Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Army 38, North Texas 31 OT, 5 Things That Matter, What’s Next For 2017?
Army came through in overtime to run over North Texas for a 38-31 win in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. What are the five things that matter and what’s next for both team?
Remember where Army was not all that long ago
This wasn’t the second-banana team to Navy in the military school order – it was behind Air Force, too.
Now, with the win over the Midshipmen, an eight-win campaign, and a bowl victory, the Black Knights have their breakthrough moment under head coach Todd Monken.
This is exactly how it’s all supposed to work. The running game is supposed to roll, the defense is supposed to come up with just enough stops to give the offense a shot, and the team is supposed to control games like this.
Army proved this year that it really can win games and that the system and coach really are the right way to go. This bowl win just confirms both, with the rushing production unstoppable early on, and Monken trusting in it in overtime.
It took a while for North Texas to get used to the Army offense …
And it still didn’t matter.
It’s not like North Texas isn’t used to the Army option – it beat it earlier in the season – but in the second half the defense started to figure it all out again. The Black Knights came through in overtime, and they finished with 480 yards and six rushing scores doing what they had to do to take control.
So, why did Army win this time around after losing 35-18 to North Texas in the middle of the season?
Army held the ball for over 37 minutes in the first meeting, and it ran for 302 yards, but it gave the ball away seven times in the ugly performance. This time around, Army held the ball for over 36 minutes, ran better, and only turned the ball over once, while coming up with two takeaways of its own.
And that’s going to always be the key for a team like Army. It can’t make a slew of mistakes – it committed five fewer penalties than it did in the first game – and it can’t rely on the passing game. Against North Texas, it didn’t have to.
What’s next for Army in 2017?
The best part about this breakthrough year – at least offensively – is that it might be just the beginning. QB Ahmad Bradshaw is back along with all the top rushers. This was a young, YOUNG group that should be ready to do even more behind a good line with three starters back. The receiving corps is immaterial – this group will block no matter what.
The defense loses heart-and-soul linebackers Andrew King and Jeremy Timpf, but the freshmen corners of 2016 will be seasoned veterans, and the line should be deeper and better. Finding big hitters in the linebacking corps will be the key to the season.
What’s next for North Texas in 2017?
Jeffrey Wilson needs to be the star of the attack again. The senior-to-be back loses three starters off the line, and Mason Fine needs to take the pressure off for a hit-or-miss passing game that needs more receiving help.
The defensive front might be the biggest issue, losing both the ends in the 3-4, as well as the key backups. Cortney Fine ad Fred Scott are done in the linebacking corps, but three starters return in the secondary – this might be the team’s deepest area.