Struggling Army, Wake Forest meet at West Point
WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP)
''Like them, we have been very frustrated the last couple of weeks, and we have been very emotional and very aggressive as well,'' Army coach Rich Ellerson said. ''You are going to see two very hungry and very aggressive football teams.''
Army would seem to be in a better place, having played No. 5 Stanford to a virtual standstill well into the third quarter last Saturday before a lost fumble allowed the Cardinal to capitalize and pull away to a 34-20 victory. The Army defense, more often than not the team's Achilles heel, forced Stanford into two turnovers and played a solid game against an elite team.
''I'm really impressed with what they are doing defensively,'' Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. ''That's where they have really improved, and so we know that we have got a great challenge. But it's very important for us to play good this weekend.
''We haven't played our best football the past couple weekends.''
Army also lost 40-14 at Ball State as three costly turnovers and a suspect defensive effort - Ball State scored 37 straight points - more than negated 363 yards rushing from its ground-gobbling triple option. Wake Forest is coming off a 24-10 loss at Boston College two weeks ago and a 21-19 setback at home last week to Louisiana-Monroe despite two interceptions and a blocked field goal.
This is not where the Demon Deacons expected to be at this juncture with a veteran quarterback in Tanner Price, a standout receiver in Michael Campanaro, and a solid tailback in Josh Harris (389 career rushing attempts for 1,815 yards).
''We just know it's a team thing, so we all just have to stick together,'' Wake Forest wideout Orville Reynolds said. ''Once we start bickering and fighting, we all just go in a hole, so we can't have that. We all just got it under us that it's urgent. We've got to win, right away, this week.''
The coach concurs.
''We need to play with a little bit of a sense of urgency,'' Grobe said. ''I love our players and I love our coaches, but we're just not going to tolerate losing.''
Here are five things to watch Saturday:
GRIND IT: The Wake Forest defense is allowing 17.3 points and surrendering just 296.3 yards. Army's triple option is purring again, averaging over 300 yards rushing a game and 5.6 yards per carry. Top Army backs Raymond Maples and Larry Dixon suffered lower body injuries against Stanford but are listed on the depth chart to start.
PRESSURE, PRESSURE: Price has completed 60 of 102 passes for 720 yards and four scores with just one interception for the Demon Deacons, who are intent on being a passing team first. That means the Black Knights need to step up the rush. ''If we can generate pressure with three or four guys, that keeps the alleys a little bit thicker and keeps it a little bit less lonely for your corners,'' Ellerson said.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: Campanaro led the ACC with 7.9 catches per game last season, and despite missing the season opener, has a team-high 21 catches for 263 yards. The bulk of that - 16 catches for 177 yards - came vs. Louisiana-Monroe. Last year, Campanaro torched Army with 12 receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns and also scored on a 4-yard run to help key a 49-37 victory.
NO MORE MR. NICE GUY: Price apologized to the defense for the offense not performing well last week, but the players insist there are no hard feelings. Grobe says it's all on him and his staff. ''We've probably been a little bit too nice,'' Grobe said. ''We're going to try and be a little bit more old school with the guys right now.''
MIRROR IMAGES: Both Army and Wake Forest are averaging 20 points a game and their lone victories came in their season openers against FCS teams.
AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in North Carolina contributed to this report.
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