WEST POINT, N.Y. – Fresh off its first season-opening win since 1996, the Army football team will play at Michie Stadium for the first time this season, Saturday with a noon matchup against Duke.
The Black Knights, coming off of a 27-14 win at Eastern Michigan, will look to go 2-0 for the first time since that same ’96 season, against a revitalized Duke squad searching for its first win.
Kickoff is set for noon and CBS College Sports will carry the game nationally with Dave Ryan and Jason Sehorn. In addition, the Army Sports Network will have the audio call of the game on flagship station WABC (770-AM) as well as WALL (1340-AM) and WEOK (1390-AM) and Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 127). An in-game blog (goARMYsports.com) and in-game twitter updates (twitter.com/ArmyAthletics) provide another avenue for fans to follow the action.
In addition to the first home football game this season, West Point is also celebrating Hall of Fame Weekend. The Class of 2009, the sixth class to earn induction into the Army Sports Hall of Fame, will be available on Black Knights Alley beginning at 10 a.m. for autographs and photographs and will be honored with a video tribute at halftime. The class is comprised of Mike Krzyzewski (men’s basketball player and coach), Bill Carpenter (football and lacrosse), Ralph Chesnauskas (football, hockey and baseball), Tracy Hanlon (track and field and women’s basketball), Ray Murphy (athletic director, football, basketball and lacrosse), Nicki Robbins (softball), Jack Rust (lacrosse) and Thomas Truxtun (lacrosse and men’s soccer).
The Army Sports Hall of Fame is a subset of the Kenna Hall of Army Sports, a comprehensive museum displayingthe rich and proud history of Army’s intercollegiate athletic program. It is located on the third floor of the Kimsey Athletic Center, Army’s massive football training facility.
Black Knights Alley, Army’s fan-fest area outside of Michie Stadium, will open at 9 a.m. and feature live music, the Army Football Tailgate Show, interactive fan games, giveaways, autograph and photograph booths with cadet-athletes, interactive activities with cadet-athletes, inflatable activities for kids, face-painting, military hardware displays and food and beverages.
The first 5,000 fans through the gates of Michie Stadium on Saturday will receive a limited edition print honoring the Hall of Fame Class of 2009
Army is coming off of a solid defensive effort in the first game of the Rich Ellerson era as head coach and will again be challenged by a pass-heavy offense this week. Ellerson, named the 36th coach in the history of Army football, became the first head coach to score a victory in a season-opening game played away from West Point and will work the Michie Stadium sidelines for the first time on Saturday.
“We have to fix 10,000 things between last Saturday and next Saturday to have a chance,” said Ellerson. “The good news is that we can do that. Old coaches will tell you that you grow more as a football team between your first and second game than any other time of the season. Certainly, with as many guys as we had playing their first college football game, we can realistically expect that we’ll have a jump in performance, and we’re going to need that. We’re going to have to be much more precise.”
Duke is coming off a 24-16 loss to Richmond, the defending Football Championship Subdivision national champion, and leads the series with Army 10-9-1.
Army racked up 300 rushing yards last week and just eight through the air, both numbers that Ellerson and his staff have been working to improve.
The Black Knights defense held Eastern Michigan to 40 rushing yards and heralded quarterback Andy Schmitt to 183 passing yards while racking up six sacks and intercepting two passes.
Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, a four-year starter with over 7,000 passing yards in his career, completed 34-of-55 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Richmond.
“Duke is a very well-led team, a gifted team, a very proud team,” said Ellerson. “We expect that they’ll be especially excited to play, and well-prepared. They are very gifted on the offensive side of the ball; they run very well. They are committed to throwing the football, and their quarterback is one of the best quarterbacks in college football. This is a tremendous group. They felt going into the season that they had as good a skill (level) as anyone in the ACC.”
A look at the matchups: QUARTERBACK Army freshman Trent Steelman (6-0, 185) made collegiate his debut last week. He completed 2-of-5 passes for eight yards and rushed 13 times for 20 yards. Junior Chip Bowden (6-0, 211) took snaps but did not figure statistically. Ellerson continues to stress the need to utilize each players’ strengths, including senior Carson Williams’ (6-3, 212) throwing ability.
Duke senior Thaddeus Lewis (6-1, 215) has his name listed all over the Blue Devils’ record book and has shined in the pro-style offense. He completed 61.8 percent of his passes against Richmond with a long completion of 54 yards. Redshirt freshman Sean Renfree (6-3, 210) is the backup.
IN THE BACKFIELD Army utilized seven different ball carriers against Eastern Michigan and Ellerson expects that trend to continue. Slotback Patrick Mealy (5-8, 203) led the rushing game last week with 109 yards and a touchdown on just five carries. Fullback Kingsley Ehie (5-10, 221) had 12 carries for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Fullback CeDarius Williams (5-11, 203) rushed 10 times for 43 yards and slotback Jameson Carter (5-11, 187) rushed five times for 52 yards and a touchdown. Ian Smith (5-8, 180) and Alfred McDaniel (5-6, 160) also factored into the running game.
Duke managed just 19 yards rushing against Richmond. Senior Re’quan Boyette (5-10, 205) carried nine times for 15 yards while backup sophomore Jay Hollingsworth (5-10, 195) had three carries for seven yards.
