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Liberty Week: Defending Malik Willis next Army challenge

Photo provided by Liberty Athletics

Army’s performance was simply not up to the program’s standards in a 16-point win over UMass, Jeff Monken said.

Another sub-par game will not be enough with the Black Knights’ remaining schedule, starting at Liberty Saturday with Navy and bowl game to follow.

“I know that if we play that poorly as we continue the season we are not going to find our way to the finish line in first place very often.”

Not against Malik Willis and Liberty. Pro Football Focus College is projecting Willis, a junior quarterback, as a mid-first-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft. Willis, a dual threat, has thrown for 2,321 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushed for 783 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He’s struggled in his last two games (both losses to Ole Miss and Louisiana-Lafayette), throwing a combined five interceptions. The former Auburn quarterback has 44 touchdown passes and 26 touchdown runs in his career.

Willis will be the third NFL prospect that Army will face this season. Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman threw five touchdowns in a win. Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe had three touchdown passes in a loss.

“Willis is a guy that will run a good 40 (yard dash) and the change of direction and the exceleration is outstanding,” Army defensive coordinator Nate Woody said. “As far as the velocity on his throws, really good. He throws a really great tight spiral and he’s got a strong arm. He’s got all of the tools that I think guys in the NFL want to work with.

“This will be another one of those quarterbacks that we have to do a great job of containing but he’s also a guy that can put it on the money to receivers that can get down the field pretty good.”

Army’s defense will be without senior cornerback Julian McDuffie against Liberty. Junior cornerback Cam Jones’ status is uncertain, Woody said.

McDuffie broke his leg in the third quarter in the UMass win Saturday and was taken directly to the hospital for surgery.

“He (McDuffie) and Malkelm Morrison were pursuing the same ball carrier and they were coming from different directions,” Monken said on This Week in Army Football Tuesday. “It was actually Malkelm who as he was making the tackle kind of leg whipped Julian and unfortunately, Julian broke his leg and couldn’t leave under his own power.

“He’s had a procedure. He’s doing really well. He’s back here on campus. He’s a great kid. Our players really rallied around him and that really got everyone going and they wanted to finish the game to honor him.”

Jones, who has started in place of McDuffie, who was battling injury this season, was also injured in the UMass game.

“I know if we are going to miss him this game,” Woody said of Jones. “It hasn’t been determined yet. Hopefully, he’ll be available.”

Monken said putting pressure on Willis and causing him to hurry his throws will be one of keys Saturday. Liberty has allowed 45 sacks, second-most in Division I-A. Andre Carter, the nation’s co-sack leader, should have plenty of chances to add to his academy single-season sack record.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Norm Remick

    November 24, 2021 at 12:52 PM

    Regarding Liberty, I see another Wake Forest type of game. Hopefully this time we come out on top. Their QB is going to give us fits, both passing and running. They have a huge OL and very fast WR’s and DB’s. We’ll need to play well and run and pass the right plays (which I hope we have finally installed), and have a lot of breaks (like no picky cut block and chop block calls by the refs) in order to win. We soundly beat Geo.State, Geo.State soundly beat ULM, and ULM recently defeated Liberty. Our problem may be that we don’t match up in size and speed with Liberty. Again, I hope we get the breaks and Liberty continues with their turnover problems.

  2. Norm Remick

    November 24, 2021 at 1:44 PM

    I would like to see Cade Ballard in there if Tyler and Anderson are not 100%. Even though Ballard is not as fast in the 40 as the others, he is deceptively quick down the line with the option. He looks to be at full speed after the 2nd step down the line and while cutting it up himself or pitching it, while the others look to be only at 3/4 speed, unless they’re in the open field. Ballard appears to make good decisions with the triple option and is a very good passer. I assume Jabari Laws, a firstie, is not at 100% again, as he didn’t get into the UMass game on Senior Day, his last game at West Point.

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