Army kicks off season at home against Fordham
Forgive Army coach Jeff Monken if he's a little antsy - the season opener at home Friday night is against Fordham of the Football Championship Subdivision.
The Rams may play at college football's second level, but they're a powerhouse and two years ago stunned the Black Knights 37-35 at Michie Stadium. Fordham finished 8-3 in 2016.
''When you look at their record and what they've accomplished over the last few years, it's really incredible that one of the most successful teams in the country both at the FBS and FCS level is Fordham,'' Monken said. ''They have a lot of confidence coming in here.''
So, too, does Army.
The Black Knights finished 8-5 last year, just their second winning season since 1996, and the last two wins came against archrival Navy to snap a 14-game losing streak in that series and North Texas in a bowl game. It marked the first time since 1984 under Jim Young that Army had beaten Navy and won a bowl game in the same season.
''I know we're playing a different Army program than we did two years ago,'' Fordham coach Andrew Breiner said. ''Coach Monken's done a great job of creating a culture now where his football team is confident and believes that it can win. The Navy win, the bowl win, is only going to increase that.''
To be certain, that loss to the Rams remains fresh on the mind.
''Sure, we've talked about it quite a bit, and it's not the responsibility of this team. That loss belongs to the 2015 team,'' Monken said. ''We've got a lot of our guys back, and the guys that played two years ago are still on our roster. They still feel the sting of that game and, hopefully, we'll be able to perform and play a little bit better than the last time out.''
Other things to know when Army hosts Fordham on Friday night at Michie Stadium:
CUT TO THE CHASE
Fordham running back Chase Edmonds was a consensus first team All-American in 2016 and finished fourth in voting for the 2016 Walter Payton Award. He led the FCS in rushing yards per game (163.5), was second in total rushing yards (1,799), second in all-purpose yards per game (194.6), and third in rushing touchdowns.
Army knows him well. Edmonds rushed for three TDs in the 2015 win at West Point.
''I think we are going to get our hands full and we are going to have to play really well,'' Monken said. ''But, hopefully, our guys are prepared.''
Army's triple option ranked second in the nation in rushing (330.4 yards per game) last season, averaged almost 30 points a game, and broke the academy single-season team rushing touchdown record with 46 - one more than the 1945 national championship team. Forty-three of those TDs were scored by players on this year's roster. QB Ahmad Bradshaw and standout fullbacks Andy Davidson and Darnell Woolfolk will run behind the same four starting linemen, a big key to the run game success.
Bradshaw (824 and eight TDs rushing) returns for his senior year as one of two captains and with a little payback on his mind - his first Army start was in that loss to Fordham. He'll have to help fill the significant void left by the graduation of LBs Jeremy Timpf and Andrew King.
''I hope that we've got a number of guys on our team that can lead,'' Monken said. ''I think that the culture in our program and what has been built here by our players in the locker room and on the practice field is an attitude that they take ownership in.''
Outside LB Alex Aukerman is back for the Black Knights. He had 7 1/2 sacks last season and finished with a team-high 15 tackles for loss among his 59 for the season.
Monken is 2-1 in season openers at West Point, the first coming in his first game at Army, a 47-39 win over Buffalo in 2014.
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