Sept. 20, 2013
WEST POINT, N.Y. - The Black Knights will try to get back in the win column Saturday afternoon when they host the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Kickoff is set for noon and will be broadcast live by CBS Sports Network.
Both Army and Wake Forest scored wins in their season openers, but have lost their last two outings. Saturday's game wraps up a stretch of three home games in Army's first four outings. Following the match up with Wake Forest, the Black Knights have just two home games remaining -- Oct. 12 versus Eastern Michigan and Nov. 9 against Western Kentucky. Army has defeated an opponent that plays in a BCS automatic-qualifying conference in each of the last four seasons, including Duke (2010) and Boston College (2012) from the ACC.
"Wake Forest is an old friend," head coach Rich Ellerson said. "We have seen these guys before and an awful lot of the names that you are looking at on the depth chart are the guys we faced a year ago, particularly on offense. (Tanner) Price and (Michael) Campanaro, they had a big game on Saturday, and they had a big game against us a year ago. Defensively, they are very used to our style of play. They've run it themselves in the past and they have seen us before. Like them, we have been very frustrated the last couple of weeks, and we have been very emotional and very aggressive as well. You are going to see two very hungry and very aggressive football teams."
Army is coming off a 34-20 loss to fifth-ranked Stanford at Michie Stadium. The Black Knights led 6-0, but 17 straight points by the Cardinal gave them the lead for good. Army trailed 20-13 at halftime, but again consecutive Stanford scores doomed the Black Knights. A.J. Schurr threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Edgar Poe with 17 seconds left to set the final margin. The Black Knights ran for 284 yards against the Stanford defense who allowed just 35 yards on the ground in its season opener.
"I am not surprised we were able to play," 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."
Wake Forest came within a missed two-point conversion of forcing overtime in its 21-19 loss to Louisiana-Monroe last week. Tanner Price threw his second touchdown pass of the day to Orville Reynolds with just four seconds left, but the two-point pass intended for Michael Campanaro fell incomplete. For the second time in his career, Campanaro tied the ACC single-game record with 16 receptions. His 177 receiving yards were a career high. Price finished the game 28-for-47 for 310 yards. Reynolds hauled in three passes for 101 yards and both of Wake Forest's scores.
The Demon Deacons lead the all-time series with the Black Knights, 8-4. The first meeting came at West Point during Army's 1945 national championship season. Wake Forest has won six straight games in the series, including last year's game in Winston-Salem. Today is the Demon Deacons' first game at West Point since the 1999 season.
The Black Knights are coming off an impressive offensive performance against Stanford. Versus one of the top rushing defenses in the country, Army posted 284 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. The Black Knights picked up more first downs (18-17) than the Cardinal, including 16 by rush. Junior Terry Baggett was just four yards shy of becoming the third Army player to reach the 100-yard mark this season. Baggett gained 96 yards on just nine carries (10.7 yds./att.)
Army is the seventh-ranked rushing offense in the nation at 314.0 yards per game. The Black Knights are averaging 5.6 yards per carry as a team and have four players with at 10 attempts averaging better than 5.3 yards per rush, including Terry Baggett's 8.9 yards per tote. Junior fullback Larry Dixon leads the way with 242 yards and three touchdowns. Dixon, who accounted for Army's lone rushing score against Stanford, is averaging 7.8 yards per carry. His 71-yard scoring run at Ball State is Army's longest play of the season. Quarterback Angel Santiago is next on the list with 211 yards and three scores. Dixon, Baggett (8.9), senior Raymond Maples (5.3) and junior quarterback A.J. Schurr (5.4) are all averaging better than five yards per carry with a minimum of 10 attempts.
While Army's average passing yardage of 75.3 yards per game is the lowest in the nation, the Black Knights have shown some prowess through the air. Army has thrown two touchdown passes through the first three games, just one shy of last season's total. Santiago has started all three games, completing nine of his 24 throws (.375) for 174 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Schurr has played in each of the last two games off the bench. He has connected on eight of his 13 pass attempts (.615) for 52 yards and a touchdown. Schurr is Army's active leader with three career touchdown tosses.
Senior Anthony Stephens leads the team with five catches for 31 yards. The Greenville, S.C., native entered the season with four career catches. Rookie Xavier Moss and junior Chevaughn Lawrence each have four catches. Lawrence has caught at least one pass in 13 straight games, the longest run by an Army receiver since Jeremy Trimble's streak of 22 during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Plebe Edgar Poe made his first career catch, a six-yard scoring pass from Schurr, against Stanford.
