DALLAS – New week, same scenario for Army coach Rich Ellerson.
The Black Knights (1-3), riding a three-game losing streak, for the second straight game will face a team with the same record when they meet Louisiana Tech in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday.
"We're hurting," Ellerson said. "Boy, are we frustrated."
Both teams are.
Army is coming off a mistake-filled, 25-11 home loss to Wake Forest; the Bulldogs are reeling from a 13-10 loss at Kansas, the Jayhawks' first Bowl Subdivision win after 22 straight losses.
The Black Knights were called for eight penalties and lost two fumbles against the Demon Deacons, netting only three field goals from Daniel Grochowski on four trips into the red zone and squandering an 11-10 lead late in the third quarter. On the season, Army is 9 for 13 on scoring inside the opponents' 20-yard line, with just six TDs.
"Some of the things that have been driving us crazy are very fundamental things that have slipped away from us," Ellerson said. "We'll get back to the fundamentals, and not be too smart or too tricky. We need to run our offense and be ourselves."
Louisiana Tech, whose only victory was against an FCS team (Lamar), lost two fumbles inside the Kansas 5-yard line in the fourth quarter, the last with just over a minute left. Matthew Wyman booted a 52-yard field goal as time expired to hand the Bulldogs the stunning setback.
"Obviously, the elephant in the room is the loss," Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz said. "Three turnovers were our downfall, one down inside the 5 and then one of them going into the end zone. Things like that cost us 14 points. We got inside the 20 yard line four times and came away with one score."
Here are five things to watch for in the Heart of Dallas Classic:
RUNNING TO NOWHERE: Army's triple option has the Black Knights ranked 10th nationally in rushing at 303.2 yards per game, but the team's lone victory also was over an FCS opponent, Morgan State, in the opener. Ball State, Stanford and Wake Forest have handed the Black Knights their losses, and Army's top two runners — tailback Raymond Maples and fullback Larry Dixon — were sidelined with injuries last week and didn't play. Maples, a senior, might be lost for the season, but Dixon is expected to be back against the Bulldogs. Terry Baggett has filled in nicely, posting a career-high 125 yards against the Demon Deacons. His average of 8.3 yards per carry ranks seventh in the nation among players with at least 30 rushes.
SACK EXCHANGE: Louisiana Tech is allowing 22.8 points and 416 yards per game. Linebacker Daniel Cobb leads the Bulldogs' defense with 34 tackles, including eight behind the line of scrimmage. Cobb's 2.0 tackles for loss per game is tied for sixth-best in the nation, while defensive end IK Enemkpali has racked up 5.5 quarterback sacks and is tied for the fourth-best average per game in the country (1.4).
DEFENSE DOESN'T REST: Army is ranked in the top half of the FBS in passing yards allowed (tied for 42nd, 194.5 yards per game) and total defense (58th, 375.8 ypg). A weak link in the past, the Black Knights have shaved more than 50 yards off last season's average allowed. The Louisiana Tech offense averages 16.5 points and 373.0 yards per contest and the Bulldogs have been very balanced, posting 173.5 yards per game on the ground and 199.5 yards passing.
TURNOVERS GALORE: The Bulldogs' defense has intercepted five passes and recovered four fumbles, while Army has generated six turnovers in its four games — four fumble recoveries and two picks.
THIS AND THAT: Freshman Army receiver Xavier Moss leads the team with 12 catches for 146 yards. He had a season-high eight receptions against Wake Forest, the most by an Army player since 2008 in the academy's latest triple-option era. Moss's reception total was the highest since Jeremy Trimble caught 11 passes against Tulsa in 2007. Chevaughn Lawrence has caught a pass in 14 straight games, the longest run by a Black Knight since Trimble caught a pass in 22 straight games during the 2006 and 2007 seasons.