Tough and tested, Army preps for Wake Forest
When it was over, and fifth-ranked Stanford had its second victory of the season, the Army Black Knights knew they had let something important slip away.
Along with the football that quarterback Angel Santiago lost on a critical third-down fumble midway through the third quarter Saturday went a chance to do something no Army squad had done since 1972 - beat a ranked team.
Stanford 34, Army 20.
''They scored 34 points on our defense,'' free safety Geoffery Bacon said. ''That's not good. Yeah, we did some things better ... but they put up 34. That's a loss.''
Still, for a team that finished 2-10 last season and was a 30-point underdog, it's a big step in the right direction.
''I think we raised the bar on where we can be in terms of how hard we can play, how emotional we can be, and how we can manage that emotion, instead of being used by it,'' coach Rich Ellerson said. ''That's important because this is an emotional game.''
The triple option gives Army (1-2) an offensive edge because so few teams use it anymore on a regular basis and it's difficult to defend. The Black Knights have led the nation in rushing the past two seasons and are holding their own this year despite the departure of quarterback Trent Steelman, who scored a school-record 45 touchdowns rushing as a four-year starter. Army is averaging 314 yards rushing per game.
Army won the turnover battle against Stanford. Freshman Josh Jenkins intercepted Kevin Hogan in the end zone, the first pick of his career, and Mike Ugenyi forced a fumble that was recovered by teammate Richard Glover.
Army also outgained Stanford 284-197 in rushing yards as 10 different players ended up running the ball after injuries to top backs Raymond Maples and Larry Dixon.
''I am not surprised we were able to play (against Stanford),'' Ellerson said. ''We expected to win, and we didn't win. We are still certainly fiercely competitive, and we fought very hard. We need to play better. We don't need to take any solace that some people thought that we were better than we were. We still need to play as good as we think we are.''
Army hosts Wake Forest (1-2) on Saturday at Michie Stadium in a matchup between two teams anxious to get things right before it's too late.
''In terms of Saturday and that effort and that emotion, that's now the baseline,'' Ellerson said. ''The path forward is up from there. That's what it feels like to be on the edge, that's what it feels like to come out of your shoes for 60 minutes. But we still had the ball on the ground in a critical situation and we need not to do that.''
The Demon Deacons have yet to defeat an FBS team yet.
''Like them, we have been very frustrated the last couple of weeks, and we have been very emotional and very aggressive as well,'' Ellerson said. ''You are going to see two very hungry and very aggressive football teams.''
NOTES: Ellerson said Tuesday that the availability this week of Maples (lower body) and Dixon (leg) had not yet been determined. ... After Wake Forest, Army will play consecutive road games, at Louisiana Tech and Boston College.
AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/
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