WEST POINT, N.Y. - Bowl eligible for the first time since 1996, the Army football team will look to make it two wins in a row this Saturday when the Black Knights play Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium. Kickoff for the first college football game at the new home of the New York Yankees is set for 7:30 p.m.
The game will be televised nationally on NBC with Tom Hammond (play by play), Mike Mayock (color analyst) and Alex Flanagan (sideline reporter) calling the action. NBC pre-game coverage begins at 7 p.m.
The Army Sports Network will have the audio call of the game on its flagship station WABC (770-AM), as well as WALL (1340-AM) and WEOK (1390-AM), Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 152) and ITT Knight Vision. Rich DeMarco (play by play), Dean Darling (color analyst) and Tony Morino (sideline reporter) will cover the game on the Army Sports Network.
Army (6-4) defeated Kent State, 45-28, last weekend to earn bowl eligibility for the first time since the 1996 squad played in the Independence Bowl. Army jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead and held off the Golden Flashes in the second half. The Black Knights defense forced four Kent State turnovers in the contest.
Notre Dame (5-5) enters Saturday's action fresh off a 28-3 victory over nationally-ranked Utah last week. Freshman quarterback Tommy Rees threw for three touchdowns in his first career start, leading Notre Dame to the upset win. The Fighting Irish, who had dropped two straight prior to defeating the Utes, need to beat Army on Saturday or defeat USC in their season finale to qualify for a bowl game.
Army head coach Rich Ellerson is in the midst of his second season leading the Black Knights. He has guided Army to a 6-4 this season after posting a 5-7 record last year. Ellerson, who holds an 11-11 mark at West Point, has presided over Army's best two-year run since 1996-97.
Brian Kelly is in his first year guiding the storied Notre Dame football program after winning consecutive Big East titles at Cincinnati. He has led the Fighting Irish to a 5-5 record in his first season in South Bend.
Army and Notre Dame have met 49 previously in a series that dates back to 1913. The Fighting Irish have dominated the series, historically, having compiled a 37-8-4 all-time record versus the Black Knights. The teams last played in 2006, with Notre Dame scoring a 41-9 victory in South Bend.
Army's offense, which has scored at least 20 points and rushed for at least 225 yards in each of its first 10 games, is coming off one of its most prolific performances in several years. The Black Knights' 45 points scored against Kent State were the most piled up against an FBS schools since totaling 48 against Cincinnati in 2004.
The Black Knights do the majority of their damage on the ground via their triple option offense. Army comes into Saturday's tilt versus Notre Dame ranked eighth nationally in rushing yards per game, averaging 272.8 yards per contest. Army has already posted three 300-yard rushing performances this fall.
Sophomore quarterback Trent Steelman, who has rushed for 596 yards and a scored a team-high 11 rushing touchdowns through 10 games, directs the Black Knights' triple option attack.
Sophomore fullback Jared Hassin, who has turned in four 100-yard rushing games already this season, leads the Black Knights with 858 rushing yards and lists second on the team with nine rushing touchdowns. He currently ranks 39th in the country with his 85.0 yards-per-game average.
Sophomore slotback Brian Cobbs has been one of Army's top threats on the perimeter, averaging 6.4 yards per rush with five rushing touchdowns on only 42 carries.
As a unit, the Army offense has accounted for 33 rushing touchdowns, after scoring just 13 TDs on the ground in 2009.
Steelman, who has thrown for another five scores, continues to develop as a passer this season. He boasts a passer efficiency rating of 138.9 and has only thrown one interception on the season. He passed for a season-high 149 yards last week against Kent State.
Junior wide receiver Austin Barr has emerged as Steelman's top target in the passing game, leading the Black Knights in receptions (13), receiving yards (202) and receiving touchdowns (three). Hassin (11 receptions, 144 receiving yards) and junior wide receiver George Jordan (11 catches, 115 receiving yards) have been steady contributors in the passing offense as well. Jordan hauled in four Steelman aerials for 46 yards against Kent State last week.
Rees, who is filling in for the injured Dayne Crist, leads the Notre Dame offense into Saturday's showdown with Army. Rees, who has played in a total of six games this season, is completing 62.7 percent of his passes for 542 yards and seven touchdowns. He has also tossed four interceptions in 83 pass attempts.
Junior wide receiver Michael Floyd, who is an All-America candidate, is Notre Dame's most dangerous weapon in the passing game. The third-year standout leads the Fighting Irish with 59 receptions for 767 yards and nine touchdowns.
Sophomore tailback Cierre Wood, who has stepped in for the injured Armando Allen, is Notre Dame's top option on the ground. The second-year back carried the ball 19 times for 71 yards in the Fighting Irish's win over Utah last week and he enters Saturday's matchup with Army averaging 34.5 yards per game with two rushing TDs on the season.
The Army defense is an opportunistic unit that ranks fifth in the country in turnover margin (1.20) and 19th in the nation in turnovers gained (22).
Senior linebacker Stephen Anderson leads the Black Knights with 72 tackles, including 8.5 tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Josh McNary tops the team with 12 tackles for loss and 9.5 quarterback sacks. Senior defensive back Donovan Travis paces the Black Knights' secondary with 43 tackles and four interceptions.
Notre Dame's defense enters this weekend's game versus Army yielding 22.7 points per game and 380.3 yards per contest. Sophomore linebacker Manti Te'o paces the unit with 109 tackles, including 8.5 tackles for loss. Senior safety Harrison Smith lists second on the team with 73 tackles and leads the squad with three interceptions.
Notre Dame may have the advantage if the game comes down to a field goal as senior kicker David Ruffer has connected on all 13 attempts this season and is a perfect 18-for-18 in his career. Army junior kicker Alex Carlton, meanwhile, has hit on 12-of-19 field goal attempts. Carlton, who has made eight straight kicks, blasted a season-long 49-yarder in the fourth quarter of Army's win over Kent State last Saturday.
Army senior punter Jonathan Bulls is averaging 39.6 yards per punt, and has placed 15 kicks inside the opposition's 20-yard line. Notre Dame sophomore punter Ben Turk, meanwhile, is averaging 38.6 yards per punt and has pinned the opposition deep 20 times.
Following Saturday's game versus Notre Dame, Army has three weeks off before taking on Navy in Philadelphia on Dec. 11.