WEST POINT, N.Y. — Army is getting pretty good at exacting payback under coach Jeff Monken.
The list of the vanquished includes Wake Forest, Rice, Fordham, Temple, North Texas, and Navy, all of whom had beaten the Black Knights in the past five years.
Up next is Buffalo on Saturday at Michie Stadium, with the memory of last year’s bitter overtime loss to the Bulls.
“Going into overtime last year like we did and lose was just gut wrenching,” said Monken, in his fourth season at West Point.
Buffalo scored two touchdowns in the final nine minutes of the fourth quarter to force that overtime, getting a reprieve when Army kicker Blake Wilson missed a 34-yard field goal attempt with three seconds left in regulation. The Black Knights were 3-0 before the loss and had not allowed any of its first three opponents to score in the fourth quarter.
“That was a tough loss last year,” Army running back John Trainor said. “Hopefully, we can learn from our mistakes, get a lot better, and win the game.”
Buffalo began the season last week with a 17-7 loss at Minnesota in a defensive struggle. Neither team scored a touchdown after the first quarter. Meanwhile, Army’s triple option trounced Fordham 64-6 to avenge a two-point loss to the Rams in the season opener two years ago.
The Bulls have two players who can wreak havoc on opponents — 6-foot-7, 245-pound quarterback Tyree Jackson and linebacker Khalil Hodge. Jackson passed for 178 yards and a touchdown and ran for 34 yards and two more scores to lead Buffalo’s comeback against Army last September. Hodge is coming off a season in which he led Buffalo with 123 tackles, the second-highest total since the team joined college football’s top division in 1999. He started this season with a career-high 20 stops against Minnesota.
Army finished 8-5 last season, just its second winning campaign since 1996, and has its sights set on doing better than that this year.
“I don’t know the last time Army football was at a level of confidence in which they’re approaching this week based on their success,” Buffalo coach Lance Leipold said. “I know last year was a very competitive game, I’m sure one that they felt slipped away. I’m sure that’s going to be in the forefront. It’s not going to be any extra motivation, but it’s there.”
Other things to know when Army hosts Buffalo at Michie Stadium on Saturday:
Buffalo WR Anthony Johnson started the season on the same page with his quarterback. A redshirt last season, Johnson had 11 catches for 140 yards and a TD in the opener. Jackson finished 22 of 42 for 211 yards and a score.
TRIPLE OPTION PURRING
Army finished last season ranked second nationally in rushing (339.4 yards per game) and again ranks second in the young season to Georgia Tech after notching 513 yards against Fordham, which included 10 rushes of over 20 yards.
Buffalo had one of the worst run defenses in the country last year. The Bulls ranked 124th out of 128 teams at the FBS level after allowing an average of 253.3 rushing yards per game. In the opener, they allowed 169 yards on 51 carries.
“I feel like as a defense we moved a step in the right direction,” Hodge said. “We hit our goal for yards per carry (3.3). We know Army’s a heavy run team. This is another great test for us.”
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
Monken’s first win at Army came in the 2014 season opener against Buffalo at Michie Stadium. That victory avenged an overtime loss to the Bulls in 2008. Monken also has a connection to Buffalo — he was coach of the wide receivers and tight ends for the Bulls from 1992-94.
The 64 points scored against Fordham marked the fourth time the Black Knights have reached 60 points under Monken, and three have come in the past five games at Michie Stadium. The only coach in Army history to have more than four such games was the great Earl “Red” Blaik, whose teams did it 12 times in his 18-year tenure, the last one a 68-6 win over Colgate in his final season (1958).