Army hosts Fordham in Michie finale for seniors
WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) Jeff Monken has known Army's senior class for less than a year, and he couldn't have asked for more in his first season as coach of the Black Knights.
''They have committed to this program and stuck with it,'' Monken said. ''I am really proud of this group and the guys that took that on with the hope that we were going to make a change and turn this into a championship football program. I believe we will.''
Just not this year.
Army (3-7) can finish with a winning record at home if it can beat high-powered Fordham (10-1), which won the Patriot League regular-season title with a perfect 6-0 mark in the conference. The Rams, who visit Michie Stadium on Saturday, are among the Championship Subdivision leaders in several offensive and defensive categories.
''If you look at Fordham from an outsider's perspective, they're probably more collectively talented than us,'' Monken said. ''They're playing as a confident team, as they should. They are the No. 5 defense in FCS football, less than 20 points per game, and they average more than 43 points per game and over 500 yards of offense per game. That is a lot of yards in a football game.''
Army caught a taste of its own medicine a week ago when Leon Allen broke the Conference USA single-game rushing yards record with 345 yards, with Western Kentucky cruising past the Black Knights 52-24. The Hilltoppers registered 561 yards of offense to win back-to-back games for the first time this season.
The Black Knights' triple option is averaging 297.8 yards rushing and 24.7 points per game, but it's been stifled more than once this season. Still, Army is capable of putting up big numbers with the likes of fullback Larry Dixon in the backfield. He needs 60 yards to reach 3,000 yards rushing for his Army career.
''He has rushed for a lot of yards and has meant a lot to this team in terms of his leadership and resiliency and ability to bounce back from an injury, loss, or poor performance,'' Monken said. ''I think he's done a good job in helping carry this team as a leader.''
The teams are meeting for just the fourth time in a series that began in 1891. Army won the last meeting 55-0 in blizzard-like conditions on Oct. 29, 2011.
Other things to know when Fordham visits Army on Saturday:
BYE BYE: Before the game, Army will recognize the 36 senior members of the football program, including 26 players, three managers and six student coaches, with an on-field presentation. The Black Knights, 2-2 at home, close the regular season on Dec. 13 against Navy in Baltimore.
CAMPBELL GUYS: Army senior running back Terry Baggett is one of 17 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes the top football scholar-athlete in the nation. Fordham graduate student Brett Biestek, a defensive lineman, was a semifinalist for the award.
DEFENSIVE WIZARDS: Fordham has recorded 77 tackles for loss, 28 quarterback sacks, and 11 interceptions.
AN EVEN DOZEN: For the second straight year but just the third time in school history, Fordham is playing a 12-game regular-season schedule. Before last year, the only other season the Rams played a 12-game regular-season slate was in 2003, when they went 9-3. The Rams advanced to the second round of the 2013 NCAA FCS Championship, playing 14 games for the first time in the modern era.
FOURTH-DOWN MASTERS: Fordham likes to gamble - and win. The Rams have converted 8 of 13 fourth-down plays, an impressive 62 percent. That's considerably better than Army's triple option, which is 12 of 26, a 46-percent conversion rate.