WEST POINT, N.Y. - The Army Black Knights (3-4) will look to get back on track against Rutgers (4-2, 0-2 BIG EAST) on Friday night at Michie Stadium. As part of a series that dates back to 1891, Friday's game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Army dropped below the .500 mark for the second time this season following a 27-13 loss at Temple last Saturday. The Black Knights rallied from a 13-0 second quarter deficit to tie the game on a 4-yard TD pass from Trent Steelman to Alejandro Villanueva, but couldn't put more points on the board. Temple scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to break open the tie and earn its first non-conference win of the season.
The Scarlet Knights enter Friday's contest after suffering a 24-17 loss to visiting Pittsburgh. Rutgers took an early 7-0 lead, but the Panthers responded with 17 straight points, and took a 17-10 advantage into the locker room. After trading possessions with the Scarlet Knights to begin the third quarter, Pittsburgh increased its lead to 24-10 on a 58-yard TD run that all but sealed Rutgers' fate. The Scarlet Knights added a late score, but it wasn't enough. The loss snapped a Rutgers four-game win streak.
Rutgers will look for its sixth consecutive win over the Black Knights in the series that dates back Army's second year of competition (1891). Although Army won 11 games in the first 12 meetings between the two schools, Rutgers' current five-game streak marks the Scarlet Knights' largest in series history. Army, who owns an 18-17 edge on the all-time ledger, suffered a 30-3 setback in Piscataway, N.J. last season. The Black Knights' last victory against Rutgers was a 37-35 decision at West Point in 1997.
"This week we are in a race," said first-year Army head football coach Rich Ellerson. "We are in a short week, preparing for a Friday night game against a really quality opponent.
"We're going to try and get after these guys one play at a time. We expect to get it done. We know it's hard, and we'll be bitterly disappointed if it doesn't happen. Nobody will call it an upset if it does."
How to follow the game
ESPN2 will carry the national broadcast, scheduled for an 8:04 p.m. kickoff. Joe Tessitore (play-by-play) and Rod Gilmore (color analyst) will have the call.
The Army Sports Network will carry the game in the tri-state area. Army's flagship station, 770WABC (770-AM) out of New York, along with WALL (1340-AM) and WEOK (1390-AM) in the Hudson valley will broadcast the call. WZAA 1050-AM in Washington, D.C. will also join the Army Sports Network affiliate list. WNSW (1430-AM) will provide a broadcast of the game in Spanish.
The Army audio feed of Friday's game can also be accessed through ITT Knight Vision, the multimedia branch of www.goARMYsports.com. Monthly subscriptions can be purchased for $9.95 per month, while annual subscriptions are available for $69.95. Fans can order either plan by visiting www.goARMYsports.com.
The Army Athletic Communications staff will provide an in-game blog, which will be available 15 minutes to the kickoff, and will feature interactive chats throughout the contest. The Army Sports Network will be broadcast via SIRIUS (channel 156) and XM (channel 104) Satellite Radio. Twitter updates (twitter.com/ArmyAthletics) will also be provided throughout the game.
A look at the matchups
ARMY HEAD COACH RICH ELLERSON
Alma Mater: Hawai'i, 1977
1st Season at Army (3-4, .429)
10th Season Overall (63-45, .583)
Record vs. Rutgers: 0-0
RUTGERS HEAD COACH GREG SCHIANO
Alma Mater: Bucknell, 1988
9th Season at Rutgers (50-53, .485)
9th Season Overall (50-53, .485)
Record vs. Army: 4-0
Two of the nation's six true freshmen who serve as their team's primary starter at quarterback square off Friday at West Point. Trent Steelman started his seventh straight game in the loss at Temple, extending his record for starts by an Army freshman quarterback. Against Tulane he had 95 rushing yards on 20 carries, followed by a 97-yard, 25-carry effort opposite Vanderbilt. He paced the team with 67 yards at Temple. Steelman has accounted for the Black Knights' last two rushing touchdowns.
Rutgers true freshman quarterback Tom Savage will make his first start on the road Friday versus the Black Knights. Savage looks to become just the second true freshman QB in school history to win a road game. Savage recorded career highs in completions (23), attempts (39) and passing yards (248) in his first career Big East start Oct. 16 vs. Pitt. Savage's 248 yards passing were the second-highest total by a true freshman in school history in a Big East game.
IN THE BACKFIELD
Freshman QB Trent Steelman has taken over the Black Knights' rushing lead for the season. He has posted team-high totals with 117 rushing attempts, 407 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Junior slotback Patrick Mealy is Army's leading slotback and ranks second on the team with 395 rushing yards (55.1/game). Mealy is second in yards despite ranking third on the team with 56 rushing attempts. His 6.9 yards per carry leads the team. Mealy is ranked 95th in the nation in rushing.
