The opportunity to play against a service academy is always a unique one, especially when it falls on your team’s military appreciation game. That’s exactly what Syracuse Football faces this weekend. The 3-0 Orange welcome Army to Central New York for the first time since 1996, and while it may not be the most talented football roster on paper, the Cadets still pose a unique challenge.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Black Knights are as disciplined as college football teams come. Army was a 7-point underdog on the road against UTSA a week ago, but prevailed 37-29 in large part thanks to not committing a single penalty. The Black Knights’ season resume won’t make anyone’s jaw drop- they lost to UL Monroe week 1 before blowing out FCS Delaware State, but they will always give 110% and play the game the right way. And, Dino Babers acknowledged that Syracuse needs to do the same to find success against Army in his press conference this week.
HEAD COACH JEFF MONKEN
Under Monken, Army’s program has been synonymous with the triple option. The rushing attack is still the Black Knights’ go-to, but he has redone the offense this season to make it a multi-faceted system. It’s a bold move, considering Army has found success under Monken to the tune of a 66-50 record, including 52-27 since 2017- the best among the service academies. Monken left for West Point in 2014 after four successful seasons at Georgia Southern, three of which included a trip to the FCS Semifinals. Monken has been around the block with and without the Black Knights, and Babers wasn’t shy to acknowledge his respect for him this week.
QB BRYSON DAILY
A quarterback succeeding in the passing game at Army? Believe it. While Daily’s numbers may seem pedestrian, keep in mind that the Black Knights passed for just 920 yards and five touchdowns as a team last season. Just three games into the season, Daily is nearly halfway to eclipsing that yardage mark and has four scores through the air. The triple option might throw defenses off from the jump in some contests, but it’s not sustainable over a full game unless its run incredibly well. Daily should become the first Army QB to eclipse 1,000 yards through the air since Kelvin Hopkins Jr. in 2018.
WR ISAIAH ALSTON
Alston has made his name making big plays for the Black Knights this season. He only has eight receptions through three games but it’s quality over quantity for the New Jersey native. Alston averages over 30 yards per catch and has two scores on the campaign- from 59 and 70 yards out. Even if you aren’t hauling in passes at the rate true WR1s do at the FBS level, such big-play prowess is lethal. Syracuse’s secondary has been solid over the first three games of the year, but it has to keep an eye on Alston going downfield.
LB LEO LOWIN
Lowin has been all over the place for the Army defense early in the season, which is bad news for an Orange offense that lost starting RT David Wohlabaugh for the remainder of the campaign. The Austin native has 20 total tackles this season, while no other Black Knight has more than 15. Additionally, he isn’t exactly a gentle tackler, and his forced fumble earlier this season proves it. High school football is on another level in Texas, and Coach Monken got one heck of a pickup in Lowin. Look out Garrett Shrader.
DB CAMERON JONES
Similar to Lowin, Jones can do a little bit of everything on the defensive side of the ball, but he might be even more well-balanced. The California native ranks second on Army in tackles while also racking up a pair of tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry, and a pass breakup. Jones may be a defensive back, but the ability to effectively blitz in that position is an under-appreciated one, and Jones has shown prowess in that facet. The SU offense responded well to the challenges Purdue’s defense posed, but you won’t find many players as well-rounded as Jones on the defensive side of the ball.
These may be the standouts, but up and down the Army roster you’ll find disciplined players that are always going to give 110%. The Black Knights may not seem super intimidating on paper, but they deserve every ounce of respect, both on and off the field.