Preparing for the "spread-triple option offense" that's employed by the Army football team is not an easy task for any opponent. But with the Black Knights running something on defense called the "double-eagle flex" that's also unique, readying for what they do on that side of the ball is just as difficult.
Temple got to watch Army on film this week, as the visiting Owls (3-1) prepare to be on the field with the Black Knights (3-1) on Saturday for a nonleague contest on homecoming day at West Point's Michie Stadium.
Army enters the game plus-nine in turnover margin, and the team has scored 69 of its 188 points this season after taking the ball away from the other team. When the Black Knights won last week at Duke, 35-21, the Army defense produced five turnovers that led to 28 points.
"Their defense is basically a lot of different looks," said Temple coach Al Golden. "They use man coverage and rotation coverages. They haven't been giving up a lot of big plays. It's an in-your-face defense. They do a lot of moving around and stunting. It's a very aggressive defense, and a defense that's taking the ball away at a high clip, and giving their offense an opportunity to start in your territory. And, of course, they are applying pressure."
The Army defense is led by 6-foot-1, 235-pound defensive end Josh McNary, 5-10, 222-pound middle linebacker Stephen Anderson, and 6-1, 196-pound safety Donavan Travis. Anderson (31) and McNary (22) are the leading tacklers for second-year coach Rich Ellerson.
McNary, a senior who is Army's career leader in sacks with 23 after breaking a 31-year-old record, has also made a school-record 42.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. When he established his single-season mark of 12.5 sacks last season, four of them came against Temple in a 27-13 loss for the Black Knights.
Behind McNary, who has five sacks this fall, Army held the Owls to 80 yards rushing on 38 carries in '09.
"McNary wrecked the game for us last year," Golden said. "He has a great motor, and he's a guy I would call empowered. In other words, he has his assignment but he's empowered to do his job. Irrespective of what happens on the play, he's going to go make the tackle. In his mind, he gets paid to make the sack, he gets paid to make the tackle. The highest compliment you can give a guy is the toughness and energy he brings to the field, and I think he has that."
Temple may be going against McNary and Co. without leading rusher Bernard Pierce, though Golden was optimistic about the sophomore being fit to play after an ankle sprain forced him out in the third period of the Owls' 22-13 loss at Penn State last week.
Pierce did not return, and sat out at least one early-week practice. Golden said Pierce's availability would be a game-time decision.