WEST POINT, N.Y.
Army finally has something positive to build on, even if the deck is stacked against it.
Fresh from a rousing victory over Boston College, its first of the season after four straight losses, Army meets Kent State (4-1) today at Michie Stadium knowing full well that continuing the momentum supplied by Trent Steelman’s game-winning touchdown in the final minute against the Eagles could be fleeting.
Army has not won back-to-back games in two years and has lost eight straight games following victories.
“You have to put that behind you,” Army coach Rich Ellerson said. “You have to leave it all behind. This is a resilient outfit that knows how to stay in the moment and stay focused on the next opportunity. It’s about emotional resilience and the ability to take some hits, which we did, and play through.”
The Army offense got back on track in the 34-31 win over the Eagles, rushing for 516 yards and gaining 595 yards of total offense. It was the eighth-best rushing game in West Point history and its total offense was the most ever against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.
That performance boosted the Black Knights back to the top spot in the nation in rushing at 397.2 yards per game, eight yards better than Air Force. Their ground-gobbling triple option means triple trouble for opponents. Army is the only team to have three players ranked in the top 50 in rushing nationally — tailback Raymond Maples is fifth with 134.2 yards per game, fullback Larry Dixon is tied for 35th at 92, and Steelman is 46th at 86.2.
“They’re really, really good,” said Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell, who served as Army’s wide receivers and tight ends coach for two seasons in the late 1990s. “Obviously, when they’re not, they’re susceptible to some things. They understand where their weaknesses are and the importance of making sure that we don’t expose those weaknesses.”
The Army defense also has begun to play better. The Black Knights sacked BC’s Chase Rettig five times, never allowing the Eagles’ passing game to gain any sustained momentum. BC did get a 99-yard touchdown run by Andre Williams and the Black Knights were fooled on an end-around that Alex Amidon took in for another score. But the defense stopped the Eagles cold when the game was on the line, and Steelman scored on a 29-yard run to win it with 45 seconds left.