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Army ball security on high alert in UTSA matchup

Photo by Ed Diller/Black Knight Nation

How important does Army coach Jeff Monken think protecting the football will be to the team’s
chances against a very talented and well-rounded University of Texas-San Antonio team Friday

Important enough that Monken has sophomore Noah Short listed as a starter over Ay’Jaun Marshall at slot receiver on Army’s initial depth chart for the Black Knights’ game against the Roadrunners in the Alamodome in San Antonio. Marshall has fumbled in Army’s first two games.

Monken, who has long emphasized that the team that wins the turnover battle usually emerges with the victory, has been even more vocal about holding on to the ball this year after the five turnovers probably sealed the Black Knights fate in an opening game loss to Louisiana-Monroe two weeks ago.

Monken pulled any offensive player that didn’t have two hands on the ball out of the game against Delaware State.

Marshall’s fumble late in the fourth quarter against ULM gave the Warriors a chance to score the go-ahead and eventual winning touchdown. He registered Army’s only turnover last Saturday in a blowout victory over Delaware State.

Army started four wide receivers in the Delaware State win and have used Short and Marshall together. Monken said that Marshall will still be involved in the game plan.

“Marshall is a good player and a productive player but fumbles in each of the two games, certainly in the first game, have been costly,” Monken said. ”You can’t keep making the same mistakes and expect to be in the same spot. He knows that. No one is more disappointed about those fumbles than him. He is working really hard in practice to make sure that he has the ball secure to make sure it never happens

“He is mad at himself. They were both controllable and he did not position the ball against his body like the way it needed to be and put the ball in a vulnerable position. You can either sulk and feel sorry for yourself and lose confidence or try to get better and work. He is a confident kid and he will work to get better.”

Monken stressed that UTSA may be among the best opponent Army faces this year. The Roadrunners. 1-1 thus far this season, feature a balanced offense, led by seventh-year senior quarterback Frank Harris, who passed for 359 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-38 overtime victory against the Black Knights last year at Michie Stadium and a tough defense, which has only given up a total of 30 points in two games this season.

Going on the road and playing a Friday night game also has Monken concerned.

“We have a huge challenge on our hands this week,” he said at the press conference. “I can’t say enough about the job that (UTSA coach) Jeff Traylor has done with that program. Just outstanding. He has that program where they are a top 25 team consistently in the last few years and being in the conversation with the Power Five teams that typically make up the top 25.

“An outstanding opponent and we will have to play very well, much better than we have in the last two weeks, to even give ourselves a chance to be in the football game. The short week has presented its challenges too.”

While the team did not go through practice on Sunday, Monken did get them together but chose not to practice. The team practiced Monday, normally a day off, to get ready for the early game.

“We are working our way through it and getting a gameplan and getting the schemes set for our players and allowing them to practice those and trying to become proficient,” he said.

“When we get in there on Friday night we give ourselves a chance to win a football game. We
are looking forward to the opportunity.”

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