NCAA FB

Army dilemma: run or pass against Tulane

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WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP)

Army coach Rich Ellerson has the triple option purring. The passing game? Running on empty.

And that's a concern as the Black Knights (1-3) seek to rebound from a humbling 48-21 loss a week ago at Ball State. The Cardinals built a 31-0 halftime lead, taking advantage of a missed field goal, a personal foul that moved the ball from the Ball State 45 back to the Army 22, and an interception.

Army quarterbacks Trent Steelman and Max Jenkins did not complete a pass in four attempts against Ball State- except for that interception, thrown by Steelman.

''We're showing the pass,'' Ellerson said. ''What we need to do is complete some to our guys. Do you want to throw another one? We've got to be better at it, there's no doubt, and we can be better at it. We are better at it, but we can't prove it yet.''

Army, which hosts Tulane (2-2) on Saturday at Michie Stadium, has only one completion in 11 attempts the past two games and is averaging 38.8 yards per game through the air - last in the nation. Steelman and Jenkins have combined to complete just 29.4 percent of their throws (10 of 34).

''Somebody's going to have to go up and catch a ball, somebody's going to have to throw it in a place where it can be caught, and somebody's going to have to protect,'' Ellerson said. ''It's not rocket science.''

Preparing to face the triple option seems akin to rocket science for Tulane coach Bob Toledo, though. He still has visions of fullback Jared Hassin rushing for 144 yards and two touchdowns in Army's 41-23 win over Tulane last year in New Orleans.

''It's the most difficult week of the season for us a staff,'' Toledo said. ''They're running a wishbone offense, they're running a double-eagle flex - the old Chicago Bear defense where they're attacking you. We just don't see it.

''We've run against that defense, but I'm not sure if I have an answer to it. It's really difficult.''

Behind quarterbacks Ryan Griffin and D.J. Ponder, the Green Wave has relied heavily on the pass through the first four games. Tulane is averaging 246 yards through the air and just 125.5 rushing.

Defensively, Tulane is allowing 377 yards and 30.5 points per game, holding opponents to only 122.25 rushing yards per contest while giving up 254.75 passing yards.

Almost seems tailor-made for the Black Knights if Ellerson decides it's time to throw some more because Tulane is worried about the run.

''They've hurt us the last couple of years,'' Toledo said. ''The fullback has hammered us. The quarterback, it's his third year playing against us. We've got to stop that fullback and we can't let them just run it down our throat.''

Army sure likes to do that. The Black Knights ran for 402 yards last week and rank third in the nation in rushing, averaging 372.25 yards per game.

''We have established ourselves as an offense that can be potent, but at the same time, we can keep you on the field,'' Steelman said. ''That's what we need to do - keep their defense out there and their offense off the field.''

Here's a thought for Army: try not to exceed 400 yards rushing.

Three weeks ago, the Black Knights also had 403 yards on the ground against San Diego State and lost that one 23-20 at home despite holding the ball for more than 42 minutes. Overall, Army has lost six straight when gaining at least 400 yards of total offense.

''We need to get this win and focus on this win, especially for the season and the guys' morale - 1-4 is a lot different than 2-3,'' said senior linebacker Steven Erzinger, fifth in the nation in tackles, averaging 12.75 per game. ''It gives us an opportunity to stack a few wins. We need to do that now and make sure that opportunity doesn't pass us by.''

The last two meetings between the teams at Michie Stadium have been decided by three points or less. The Black Knights scored a 20-17 win in overtime in 2007, tying the game on the final play of regulation, and two years ago the Green Wave won 17-16.

Ellerson is just hoping to keep mistakes to a minimum.

''In college football sometimes you're running around in a lightning storm,'' he said. ''Our goal is to run around in a lightning storm without waving a 3-iron over our head. We're asking for it a little bit too much out there. We've got to be more right.''

----

Notes: Army has not won back-to-back home games since defeating Eastern Michigan and Louisiana Tech in 2008. ... Tulane has scored at least 27 points in three of its four games, including cracking the 40-point mark in both its victories.

Tagged: Toledo, Ball State, Tulane, Army, Trent Steelman

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