"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," Ellerson said. "That's important because this is an emotional game. As I told the players, that's the worst we'll play for the rest of the year. That needs to be the way it is. When we turned on the tape and we slowed it down, there were so many instances where if we were just a little bit more present and a little bit more right things could have been different. You don't have to be any faster, you don't have to be any stronger, you don't have to be any better looking. You just have to be more right, and we can scratch some of those points off the board, we can stay on the field a little bit longer, we can get in the end zone one more time. Suddenly, instead of a game we played well in, it's coming right down to the wire, which is where we need it to be when we're playing teams like this. That's going to be the way it is this week. That's the way it was for them last week, and that's the way it needs to be for us this week."
Inside linebacker Mike Olson paces the Demon Deacons with 24 tackles in three games. Olson made 12 stops last time out against Louisiana-Monroe. Nikita Whitlock has made himself at home in opponents' backfields, racking up five tackles for loss, including three sacks. The Demon Deacons' defense has already intercepted opposing quarterbacks six times, including two by Kevin Johnson.
The Demon Deacons have done most of their damage through the air so far in 2013. As a team, Wake Forest is averaging just 86.3 yards per game on the ground, but has moved the ball 240.0 yards per game with the pass. Tanner Price has completed 58.8 percent (60-102) of his throws for 720 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception. Price also has one of the Demon Deacons' two rushing scores. Michael Campanaro has 21 catches for 263 yards and a touchdown in just two games. Josh Harris is the team's leading rusher with 55 yards.
"Well, the challenge with the current Wake Forest team is that within the last two weeks they have been a very different offense," Ellerson said. "They have done a lot of different things. They challenge you formation-wise, they challenge you with the option, with throwing the football, and they challenge you with some power offense. Now I don't think we're going to get all of that, but you have to prepare for an awful lot of it because you just don't know what you're going to get and what they are going to pull out of there. They were able to execute a lot of offense against us a year ago and a lot of it worked. We're a step ahead of where we were a year ago, physically and conceptually, but we still have a challenge in terms of preparation. Again, they couldn't be more different in many aspects of what we saw last week against Stanford so there is some tooling that has to go on this week. We're trying to figure out how we are going to do that with the limitations of our guys coming out of a very physical football game."
Despite giving up more than 400 yards against Stanford, the Army defense is allowing an average of 383.0 yards per game, nearly a 45 yard improvement from 2012. Opponents are averaging 167.7 yards per game on the ground. Army's first two foes averaged just 3.5 yards per carry.
Junior free safety Geoffery Bacon is once again on top of Army's tackle chart. Bacon, who led the team last season with 136 stops, has a team-high 26 tackles through three games. Senior linebacker Thomas Hollloway is next on the list with 25 tackles. Senior Jarrett Mackey has rejuvinated his career as Army's "whip" outside linebacker. Now nearly two years removed from knee surgery, Mackey has 17 tackles, including an assist behind the line. He has also forced a fumble.
Twelve different players have secured at least an assisted tackle for loss. Senior Kyle Maxwell leads the team with two, both in the opener against Morgan State. Army has five sacks by five different players so far this season.
Freshman cornerback Josh Jenkins has been the secondary's top playmaker. Jenkins recorded his first career interception against Stanford, and leads the team with three pass breakups. The Army defense registered two takeaways against Stanford. The Black Knights have turned opponents over four times through three games, recovering three fumbles and intercepting one pass.
"There is a short list of things that we need to be able to eliminate," Ellerson said. "There is some low-hanging fruit out there that has frustrated us and continues to frustrate us in critical situations. There are moments in the football game that we absolutely need to put behind us. There are some physical challenges, don't get me wrong. Every challenge out there isn't always someone's eyes and feet. Sometimes it's just the physics of it. In terms of Saturday and that effort and that emotion, that's now the baseline. The path forward is up from there."
Tickets for Saturday's game are still available by clicking here, calling the Army Athletics Ticket Office at 1-877-TIX-ARMY or by visiting the box office located near Gate 3 of Michie Stadium.
Army is back on the road next week when it faces Louisiana Tech at the famed Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, Texas. The Heart of Dallas Classic will kickoff at 4 p.m. ET and will be broadcast to a national television audience by Fox Sports One.