October 30, 2010

Army returns to action with a 29-7 win over VMI

As if Norman Rockwell himself had painting the autumn football scene of the West Point campus, it was football picture perfect.

With temperatures capping off at 55 degrees, the Black Knights breaking out in their ACU uniforms commemorating Military Appreciation Day at Michie Stadium, as the matching camouflaged pants, jerseys and helmets blended in with the uniform of the day for the Corp of Cadets.

Oh, did we mention that Miss. USA,Rima Fakih was on hand to add to the already scenic view, as she participated in the opening of coin toss.

But as much as new uniforms got the fans talking and the corp of cadets pumped up, when it came right down to it for the Black Knights, it really didn't matter what they were wearing … they just wanted to take care of business for sixty minutes.

"It was great," shared captain & middle linebacker Stephen Anderson after the game.

"We got to match the Corps a little bit. I think it brought a lot of excitement to the Corps and to the fans. It's just another jersey. We have to just keep playing football, but it was definitely something cool to experience."

And it was football they played, as they utilized the legs of fullback Jared Hassin, who rushed for over 100 yards for the third consecutive game. The sophomore hit a career high as he galloped, bulled, and powered his way for 158 yards and one touchdown on just 14 carries. Not to mention that he caught three passes for 54 yards.

But it took the Black Knights on their second possession of the game to get the offense into gear, as they marched 80 yards, on 12 plays that utilized 5:38 off the clock and gave them a 7-0 first quarter lead.

During the first quarter, Army's defense that was lead by Anderson's six tackles locked down the VMI offense. However, the Black Knights failed to capitalize on the advantage that the "D" had provided. Especially on 2nd & 6 from the VMI forty-one yard line, where quarterback Trent Steelman hit a wide open George Jordan in stride at the ten yard line for an apparent touchdown … however the ball went right through the hands of the 6-foot-3 sophomore receiver.

On Army's next possession, they went back to their bread & butter man, Hassin, who from the VMI thirty-eight yard line, found the seam off tackle where he rambled and stiff armed and for the last five yards he carried a defender all the way to pay dirt.

As the Black Knights' defense continued to deny the Keydets; the net results were a holding call in the end zone on offensive tackle D'Angelo Smith on Josh McNary that netted a safety and two points for Army. On the ensuing kickoff, the Hassin lead offense saw their drive stalled, but Alex Carlton was able to make good on a forty-three yard field goal, as the Black Knights took a 19-0 lead into locker-room as they closed out the first half.

2nd Half

With both teams punting on the initial third quarter possession, VMI's offense came to life, or perhaps more so, Army defense took a brief nap.

They went on a 15 play, 86 yard drive (6:22), that was capped off by running back Chaz Jones' one yard touchdown on 4th and goal.

Army - 19
VMI - 7

Beyond VMI's touchdown, it was seeing defensive tackle Mike Gann hobble off the field. Although Head Coach Rich Ellerson noted in his post game press conference that Gann's injury didn't appear to serious … no official word to date.

At this point the Army offense could not get untracked, but the defense maintained and the 3rd quarter concluded with the Black Knights holding onto a "comfortable" 19-7 lead.

The fourth quarter saw Army add 19 more points to their game total, but it also severed as an opportunity for the fans to see some game changing plays in the process.

• On 2nd & 6 from his own 19 yard line, Hassin high steps his way for 54 yards, and although caught from behind, it was Army's longest play from scrimmage on the year and put the Wisconsin native over 100 yards for the third consecutive game.
• With 12:15 on the clock in the 4th, Carlton hits on a 41 yard field goal, which made him 2/2 on the day. Clearly a confidence builder as the team heads into the final stretch of the season.
• If the not the Play of the Year, but most exciting play this season. Free safety Donavan Travis 4th quarter interception. The free willing safety stepped in front of a pass from back-up quarterback Eric Kordenbrock at the Army 21 yard line and returned it 37 yards to the VMI 42 … only to have enough awareness before being brought down to make a pitch to trailing teammate, Jordan Trimble. From the 42, Trimble took the pitch in stride and outran (barely) the Keydets running back turned defender for Army's final score of the day.

Both senior safeties added their thoughts to the play that brought the 32,410 fans to their feet.

"I was dropping back in our coverage on defense … then I saw Donovan make that interception, so I knew I had to get down field and get a block for him," declares Trimble. "He kept running so I had to keep running with him. I crossed paths with him. I saw him and he saw me. He gave me the ball, so I just took it and tried to finish it off for the defense."
"On the interception return, I kind of ran out of gas a little," shares Travis. "The next best thing was behind me so I pitched it to my brother right here, Jordan Trimble. Thank God he scored, that's all I have to say."

"I tell people all the time in practice that I'm going to pitch it so stay behind me," said Travis, laughing at his prediction come true comment."

For the Black Knights, it was clear that they were not on their "A" game and today's effort will not get them over the hump against Air Force. So, if they plan on being poor hosts to the Falcons of Air Force next Saturday, some things will need to be adjusted this week.

"It's a challenge because to have a chance against Air Force we're going to have to play much better than we did," shared Ellerson after the game. "The good news is, we had a lot of guys step up and play well. We found a way to be successful against a determined and in many places a gifted opponent. The bad news is that if we don't play a lot better than we did just there, we don't have a chance. The good news is that we can play better than that, we can play a lot better than that, and we'll need to. We're going to need to be healthier, we're going to need to be smarter. What we can't do, we can't punt any better than that. We punted way too doggone much, but we're good at that."

But either way, it was win number five for the Black Knights and worthy to be enjoyed … where they can think about Air Force come Monday.

Final score:

Army 29
VMI 7


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