Notre Dame Army Media Blitz

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brace yourselves for the media assault. This one ain't the Univ. of Cincinnati and it ain't being played at Toledo.

This week you'll get a lot about the history of the Army/Notre Dame series. You'll hear how these teams were once great and that the two teams best games against each other came as top ranked teams.
If the stories are fresh I'll try to hit another late week media roundup but here's what we have for now.

Prime time. Yankee Stadium. 6-4 Army team. This one is a chance for Rich Ellerson's statement game.

Steve Anderson solidifies his place as my favorite Black Knight.

"I still have a little Notre Dame Irish football,'' Army linebacker Stephen Anderson said before practice on Tuesday. "It's Velcro; it's like a teddy bear. You flip it over and it's a pillow. I'm sure my dad got it for me when I was a little kid.''

Anderson is the rare Army player recruited by Notre Dame. The Irish showed interest during Anderson's sophomore year at Damascus (Md.) High. But he missed his junior season because of injury and Notre Dame bade a recruiting farewell. Anderson says he holds no ill feelings. He says such machinations are part of the recruiting process. But all these years later, Anderson's itching to get the last word.

"Come Saturday,'' he said, "they are going to wish they recruited me.''

Anderson's words probably meet the loose definition of trash talk. But he said them so matter-of-factly, so evenly, so confidently, that it sounded more like a promise than a prediction.

A full half of the story is the bowl situation. Notre Dame needs a win vs. Army or USC to travel for the holidays.

Army did enough to earn a bowl bid.

The Black Knights also do not have an automatic bowl tie-in this season, but are backup options for the Armed Forces Bowl and Military Bowl. Still, it is hard to see a 6-6 Army team getting left out. The strides it has made this season are worthy of praise.

Trent Steelman has taken command of the triple-option offense as a sophomore. Hassin, a sophomore transfer from Air Force, has four 100-yard games this season. Those two have allowed Army to have one of the best rushing offenses in the country, ranking No. 8. Last week, Army scored 45 points on Kent State, its highest offensive output against an FBS team since a 48-29 win over Cincinnati on Oct. 9, 2004.

Another key reason for success -- turnover margin, something Ellerson has stressed since the day he arrived. Army is No. 5 in the country with an average turnover margin of 1.2 per game, with 22 turnovers gained and just 10 lost.

I said before the season that an 8 win season was possible with that sort of turnover margin.
I think most people would agree that the 2010 team has improved in almost every phase from the 2009 team. Even considering the team's improvements an 8-4 year could be achieved only by playing absolutely flawless football. I'm talking zero injuries, +15 turnovers and a serious improvement in all phases of the kicking game. (emphasis added)

Well, despite all of the injuries the Cadets are on the doorstep of 7-4 and that's a credit to the offense which has stepped up in 2010.

The kicking game? Well, Carlton has perhaps taken a step back from kicking 75% of his field goal tries last year (PDF) to booting 63% this year (PDF).

The positive is that Army is standing on the verge of seven wins and Carlton has the chance to play well get his FG% up, and help his team. The punting game has retained its 39 yards/kick average, but Jon Bulls has been called on far fewer times this year (38 through 10 games) than in 2009 (with 73 over the course of 12 games). That's a night and day improvement and one that puts Army in position to achieve their 7th win.

The other bit of unfinished business from my preseason writeup are the turnover numbers. I thought Army would need +15 turnovers to achieve 8 wins.

Right now Army stands at +12 takeaways and I think 8 wins are absolutely possible if the team continues with the +1.2 turnover ratio. 

There are a bunch of stories from the Notre Dame angle some about how the Irish have in the past stolen Army's mojo - others arguing that the Fighting Irish got their mojo back.

The statistics merely confirm what we who watched the game, the Utah O-line, and God help them, whoever was playing behind the Utah offensive line already knew; Notre Dame was getting into the Utes' backfield with crippling regularity.

That's ok by me... go ahead and pass rush.

Oh yeah, the game is at Yankee Stadium.

The Army game notes are up here (PDF) and the Notre Dame game notes can be found here. (PDF)




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