Army 4-6

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Army won today but I don't think it's accurate to say they beat anybody. The game started on equal terms, with both teams losing fumbles on their first possession. Army scored first and held a 10 point lead going into the half. In the game preview I said that VMI was solid, but true to their record they became their own worst enemy. The Keydets turned the ball over twice and compiled 10 penalties for -89 yards. Despite the self made setbacks, VMI had a chance to earn the win today owning a 4th quarter lead and neutralizing Army's offense for large stretches of both halves.

It was an incredible catch by Alejandro Villanueva that sparked the Black Knights comeback, on 3rd down and 9 with 10 minutes to play, big #82 made a leaning grab on his tiptoes that was originally ruled out of bounds, but was overturned upon review for the 22 yard first down. The next play Patrick Mealey (16rush for 136 yards) broke a tackle and scored from 17 yards out for the winning points.

Villanueva was CBS's player of the game, finishing the day with 7 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown.

Army had uncharacteristic success through the air, with Trent Steelman throwing 11 of 14 for 174. yards. Steelman also put the ball on the ground 5 times in a game marked by poor weather. The VMI Keydets outrushed the Black Knights 328 yards to 186.

The win keeps Army in play for a bowl game, but they were lucky survive and advance today. The next two games come away from home against superior teams and the Knights better be prepared to elevate their game for the next contests.

Here's your VMI/Army story and stats.

Army VMI TV and Radio Availability

Friday, November 13, 2009

I've had a love/hate relationship with the CBS College sports broadcasts. This game will be aired behind a tape delay on CBS College sports... again, why sign a national TV deal if the network tries to bury all your broadcasts? Yeah, yeah, the game's against VMI, I understand - much bigger programs don't even get their D1-AA games on any TV... ok. But CBS College sports calls themselves the home of service academy football... all home games are supposed to be aired, and showing the games after the fact is purely pointless. "The Home of Service Academy Football" does very little for the football program of Virginia Military, it's understandable that they're not on the TV contract - but Army is. A quick look at the other academies' schedule shows that the stage was set for an Army -Navy doubleheader, Army/VMI at 12:00P and Navy/Delaware at 3:30P

Air Force has their conference deal with the Mountain West Network, and say what you will about that network... at least they show the games they're supposed to.

Anyway, I would have posted an online link for the VMI game anyway, but the CBSCS unavailability only serves to aggrivate me since instead of digging up Army radio and TV links I'm reading Navy and Air Force media releases like a moron.

Anyway, like I said, the VMI radio links are up under the radio tab. VMI has a free subscription package for their online sports coverage. Sign up if you would like to hear their radio play by play for the Army game. Likewise check that tab by game time for a link to free live streaming video of Army/VMI.

Update: the video stream is up under the radio tab, sorry I'm late, but unlike CBS College Sports I did what I said I would do. Let's watch.

Ali Villenueva & Trent Steelman CBS Sports Interview

Ali Villanueva, Trent Steelman and Coach Ellerson speak in this CBS College Sports interview.

Subjects include Cadets' post graduate willingness for deployment, the balancing of rigorous class, athletic, military and personal duties - the last point illustrated by the story of Villanueva and his long distance relationship with his girlfriend.

Steelman and Ellerson take the viewer through the pregame ritual of gathering at Trophy Point.

It's a nice spotlight piece, but I haven't figured out whether it was aired during the Air Force game and I missed it or if it's a featured piece for the upcoming VMI game.

Last Week's College Gameday Shenanigans

The sports blog That Fan takes a look at last week's Army/Air Force College Gameday signage.

I'll just show you the one I voted for, but go over there and check out the rest. You can even vote for your favorite ESPN College Gameday signs of the year.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Army VMI Preview

Army plays VMI on Saturday. Playing a D1-AA team usually means a bunch of offensive points and an easy win plus a chance to play some of the younger players. Army hasn't been able to score points at all this season, so it was a strange sight to see the Army -21 line on my pool sheet this week. I would be lying if I said I didn't have concerns going into this game as a loss to a D1-AA team could derail all of the modest progress that Rich Ellerson has created to this point.

Looking at VMI, they come in at 2-7, but I swear to you they're a decent team. The Keydets have had some bad luck with turnovers but are ranked #2 in D1-AA rushing, averaging 254 yards per game on the ground. The turnover thing has really burned them, VMI has put the ball on the ground 31 times, lost 24 fumbles and they've thrown 4 picks . At 2-7 with those kinds of stats, this would be a hell of a game for the Keydets to break out of their funk. VMI's D1-AA #2 rushing offense will be up against Army's D1-A #12th ranked defense giving up 290 total yards per game.