WIDE RECEIVERS Army senior Damion Hunter (5-10, 166) caught both passes last week for eight yards. Senior Alejandro Villanueva (6-10, 283) as well as sophomore Austin Barr (6-4, 203) and sophomore Davyd Brooks (6-3, 200) are also expected to be active in the passing game.
Sophomore Johnny Williams (5-10, 185) led the Blue Devils last week with seven catches for 115 yards and a touchdown while junior Austin Kelly (6-2, 200) made seven receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Donovan Varrner (5-9, 170), freshman Conner Vernon (6-0, 185), Hollingsworth, freshman Tyree Watkins (6-1, 195) and Boyette were all involved last week.
OFFENSIVE LINE Army has four new starters on the offensive line and the group helped pile up 300 yards rushing while not allowing a sack. Right tackle Jason Johnson (6-3, 257) is the veteran of the group and is joined by guard Seth Reed (6-1, 275), center Zachary Peterson (6-1, 267), guard Anees Merzi (6-3, 283) and tackle Mike McDermott (6-6, 255).
Duke counters with an offensive line featuring two 300-pounders. Senior right tackle Jarrod Holt (6-6, 310) is the biggest of the bunch. Left guard Mitchell Lederman (6-7, 305) is a junior, as is center Bryan Morgan (6-3, 255). Sophomore left tackle Kyle Hill (6-6, 285) and freshman Brian Moore (6-3, 275) round out the group.
DEFENSIVE LINE Army’s defensive line accounted for 5.5 sacks against Eastern Michigan, led by 2.5 each from end Josh McNary (6-1, 225) and tackle Victor Ugenyi (6-3, 262). Tackle Chris Swain (6-3, 260) registered half a sack while fellow tackle Mike Gann (6-2, 275) posted a pair of tackles. Senior Bradley Marren (6-1, 246), sophomore Broghan Carnes (6-2, 250) and junior Carson Homme (6-4, 243) add depth up front.
Duke allowed 374 yards of total offense last week and plays a 4-3 defense. Senior tackle Vince Oghobaase (6-5, 305) is a run-stuffer with nine tackles last week. He is joined on the line by nose guard Charlie Hatcher (6-3, 285) and ends Patrick Egboh (6-5, 245) and Ayanga Okpokowuruk (6-3, 250).
LINEBACKERS Army’s linebackers are among the team’s top-five tacklers. Andrew Rodriguez (6-3, 210) made seven stops in his first collegiate action while Stephen Anderson (5-10, 229) had seven tackles and a tackle for loss. Steve Erzinger, also making his first start, collected five tackles and a tackle for loss. Chad Thayer (6-0, 198), Bill Prosko (6-2, 215), Kyler Martin (6-2, 200) and Sean Westphal (6-1, 210) add depth.
Duke’s top two tacklers are also linebackers, led by Vincent Ray (6-0, 245) who made 14 stops last week and Abraham Kromah (6-1, 225) who made nine. Damian Thornton (6-2, 24) was credited with two stops a week ago.
SECONDARY Both of Army’s interceptions against Eastern Michigan came from the secondary. Safety Donovan Travis (6-1, 190) returned one 55 yards while freshman cornerback Joshua Jackson (5-11, 175) made the other. Mario Hill (6-0, 175), Donnie Dixon (6-0, 196) and Antuan Aaron (5-9, 193) join Travis in the starting lineup while Jackson, Desmond lamb (6-2, 193), Jordan Trimble (5-10, 190), Chase Prasnicki (6-1, 212) and Brian Cobbs (5-11, 185) add depth.
Duke features a pair of seniors and two sophomores in its secondary. Corner Leon Wright (5-9, 175) and safety Catron Gainey (6-2, 205) are the seniors while corner Lee Butler (5-10, 185) and safety Matt Daniels (6-1, 200) are sophomores.
SPECIAL TEAMS Army had some issues with its kicking game last week. Matthew Campbell (5-9, 195) averaged more than 57 yards per kickoff but missed a pair of extra points. Punter Jonathan Bulls (6-1, 217) averaged 41.1 yards per punt. Hunter and Jones are expected to return kicks.
Kevin Jones (6-2, 200) averaged 38.4 yards on five punts last week while Will Snyderwine (5-11, 185) averaged 63.5 yard son two kickoffs. Boyette, Hollingsworth and Williams handle the return duties. The Blue Devils, though, did have a punt blocked for a touchdown and missed two field goals a week ago.
UP NEXT Army will continue its brief home stand next week with a noon matchup against Ball State. Army All-American Joe Steffy will be honored at halftime and his number 61 jersey will be retired.
Season and individual game tickets are on sale now and giveaways are planned for each home game. Regular season ticket packages can be purchased for $180 per seat, which includes a parking pass. Fans can also join “Coach E’s Army,” located in sections 5 through 8A in the lower tier of Michie Stadium, for only $99. The discounted ticket package includes a specially branded “Coach E’s Army” t-shirt and a full season parking pass.
Individual game tickets for the Ball State, Vanderbilt, and VMI contests can be purchased for just $29 per seat. The Tulane game, designated as the Black Knights annual Homecoming contest, is priced at $36 per ticket.
In addition, fans can purchase a Rutgers ticket package for $49 per seat. This two-pack includes a ticket to the game versus the Scarlet Knights plus the VMI contest.
Ticket orders can be placed online at www.goARMYsports.com, in person at the Holleder Center Box Office, or by phone at 1-877-TIX-ARMY. Flexible payment plans are available by calling the Army ticket office.