As captains for the day, Stephen Anderson[/db], Patrick Mealy[/db], Jordan Trimble[/db] and Seth Reed[/db] made their way to midfield for the coin toss, the setting could not be more perfect.
If there was a temperature that symbolized ideal football weather for players and fans alike, it was the 68 degrees that surrounded Michie Stadium, it was the cloudless blue sky that appeared completely stationary with no wind and accompanied by the new autumn foliage as the backdrop that can only be found on the campus of West Point.
Add to Saturday's venue was that both Army Black Knights and Temple Owls were coming in with identical 3-1 records, as 33,065 gathered to see the contest.
Another factor in the script was that the Black Knights were completely healthy, whereby the Owls would have to go without their star running back, Bernard Pierce, who was out with a high ankle sprain suffered in last weekend's loss to Penn State.
For Coach Ellerson and his Black Knights, the prelude was set and now it was just a matter of following the script.
And follow they did
that is the Black Knights. On the opening kickoff, Owls' James Nixon returned the ball to his own 27 yard line, only to have it striped by Donovan Travis as the Black Knights recovered.
After a Malcolm Brown 3 yard gain, quarterback Trent Steelman galloped 19 and 3 on the next two plays, where he hit pay-dirt on the third play from two yards out and put Army up 7-0.
Now it would be Temple's turn offensively
and to think, the Owls would not have Pierce to rely on as they would try to stay with Army's offense. The Script could not have been written any better.
Unfortunately, Temple had their own script writer and it would feature a 5-foot-5, 170 pound sophomore running back name Matt Brown, who would finished the day with an unbelievable 226 yards rushing on 28 carries (8.1 avg.), along with 4 touchdowns.
So on Temple's next two series of the 1st quarter it was the Matt Brown Show, as his performance gave the Owls a 13-7 lead closing out the 1st quarter.
But the Black Knights still had their own story to tell and on their first possession, to start the 2nd quarter, they went 79 yards on 18 plays, using up an impressive 9:49 off the clock as a second effort run by Steelman took him into the end zone from 7 yards out and put Army ahead 14-13.
That drive was the longest drive by plays and time for the Black Knights in 2010.
After both teams were forced to punt, Army had the ball on Temple's 31 with 2:16 remaining in the first half and an opportunity to be more points on the board.
And Steelman did not waste any time doing so. The sophomore quarterback pulled off a play action fake, and found wide receiver Austin Barr up the seam for a 31 yard touchdown reception that extended their lead to 21-13.
The Black Knights closed out the 1st half on defense and Stephen Anderson made a statement with a vicious hit on a Temple runner that netted a five yards loss, but also gave Army even more momentum going into half time.
Oh yes and the Black Knights were scheduled to receive the 3rd quarter kickoff, the script was looking pretty good for Army.
The first half for Army was a mirror image of their last output against Duke, where there was effective balance between the defense and the offense, along with the distribution of wealth with the running game.
Defensively, it appeared that co-defensive coordinator Payam Saadat had made the proper adjustments to slow down Brown, who had 115 yards on 11 carries in the 1st quarter, but netted 0 yards on 4 carries in the 2nd quarter.
And the "MO" they had going in the locker, the Black Knights held onto it starting the 3rd period.
After the kickoff, the hosts marched down the field 74 yards on 13 plays in 6:49 and the drive ended on a Steelman 3 yard score.
Army - 28
What now appeared as an Academy Award winning script, was about to become a horror story for Army.
But maybe not
. On the ensuing Army kickoff, Nixon returned it 92 yards for a touchdown, but the play is called back on a block in the back call.
However, with 7:52 left in the 3rd quarter and a 2nd & 6, Temple quarterback Chester Stewart scrambles out of the pocket and is hit by Anderson, who is called for a personal foul. The call itself is aggressive, but not worthy of being called, but needless to say it was and the nightmare begins.
"I could sit here and tell you that I don't agree with some of those (penalty) calls, but that's on us," said Anderson. "We have to be smarter than that. I had a late hit on the quarterback, and I just need to let up there. We pride ourselves on mental toughness and winning the mental game. That's just one of those things that when we have those third downs and we're in that position, or when they have a fourth down and they have to punt, it's about making a play. We play on the edge, but we can't go over it. There were a few plays out there today that tried to bring us down, and that's just when we have to clear, get to the next play and just play one snap at a time."
On the next play, Temple runs a flea flicker and wide receiver Joe Jones hits fellow receiver Michael Campbell on a 24 yard touchdown pass
the Owls make the two point conversion and we now have a new script and ball game.
Army's lead is now 28-21, with 6:00 remaining in the 3rd.
At this point it is time for the defense to take a stance and slow down the Owl locomotive lead by Brown. And slow down they do, as they force Temple into a 3rd and 25 at the Army 42 yard line, with 1:37 to go in the 3rd period.
In such a hard fought battle, it is hard to point to one play as "the one". But if there was a play that took the wind out of the sails, even with the lead, it was Temple's 3rd & 25 call. With defensive end Josh McNary just ½ step away from sacking Stewart, the 6-foot-3, 214 pound quarterback "launched" the ball down the right sideline, where cornerback Antuan Aaron was in coverage. However, the junior corner had no clue where the ball was and as the receiver attempted to make the reception, Aaron ran into him, drawing the flag.
It was hard to tell what cornerback Coach Tony Coaxum was saying to Aaron as he made his way to the sidelines, but you can rest assured that it wasn't warm & fuzzy. The bottom line is that the seasoned Aaron has to make that play.
It just got worse for Aaron on this series, as he was beat on a 2nd & 12 at the 34 yard line on a 28 yard pass that brought the ball to the Army 5, as time ran out in the 3rd period.
4th quarter 2nd Quarter
Two plays later, the Owls cap off a 10 play, 63 yard drive and tie the game at 28-28.
At this point, the "MO" had changed hands and the Owls go on an unbelievable 29-0 run before Steelman scored from 5 yards out with 1:13 left in the game.
For Temple, Brown was the workhorse with 82 yards in the 4th quarter, along with two touchdown runs of 11 and 20 yards.
"It's nice to have those kinds of running backs," declared Temple Head Coach Al Golden when speaking of Brown's performance on Saturday.
"Matt's proven himself in big games and big environments. He may be our fiercest competitor, and he made a lot of guys miss. We gave him good surfaces to run behind. He made a guy miss, and I thought Matt Rhule and the offensive staff called a tremendous game in really tough circumstances. I can't say enough about the offensive line and the tight ends blocking."
There is no doubt that this Army team has the potential to compete and beat anyone on their schedule. What they have to learn is it how to put away their opponents once they have them down and never let up off of the gas until the final whistle.
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