophomore safety Rashad Wisdom was ejected from his second straight game for targeting in the second half against the Cougars and, as a result, will have to miss the first half of action against the Black Knights. 

The ‘Runners will take on the Black Knights this Saturday at 12:30 Central Time at the Alamodome. The game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.