WEST POINT, N.Y. — A year ago Army was reeling from the death of defensive back Brandon Jackson when it had to go on the road early in the season, and the Black Knights responded with a dominating performance.
Leaning on the memory of No. 28, who died in a one-car accident the morning after a game, Army slammed Texas-El Paso 66-14 for its third straight win in what became a turnaround 8-5 year for the academy.
Derailed by consecutive road losses to Ohio State and Tulane that have dropped its record to 2-2, Army hopes for a repeat performance of last year when struggling UTEP (0-4) visits on Saturday.
“We played them last year and were in a very emotional state,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “We benefited from that emotional high we were on — wanting to compete and wanting to honor Brandon.
“Hopefully, we can master our intensity from last year and hope that we will execute better than we have in the last couple of weeks and find a way to win.”
UTEP coach Sean Kugler is in a much worse place. His injury-riddled Miners have lost 56-7 at Oklahoma, 31-14 to Rice at home, and 63-16 at home against Arizona, and last week they were trounced 41-14 on the road by rival New Mexico State.
That snapped an eight-game losing streak in the series for the Aggies and left the Miners with this daunting stat: 47.7 points allowed per game.
“We’re not in a good place right now,” Kugler said.
Other things to know when Army hosts UTEP on Saturday:
NO LATE HEROICS
In Army’s second win of the season, the Black Knights rallied from behind with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to beat Buffalo 21-17 as the defense pitched a shutout in the second half.
Last week, the Green Wave put together a decisive 19-play, 75-yard drive in a 21-17 victory, converting three fourth downs and two third downs and scoring the winning touchdown in the final seconds.
“We’ve got to learn from those mistakes and push that game back, playing at home especially,” Army defensive back James Gibson said. “Playing here (at Michie Stadium) is special.”
NO PASSING FANCY
Army was 0 for 5 passing against Tulane with two interceptions. That’s the second time this season the Black Knights have failed to complete a pass. Its triple option is potent enough, averaging 366.3 yards to rank third nationally.
UTEP quarterbacks threw five interceptions against New Mexico State, one of which was returned for a touchdown. The Miners also converted only 2 of 15 third downs and had just 227 yards of total offense in offensive coordinator Brian Natkin’s first game since taking over for the fired Brent Pease.
“When you have five turnovers, you’re not going to beat anybody,” Kugler said. “I’ve got to figure it out.”
QUARTERBACK BY COMMITTEE
QBs Ryan Metz, Mark Torrez and Kavika Johnson have played in all four games, while Zack Greenlee has also seen action, including a start.
Not exactly a recipe for success. UTEP ranks last nationally in total offense (210.3 yards per game) and next to last in third-down conversions (12 of 53, 22.6 percent).
Last week, Metz threw three interceptions and was replaced in the second half by Torrez, a freshman who was intercepted twice, the first coming on his second throw.
“At halftime we tried to create a spark for our team,” Kugler said. “It didn’t work.”
UTEP’s quarterbacks finished a combined 10 for 34 for 92 yards — Torrez was 4 of 16 for 38 yards. Metz gets the start again this week.
Army FB Darnell Woolfolk, who scored three times last year against UTEP, did not play against Tulane and won’t play Saturday. The Black Knights didn’t miss a beat with Andy Davidson running for a career-high 130 yards and sophomore FB Connor Slomka adding his first career TD last week against the Green Wave. Davidson rushed for 106 yards and a TD last year against UTEP.
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