Rutgers has four players on the 2009 roster with 100-yard games in their career, including three different 100-yard rushers this season. Joe Martinek, Jourdan Brooks, De'Antwan Williams and Kordell Young have each posted 100-yard games during their career. Martinek, Brooks and Williams have surpassed the century mark this season.
Senior WR Alejandro Villanueva ended his two-game drought with four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown in the loss at Temple. He has been on the receiving end of all four of Army's touchdown passes this season. Classmate Damion Hunter now leads the team with 19 receptions through seven games. He is second on the team with 134 receiving yards.
Scarlet Knight WR Tim Brown leads the team with 548 yards receiving in 2009. Brown also leads RU in yards per reception (19.6) and receiving yards per game (91.3). In 2009, 22 of Brown's 28 receptions have resulted in a first down or touchdown. On third downs, 11 of his 14 receptions have moved the chains.
Army used the same combination of players across its offensive front for the second game in a row after using four different combinations in the first five games. All of the different combinations have come on the left side. Center Zach Peterson, right guard Seth Reed and right tackle Jason Johnson have started all six games. The current lineup includes: Anees Merzi (LT), Fritz Bentler (LG), Peterson (C), Reed (RG), and Johnson (RT).
The RU offensive line has enjoyed consistency on the perimeter and interior of its offensive line. Fifth-year seniors Ryan Blaszczyk (6-6, 295) and Kevin Haslam (6-7, 295) have started all six games at center and right tackle, respectively, while left tackle Anthony Davis (6-6, 325) has been steady on the opposite side. The Scarlet Knights have listed four different players at the starting left and right guard positions
Junior DE Josh McNary etched his name in the Army record book in the loss in Philadelphia. McNary sacked Temple quarterbacks an Academy record four times. The sack total also propelled the Houston native to the top of both the Black Knights' single-season (9.5) and career (15.0) sack ledgers. McNary ranks third in the nation with 1.36 sacks per game.
Rutgers junior defensive end Jonathan Freeny has played the best football of his career in 2009. The Tampa native registered multiple sacks in consecutive games against Howard and FIU and is now tied for ninth in the nation and is second in the Big East with 1.08 sacks per game. He leads RU in both sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (8.0). Redshirt sophomore Scott Vallone has been a disruptive force on the Rutgers defensive line, totaling 12 tackles, 3 TFLs and 0.5 of a sack in 2009. He has six quarterback hurries, third-most on the team.
Junior Mike linebacker Stephen Anderson is Army's leading tackler with 57 total tackles. He also paces the Black Knights with 35 solo tackles. Sophomore whip LB Andrew Rodriguez and sophomore rover LB Steve Erzinger are ranked third and fifth, respectively, on Army's season tackle list. Rodriguez has 41 stops, while Erzinger has 35 tackles.
A first-year starter, Rutgers LB Antonio Lowery is second on the team with 35 tackles to go along with 3.5 TFLs, two pass breakups, one interception (returned for a TD) and a forced fumble. He ended the Pitt game with a career-high 12 tackles.
Army junior FS Donovan Travis added to his team-leading interception total with a pick in the win against Vanderbilt. Travis now has four interceptions on the season. He made one in the opener against Eastern Michigan and added two in the win over Ball State. Travis has started 13 consecutive games which is tied the second-longest streak in the Army secondary. He trails only senior CB Mario Hill, who has not missed a game in the last two seasons, starting 19 straight games. Travis (44 tackles) and sophomore Antuan Aaron (34) lead the Army secondary in stops.
Devin McCourty leads all RU defenders with 38 tackles from his cornerback spot. The Scarlet Knights have six starters on defense who have scored touchdowns in their career. McCourty leads the way with two touchdowns.
Junior P Jonathan Bulls had his six-game streak with at least one punt inside the 20-yard line was stopped at Temple. He has a total of 13 kicks downed inside the opposition's 20-yard line. Bulls is averaging 39.7 yards on 41 kicks this season.
The Army punt coverage unit has not surrendered a return for a touchdown since Sept. 15, 2007. The kickoff coverage unit gave up a touchdown in the Black Knights' overtime win over Vanderbilt Oct. 10.
On the other side, the Rutgers special teams units have not been beaten for a score since Nov. 3, 2007. Interestingly, the Scarlet Knights have not returned a kickoff or punt for a score themselves since the 2005 season.
Army will be idle for the first time this season following the Rutgers game. The Black Knights will return to action Nov. 7 at Air Force in their first game for the Commander In Chief Trophy.