Off to best start since ’96, Army faces Rutgers
Off to its best start since 1996, there is a feeling this could
be a special year at Army.
The Black Knights’ game against Rutgers on Saturday at New
Meadowlands Stadium could go a long way in saying just how
Rutgers (3-2) has had its way with Army (4-2), winning the last
six by a 185-55 margin. The Scarlet Knights have scored 30 or more
points in seven of the previous 11 meetings against the Black
Knights, winning nine.
This year might be different. The Black Knights and their
triple-option offense have scored 30-plus points four times,
including the last three games, which is a program first since
In ’96, Army went 10-2 and landed in the Independence Bowl vs.
Auburn. They have not made a bowl since.
”Overall, we’re excited about where we’re at and about what
we’re doing,” Army sophomore quarterback Trent Steelman said.
”Any time we step on the field, we expect to come away with the
win. With the type of athletes we have on this team, the team of
character, we expect success. Things are starting to turn
Coach Rich Ellerson has been the architect of Army’s resurgence.
He has 10 wins in 19 games since taking over the program, including
three road wins this year.
”We face a tremendous challenge in Rutgers this week,”
Ellerson said. ”They’re a football team that, we sense, is playing
with a bit of a chip on its shoulder. They’re starting to find
themselves offensively, and that can mean an awful lot of
After winning its first two games, Rutgers stumbled at home
against an undermanned North Carolina and then disappointed in a
Homecoming game against Tulane, a team Army beat 41-23 last
There has been one important change since the Scarlet Knights
played Tulane. Starting quarterback Tom Savage hurt his right hand,
his throwing hand, and true freshman Chas – that’s pronounced Chase
– Dodd replaced him.
All Dodd did against Connecticut last Friday night was to pass
for 322 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-24 win. His performance
included a 52-yard TD pass and a 45-yarder that set up a
game-winning field goal with both throws coming in the final four
”I think the impressive thing was how poised and how
well-schooled he was within the framework of that system,”
Ellerson said of Dodd. ”He was able to go out and get a win for
them against a very good football team.”
Dodd will be facing a Black Knights’ defense that is tied with
Oklahoma for No. 1 in turnover margin, averaging +2.0 a game.
”We attack the football,” Ellerson said. ”The football team
identified that as an area that we wanted to excel in. We
understand that correlates with success. That correlates with
winning like no other box-score statistic. The men have taken that
to heart and you see that ball awareness all over the football
field, both in the kicking game and on defense.”
While Army has scored 194 points through six games – 10 points
more than it scored all of last season – it is facing one of the
nation’s top defenses. The Scarlet Knights are ranked ninth
nationally, giving up an average of 14.4 points. Their rushing
defense is 10th in the nation, giving up 90.2 yards.
”It’s a veteran, talented outfit that takes great pride in how
they play on that side of the ball,” Ellerson said. ”We’re
playing well offensively. We’re doing some good things offensively,
but we’re still not quite the juggernaut that we could be, we think
we can be. We’re still growing into that.”
Rutgers middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais said Army’s triple
option is so smooth it can break a play on any down.
”If you look anywhere else with your eyes, or start thinking we
can do something more than our assignment, it’s going to hurt us a
lot,” Beauharnais said. ”It’s eye discipline the whole game. It’s
a 60 minute game and you have to make sure you’re on point every
time. If you don’t then it’s going to get real ugly around
Rutgers and Army last played at the Meadowlands on Oct. 12,
1996, with the Black Knights winning 42-21 at Giants Stadium. New
Meadowlands Stadium is co-owned by the Giants and Jets of the