WEST POINT, N.Y. – The Army football team will look to rebound from its first loss of the season, Saturday when Ball State visits Michie Stadium for a noon contest.
The Black Knights, 1-1, are coming off a 35-19 loss to Duke and will look to get back on track against the 0-2 Cardinals.
Kickoff is set for noon and CBS College Sports (Time Warner Cable Hudson Valley, Channel 457; Direct TV Channel 613; Dish Network Channel 152) will carry the game nationally with Dave Ryan and Jason Sehorn calling the action. 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), XM (cjannel 141) and Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 122). An in-game blog (goARMYsports.com) and in-game twitter updates (twitter.com/ArmyAthletics) provide another avenue for fans to follow the action.
Army will honor the stellar career of Joe Steffy at halftime of Saturday’s matchup. Steffy, one of only two service academy players to win the Outland Trophy, will have his No. 61 jersey retired and the first 5,000 fans through the gates will receive a Steffy bobble head.
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.
Army opened the season with a 27-14 win against Eastern Michigan while Ball State dropped its first two games, to North Texas (20-10) and New Hampshire (23-16).
The Black Knights are meeting Ball State for the second time. The first meeting, a 41-21 Army win, came on Sept. 25, 1999 when Blaik Field was officially dedicated.
“Ball State is a team that has struggled out of the gate,” said first-year Army head coach Rich Ellerson. “But when you watch them on tape they scare you to death. They’ve got skill all over the field on offense, and they’ve got a quarterback who’s got great legs and can make all the throws. He’s struggled as a decision-maker, as we’ve seen a freshman quarterback struggle at times. Defensively, I think particularly on their defensive front, they are a veteran group, a very physical group, not unlike the bunch that we just faced. The challenge remains daunting.”
A look at the matchups: QUARTERBACK This contest features a pair of freshman starters under center. Army’s Trent Steelman (6-0, 186) is the team’s second leading rusher with 95 yards on 30 carries and has completed 4-of-11 passes for 35 yards without an interception. Carson Williams (6-3,212) has thrown for 91 yards on eight completions and has a touchdown to his credit. Chip Bowden (6-0, 211) has also taken snaps for the Black Knights.
Kelly Page has taken over the Ball State offense and has connected on 30-of-68 passes for 254 yards with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions. He has rushed for 30 yards with a touchdown. Senior Tanner Justice (6-3, 200) is the backup.
IN THE BACKFIELD Army’s Patrick Mealy (5-8, 203) leads the squad in rushing with 208 yards on 15 carries in two games. The slotback is averaging 13.9 yards per carry and 104 yards per contest with one rushing touchdown. Fellow slotback Jameson Carter (5-11, 187) has rushed 19 times for 85 yards while fullback Kingsley Ehie (5-10, 221) leads the team with a pair of rushing touchdowns. In all 10 players have at least one carry through two games.
Ball State, which runs a single-back offense, often with two tight ends, features senior MiQuale Lewis (5-6, 193), the lone senior listed as a starter. Lewis has carried 29 times for 124 yards and averages 62 yards per game.
WIDE RECEIVERS Army has utilized four receivers this season with Damion Hunter (5-10, 166) leading the way with five catches for 35 yards. Alejandro Villanueva (6-10, 283) has a team-best 68 receiving yards on four grabs and a touchdown while Austin Barr (6-4, 203) and Carter have been utilized in the passing game.
Lewis is also the Cardinals’ leading receiver with 11 catches for 34 yards. Seth White (5-10, 185) has 85 yards on seven catches and a touchdown and Daniel Ifft (6-3, 183), Briggs Orsbon (6-0, 189) and Jeremy Hill (6-2, 174) have three receptions each.
“Offensively they have a little fireplug of a running back (Lewis) that can make you miss in a phone booth,” said Ellerson. “They have a young quarterback (Kelly Page) that is a freshman who has great legs and can pull it down and make stuff happen – he’s a cowboy out there. He’s thrown some beautiful balls and made some great plays with his legs.”
