2:55 remained on the clock, and 72 yards stood between the Army offense and the touchdown they needed to retake the lead over Eastern Michigan. Most teams would take to the air in this situation, and Army did just that on the first play. After Trent Steelman completed a 16 yard pass to George Jordan on the opening play of the drive the Black Knights went back to what they do best, moving the ball on the ground efficiently. After runs by Malcolm Brown and Brian Cobbs got Army to the Eastern Michigan 32 yard-line with 2:00 remaining, disaster nearly struck in the form of an errant option pitch by Steelman. Army’s hopes of opening 1-0 laid there on the turf of Rynearson Stadium for the taking.
Army’s first half scores were set up by Eastern Michigan turnovers. Down 7-0 after the Eagles scored on their opening drive, Army’s second offensive possession came by way of a Dwayne Priest fumble that gave Army the ball at the EMU 15 yard-line. Army scored four plays later on a Jared Hassin touchdown run.
Donovan Travis picked off a pass at the Army 15 yard-line and returned it 30 yards to give the offense good field position again in the second quarter. Thirteen plays later Jared Hassin scored his second touchdown of the game to give Army its first lead.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following the touchdown forced Army to kickoff from deep in their own territory and a good return by Corey Welch gave Eastern Michigan good field position. The Eagles capitalized with a Dwayne Priest touchdown that tied the score at 14 as the game went to halftime.
After the half Army drove down the field and an 11-yard Patrick Mealy touchdown run gave the Black Knights a 21-14 lead. The following kickoff the Black Knights forced and recovered a fumble that they turned into a Matt Carlton field goal to go up 24-14 and threatened to pull away.
Eastern Michigan responded with a 74-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown by Alex Gillett. The snap on the extra point attempt was botched leaving the score 24-20 in favor of Army.
In the fourth quarter, attempting to punt from deep in their own end Army took two illegal procedure penalties that cost them dearly. The first punt was not a good one, but took an Army bounce and ended up changing field position only to be negated by the penalty. The second punt was similar to the first, except it took an Eastern Michigan bounce and was downed at the 38 yard-line. A five-yard illegal formation penalty on top of that placed the ball at the Army 33 yard-line. The original punt had been downed at the Eastern Michigan 23 yard-line.
The Eagles took advantage and Alex Gillett found a wide-open Ben Thayer for the go-ahead touchdown to take a 27-24 lead.
Steelman snatched the ball off the ground and reversed field for a seven yard gain. After a one yard rush by Patrick Mealy and a three yard rush by Malcolm Brown gave Army a first down at the EMU 21, Steelman made another big play running up the middle for 14 yards to the EMU 7 yard-line and setting up first and goal 44 seconds left as Eastern Michigan took a timeout. Jared Hassin scored his third touchdown of the day from 7 yards out to put Army up 31-27.
Eastern Michigan had one last shot, and a defensive pass interference call gave them the ball at the Army 32 with three seconds left. Gillett was flushed from the pocket by Josh McNary and his pass sailed through the endzone, sealing Army’s first win of 2010.
What Went Right: Rushing Offense. Army ran for 309 yards and it was spread over five players. They were able to consistently gash the Eastern Michigan defense with their option attack. All four Army touchdowns came on the ground.
What Went Wrong: Rushing Defense. Eastern Michigan was able to find running lanes throughout the game. Both Dwayne Priest and Alex Gillett ran for over 100 yards. Eastern Michigan consistently hurt Army with a fake jet sweep counter to Priest that the Army defense never adjusted to. This is the most important area of improvement if Army hopes to be successful this season. They cannot expect to allow that many yards rushing and win games on a consistent basis. The absence of Andrew Rodriguez was a definite factor in the poor showing.
Player of the Game: Jared Hassin. Hassin ran for 68 yards and three touchdowns from his fullback position, averaging 5.7 yards per carry on 12 touches. He showed that he can be an effective runner and gives Army the threat they lacked at the position a year ago.
Looking Ahead: Next week Army hosts Hawai’i (0-1) in their home opener at Michie Stadium. Hawai’i is coming off a 49-36 loss to USC.
About the Author
Written by Donald Lappe
Senior at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Double Major in Media & Society and United States History. Also writing for TapouT Magazine and MMA Worldwide Magazine.