With all of Army's defense, they've had their own trouble scoring points. Trent Steelman believes it's the little things.

"It's just a matter of getting the little things down right," freshman quarterback Trent Steelman said. "That's what it takes to be a great offense."

It's not just that the little things are holding back the offense, it's the accumulation of little things that, combined, have made Army the 114th scoring offense in DIA.

Sal Interdonato has his Army/VMI predictions up. I don't usually pick scores, but I'll throw this one out there: Army wins by 10... 27-17. The CFN/Scout prediction and preview is here.
USA Today's statistical matchups are here.

Rich Ellerson provides some perspective on the seniors' final home game.

“You don’t get to do this very often. It should be starting to come home,” Ellerson said. “Our seniors are playing their last game in Michie Stadium. If they stop for a minute and reflect on that they might say whoa, because it’s the last time most of them will play the game. When we are done this year, our seniors are not going to play this game again."

I keep forgetting that it's not Stephen Anderson's senior year, that's how huge he's played this year. Sal Interdonato caught up with Anderson regarding his continuing role on the team and recovery.

A season-ending knee injury isn't going to stop Anderson from contributing. He shows up for treatment on his left knee, which has torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, early so he can take in as much of the team atmosphere as possible.

Such a class guy, I hope he can recover for his own sake - surgery in December and a long summer off is a pretty short time to turn around an ACL injury. Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully it will be enough time to see Anderson back onto the field next year.

The all-time series is only 13 games old, but dates way back to 1917. Army leads the VMI series 12 to 1 - with Army's only loss coming in 1981.

Army/VMI game notes are posted, catch them here.

College Football Live Spotlight

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ESPN2's College Football Live did a Veteran's Day show today which featured spotlight pieces on the service academies, a college football Q&A with some active duty soldiers, and showed the USMA marching band during cuts to commercial.

Rich Ellerson also did an interview for the show and afterward Trevor Matich did a silly breakdown of Army's option offense as compared to some principles from Sun Tzu's classic The Art of War.
I really don't like comparisons that equate football and war - allegory like Matich's "Sun Tzu divide and conquer" premise occurs once in a while, but the logic of the comparison never fits and the idea always comes off as half-cooked.

Anyway, the show will probably run again tonight on ESPN2 before the Toledo/Central Michigan game.

One of the questions posed by the deployed troops was whether Rich Ellerson was the right man for the job of turning around Army's fortunes. You've got to like the move to the option, and Trent Steelman is looking like he'll be a stud for the next 3 years, but after just 1 year you can't tell much else from Ellerson's performance other than he deserves at least 3 - maybe 4 years to make the program his own. That is not to say I expect grand success from Army by 4 years, but I do expect significant improvement considering the teams on the future schedule...

I may as well clarify that with this simple exercise:

What is significant improvement?

Significant improvement:
- >6 wins, bowl bid or
- <6 wins beat Navy or
- >8 wins, beat Air Force

Grand Success:
- >6 wins for four straight seasons or
- Beat Navy 3+ times in a row or
- Supplant Navy as the most respected service academy football team or
- Beat Air Force every year.

This just goes to show that the success of this team can be defined in both the short term and longer term goals. Beating Navy is important, but it doesn't define the state of the program. The schedule is very light and some success is to be expected; when that success will arrive is the mission dollar question.

Finally, ESPN's Ivan Maisel writes a nice article on the importance of memorial stadiums to college football.

Nov 11, 2009

Happy Veteran's Day

Army Presses On

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Quickly looking back, Airforce recaps abound.

If you watched the game... detailed recaps aren't necessary.

Army’s offense drove the ball into Air Force’s red zone (inside the 20) once on the game’s final drive in the last seconds.
Army’s deepest penetration sans its final drive was Air Force’s 39 twice.

Army’s lone touchdown came on a 42-yard run by QB Trent Steelman.

Army failed to take advantage of some pretty good field position. It started six drives at its own 40-yard line or better.

The offense is running out of excuses with three games left in the season. It’s impossible to win games when your offense scores one touchdown, like Army has in the last six games.
Some bad news on the injury front, as Stephen Anderson will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL in the game vs. Air Force.