OFFENSIVE LINE Despite its relative youth on the offensive line, Army is averaging 283 rushing yards per game. Tackle Jason Johnson (6-3, 257) was the lone lineman with starting experience heading into the season. He is joined up front by tackle Mike McDermott (6-6, 255), guards Anees Merzi (6-3, 283) and Seth Reed (6-1, 275) and center Zachary Peterson (6-1, 267).
Ball State averages 91 rushing yards a game behind a young line. Guard Michael Switzer (6-5, 278) is a junior and is surrounded by freshman tackle Cameron Lowry (6-6, 290), sophomore center Kreg Hunter (6-3, 300), freshman guard Dan Manick (6-4, 264) and freshman tackle Austin Holtz (6-5, 279).
DEFENSIVE LINE Army’s front four is allowing just 55 yards rushing per contest and only seven rushing first downs. End Josh McNary (6-1, 225) is fourth on the team with 12 tackles and a team-best 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. Fellow end Marcus Hilton (6-0, 247) forced a fumble a week ago and interior linemen Victor Ugenyi (6-3, 262) and Mike Gann (6-2, 275) have teamed for nine tackles. Bradley Marren (6-1, 246), Broghan Carnes (6-2, 250), Chris Swain (6-3, 260) and Carson Homme (6-4, 243) lend depth to the unit.
Ball State is allowing 203 yards rushing per contest from its 4-3 defense. End Robert Eddins (6-2, 230) is second on the squad with 17 tackles and a team-high 4.0 tackles for loss while fellow end Brandon Crawford (6-3, 260) has a sack and forced fumble. The tackles are Drew Duffin (6-3, 260) and Rene Perry (5-11, 270).
LINEBACKERS Three of Army’s linebackers are among the top five tacklers on the team. Andrew Rodriguez (6-3, 210) shares the team lead with 14 tackles while Steve Erzinger (6-1, 215) has 13 stops. Stephen Anderson (5-10, 229) is fifth with 12 tackles. Chad Thayer (6-0, 198), Bill Prosko (6-2, 215), Kyler Martin (6-2, 200) and Sean Westphal (6-1, 210) provide Ellerson with options at linebacker.
Davyd Jones (6-1, 210) leads the Cardinals in tackles with 20 from his weak side linebacker spot, 10 more than middle linebacker Travis Freeman (6-0, 212) and strong side linebacker Tony Martin (6-1, 205).
SECONDARY Army’s secondary has been led by safety Donovan Travis (6-1, 190) who shares the team lead with 14 tackles. He also has an interception and 55 return yards. Cornerback Mario Hill (6-0, 175) has eight tackles and three pass breakups while corner Antuan Aaron (5-9, 193) has eight tackles. Safety Donnie Dixon (6-0, 190) has five tackles and a tackle for loss.
Safety Sean Baker (6-1, 204) has the lone interception for Ball State this season as well as 12 tackles. Fellow safety Alex Knipp (6-0, 196) has been credited with 16 stops. Corners Charlie Todd (5-10, 190) and Koreen Burch (5-9, 170) have combined for 17 tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS Army changed up its kicking game between the Eastern Michigan and Duke contests. Matt Campbell (5-9, 195) continues to handle kickoff duties but Alex Carlton (6-0, 186) is expected to handle PAT’s and field goals after making two of three field goals last week. Jonathan Bulls (6-1, 217) is averaging 40 yards per punt. Hunter and Mealy handle the bulk of the return games.
Ian Garvey (5-9, 210) has converted four of five field goals with a long of 48 yards and made both of his extra points. Scott Kovanda (6-3, 196) averages 42.5 yards per punt while Torieal Gibson (5-9, 164) is averaging 20. 3 yards per kick return. Orsbon and Todd handle punt return duties.
UP NEXT Army will play its second road game, at Iowa State, Saturday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.
The Black Knights will return to Michie Stadium a week later for a Homecoming matchup against Tulane at noon.
Individual game tickets for the Vanderbilt and VMI contests can be purchased for just $29 per seat. The Tulane game 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.