After six games, the Army football team sits at 4-2, which is very similar to what I had envisioned prior to the season. There have been some surprises, however. This team could easily be 6-0. I thought they would struggle against Hawaii, but they outplayed the Warriors up until an untimely fumble by backup quarterback Max Jenkins ended the drive to set up the game-winning field goal attempt. The Black Knights dropped that game 31-28 after coming back from a three-touchdown deficit. Against Temple, the Black knights were the ones who gave away a lead, resulting in a 42-35 loss.
Though these games are blemishes on Army’s record, they hold greater meaning than just a loss. These two games are signs of progress, more so than most of the Army wins so far. In years past Army would have been smoked by a team with the speed and offensive firepower of Hawaii, and would have faltered on offense against a team so athletically gifted on defense like Temple.
The 2010 Black Knights have brought about a new era in Army football, and one most people are still unaware of. I expect that by the end of the season that will have changed. The rest of Army’s schedule is winnable. Truthfully, a 10-2 season is in the realm of possibility.
Now, time to grade out the team’s performance and hand out some awards.
The offense has put up better numbers than anyone could have expected. Army is ranked 9th nationally in rushing yards per game (274.33 yds/g), which is expected when your offense is completely based on running the football. Surprisingly, Army is averaging over 32 points per game, which ranks 41st nationally. The offense has become more nuanced this year, mostly due to having a rushing threat at fullback and Trent Steelman’s improvement in the passing game.
Steelman has taken the offense to new heights. His decision-making has been excellent so far and he has shown that he is willing to take big hits to make plays. He has battled through a left shoulder injury and at times he wills his team forward. Steelman leads the team with 405 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
His greatest improvement has been throwing the football. Steelman has thrown for 388 yards and four touchdowns, after only throwing for three touchdowns in all of 2009. The Army passing game must now be accounted for by opposing defenses, which will only help the rushing attack.
What stands out most in the backfield has been the addition of Jared Hassin. Hassin has rushed for 394 yards and six touchdowns, averaging almost five yards a carry. He gives Army a legitimate rushing threat inside, completing their triple-option attack. Lately the Army coaching staff has made an effort to get him more touches on the outside and in the passing game, hoping to use his size and speed to create mismatches.
Malcolm Brown, Brian Cobbs, and Patrick Mealy have all been major contributors to the rushing attack. Brown has 292 yards and three touchdowns, Cobbs has 205 yards and three touchdowns, and Mealy has 191 yards and two touchdowns despite missing time due to injury. Raymond Maples has provided some big plays in his first season, and will be someone to look out for as the season progresses.
Wide Receivers: A
The wide receivers have been another area of improvement for the Black Knights. Austin Barr, Davyd Brooks and George Jordan have led the way, and Army has demanded respect in the passing game. They have stretched the field when the opposing teams safeties step up to stop the run, keeping defenses honest. Barr leads the receiving corps with 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Offensive Line: A
The offensive line has been very good thus far. When a team is running for over 274 yards a game, you know the offensive line is working hard and opening holes for the backs. The only gripe would be pass protection, which has short-circuited some of Army’s attempts to stretch the field.
The defense has been good so far, but not spectacular. They are ranked 33rd nationally in total defense, but have given up more touchdowns compared to the teams around them in the rankings. Army ranks 62nd nationally in scoring defense. The unit has been a bit inconsistent, looking dominant at times and lost at others. They will need to be more consistent as Army moves forward.
Defensive Line: A-
The defensive line has done a very good job getting after the quarterback, led by Josh McNary. McNary ranks eighth in the country, averaging 1.17 sacks per game. Mike Gann has 1.5 sacks this year and Marcus Hilton and Jarett Mackey have each added a sack. The line is a bit undersized, and Temple’s offensive line seemed to wear them down a bit, but overall they have done a solid job stopping the run as well.
The Army linebacking corps has had to deal with the losses of one of its standouts from last season, Andrew Rodriguez, who suffered a back injury prior to the season opener. Still, the unit has been solid, with Stephen Anderson leading the team with 44 tackles and an interception. Chad Littlejohn and Bill Prosko have done a good job filling in for Rodriguez, and Steve Erzinger is third on the team with 30 tackles.
The secondary has held up well against some good passing attacks so far, which will need to continue against Rutgers and Notre Dame. Antuan Aaron has been the leader of this group, registering 22 tackles and a sack. He has also broken up two passes.
Team MVP: QB Trent Steelman
Most Improved: Fullback position (addition of Jared Hassin)
Best Rookie: SB Raymond Maples
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.