That loss is as big as they get, with the senior captain leading the team in tackles with 83.
Also noted was that backup QB Chip Bowden also tore an ACL on punt coverage - it's tough to lose these kind of leaders. Anderson has been unreal making plays all year long, and Bowden who changed his expectations a bit by backing up Trent Steelman and playing a special teams role - just so he can get on the field. Those are my favorite type of players, and Anderson and Bowden are two of my favorite current Army players. The team has to continue on without their efforts, and it will be a bit of a challenge to fill the roles that these two juniors play on this team.

Co-Defensive Coordinator Payam Saadat said they're trying some different personnel at linebacker.

Freshman Kyler Martin, who has seen the majority of his action on special teams, is listed on the first-team depth chart.
But Saadat said no decision had been made as of Monday night on who will start at middle linebacker.
“We are throwing it around seeing what’s best for this week,” Saadat said. “What’s best to play VMI. That’s our first focus. We need to win that game and it might be week-to-week depending on our opponent.”
Again it will be tough without Anderson and Bowden, but the show must go on. I can only hope the dedication of those two guys rubs off on their replacements, but the insipration is there... and there are a lot of plays to be made in the next three games.

Interdonato has the post game quotes from the players.

Looking ahead... VMI lost 54-14 at D1-AA #16 Liberty and while the scoreline looks like VMI was dominated in that game - the game was a lot more competitive than the final score implies.

The eight turnovers were a season-high for the Keydets, as the six fumbles and two interceptions led to 30 Liberty points. VMI's Byron Allen and Trae Watkins had career-high tackle numbers for VMI in the loss, as Allen had 17 stops while Watkins had 11. The 17 stops were the most in a single game by a player in the Big South this season. The Keydets also outgained Liberty in total yards, 335-334.
If you're looking for a reason to take VMI seriously, read the whole article.

Army 3-6

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Army lost 35-7 to our fine-feathered friends on Saturday. Early going the game was close - dictated by field position, defense and big plays.

The Army defense bottled up Air Force in the first half, limiting the Falcons to just 39 total yards. The Black Knights had three sacks, nine tackles for loss and limited the fourth-best rushing attack in the nation to only 4 yards on 21 carries. But it didn't last. Air Force finished with 160 yards rushing as Jared Tew gained 102 yards and Clark went for 82.

Army's defense performed well early allowing Army to flip the field on the Falcons leading to Trent Steelman's 46 yard touchdown run. The first half could have had even better results for Army who were plagued by special teams miscues - including giving up a big punt return TD , failing to down a punt on the Air Force 1 yd line, and booting a long AFA punt back to Army's own 1 yd line.

At least through the first half it was a physical, entertaining game. After halftime it was physical, less entertaining and even less of a game. Army abandoned physical play in the second half and resorted to experimental psy-ops.

After a great first half of bottling up Air Force's offense Army came out in the 3rd quarter resorting to disruptive mental exercises and cosmic wave attacks. No matter how hard the Black Knights concentrated, their psychic waves could not disrupt the Falcons in any phase of the game. At halftime Falcon's coach Troy Calhoun countered Army's psychic wave offensive with some mental adjustments of their own:

"Our biggest adjustment we made at halftime was just attitude," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "It seemed as if we were standing around in the first half waiting for someone else to give us a spark."

The Black Knights aren't done, everyone knew this would be a tough game... and while the bowl hopes took a serious hit on Saturday, it may not be until the Army/Navy game that Army's bowl fate is decided. It's still tough to watch the success the other service academies are having, especially considering quotes like these:

“Off the field, they’re definitely our brothers,” AFA's Tim Jefferson said. “On the field, we don’t want them to have any type of success at all. It’s a whole different type of atmosphere say when we’re in Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s a whole different story there. But on the field, between these stripes, we don’t want them to have any type of success.”

With three games left to get the three wins they need for bowl eligibility, Army has no margin for error if they want to find themselves in the post season for the first time in 13 years.

It's not hard to imagine what that sort of success looks like... Army only needs to look as close as the other service academies to see that sort of on-field success. Air Force qualified for their third straight bowl with the win, and Navy - fresh off a win over Notre Dame gained their 7th win of the season and will retain the Commander in Chief Trophy.

It's back to work next week as Army faces VMI in the Black Knights' final home game of 2009.

Your Army/Air Force story, stats and highlights


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