WEST POINT, N.Y. - Following its come-from-behind win over visiting VMI in its home finale, Army (4-6) travels to Denton, Texas for a Saturday meeting with the North Texas Mean Green (2-8, 1-6 Sun Belt). The Black Knights will look to win back-to-back games for the first time this season. Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 4:08 p.m. (ET) at Fouts Field.
Last week's victory kept the Black Knights' bowl hopes alive. Army is now 4-6 on the season, and can still become bowl eligible with wins in its final two games. The Black Knights have a tie-in with the Eagle Bank Bowl this season. A loss in either one of the remaining two contests would knock Army out of bowl contention.
The Mean Green are coming off a 35-28 loss at Florida International. North Texas led 28-14 at halftime, but FIU scored 21 unanswered points in the second half. It was the fourth time this season that North Texas lost a game in which it held a double-digit lead. The Mean Green had the ball for 39 minutes and recorded 513 yards of offense. Lance Dunbar ran for 119 yards and two scores, his sixth 100-yard game of the season, while Riley Dodge, head coach Todd Dodge's son, threw for 314 yards and a touchdown in addition to rushing for a score.
North Texas opened the season with a 20-10 over Ball State, the only common opponent it shares with Army, but lost its next six before defeating Western Kentucky on Oct. 31. Five of the Mean Green's eight losses have been by seven points or less.
"They are a frightening outfit in terms of their ability to score points and move the ball and create offense," said Army head coach Rich Ellerson regarding the Mean Green. "We need to play Army football. We need to be methodical, disciplined, and relentless. We need to execute and adjust and not blink for 60 minutes. If we do that we have a great chance. If we don't, we won't."
How to follow the game
Army fans wishing to follow the Black Knights' game against North Texas will be able to view a video stream of Saturday's contest via ITT Knight Vision.
The two-camera video board feed will also contain an audio feed of the North Texas radio broadcast.
The video stream will be available to all ITT Knight Vision monthly and annual subscribers. Monthly subscriptions can be purchased for $9.95 per month, while annual subscriptions are available for $69.95. Fans can order either plan by clicking here.
In the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, the game will be carried live on television by TXA 21. Brad Sham (play-by-play) and Babe Laufenberg (color analyst) will relay the action.
Army's flagship station, 77WABC (770-AM) out of New York, along with WALL (1340-AM) and WEOK (1390-AM) in the Hudson valley will also broadcast the game.
A look at the matchups:
ARMY HEAD COACH RICH ELLERSON
Alma Mater: Hawai'i, 1977
1st Season at Army (4-6, .400)
10th Season Overall (64-47, .577)
Record vs. North Texas: 0-0
NORTH TEXAS COACH TODD DODGE
Alma Mater: Texas, 1987
3rd Season at North Texas (5-29, .147)
3rd Season Overall (5-29, .147)
Record vs. Army: 0-0
While Army has relied on the running game for most of the season, the passing game took center stage versus the Keydets. Freshman QB Trent Steelman set career highs with 11 completions and 174 yards and a touchdown on only 14 attempts. Army's 174 passing yards were the most since throwing for 328 yards against Tulsa on Nov. 7, 2007.
Redshirt freshman Riley Dodge has started eight games as a college quarterback. In his eight games, Dodge has a completion percentage of 66.8 and a pass efficiency rating of 125.5. He has completed 171-of-256 attempts for 1.737 yards and eight touchdowns against 11 interceptions to lead the UNT passing attack. The son of head coach Todd Dodge, Riley has also rushed 87 times for 373 yards (4.3 average) with five scores, ranking second on the team in all three categories.
IN THE BACKFIELD
After a career-best 136 yards on just 16 carries with one score last week against VMI, junior slotback Pat Mealy paces the Black Knights ground game with 590 yards on 88 carries for a 6.7 yard average through 10 games. Through the first 10 games, Army is averaging 214.30 rushing yards per game, the 14th-best average in the nation. Freshman QB Trent Steelman has also been instrumental in the running game, as he has a team-best four rushing scores to go with his 558 yards (3.3 yard average).
North Texas has been able to break some long scoring plays this year, including a 42-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Lance Dunbar last week against Florida International. Dunbar is responsible for seven of UNT's 10 long touchdown plays, and is far and away the Mean Green's top threat to run the ball. Through 10 games, Dunbar has amassed 1,120 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also has 24 receptions for two more scores in the passing game.
Senior WR Alejandro Villanueva also had a career-high effort with seven catches for 119 yards and a touchdown versus VMI. All seven of his receptions accounted for a first down, including the score. The 6-10 senior now has a team best 383 yards on 24 catches, and has been the recipient of all five Army passing TDs. Damion Hunter is tied with Villanueva for the team lead in receptions (24), but ranks second with a total of 161 receiving yards.
The top three receivers for North Texas this season are all in their first year with the Mean Green. Transfer Jamaal Jackson leads the team in receptions (59), receiving yards (596) and receiving touchdowns (4). True freshman Darius Carey is second on the team in both receptions (46) and receiving yards (443). Transfer Michael Outlaw is third in receptions (35) and receiving yards (430).
Not only is Army in its first season under head coach Rich Ellerson's triple-option offense, but it is also playing with a young group up front. Entering the season, senior RT Jason Johnson was the only offensive lineman with any starting experience. Despite that fact, the Black Knights have found consistency, using the same cast of starters in each of the last five games. Army's projected offensive line against UNT includes LT Anees Merzi, LG Fritz Bentler, C Zach Peterson, RG Seth Reed, and RT Johnson.
While the Mean Green battled inexperience and youth in 2008, the 2009 North Texas offensive line is about as battled tested as you could want. The starting five have combined for a total of 118 career starts. The good thing about the group of LT Esteban Santiago (31 career starts, 6-3, 296), LG Tyler Bailey (23, 6-2, 292), C J.J Johnson (22, 6-3, 283), RG Kelvin Drake (22, 6-2, 280), and RT Victor Gill (20, 6-4, 261) is that only one is a senior (Bailey). Of the 10 offensive linemen in the North Texas two deep, two are seniors, four are juniors, three are sophomores one is a freshman.
Junior DE Josh McNary continues to disrupt opposing offenses this season. The Houston native led the Army defensive line with seven tackles, including four solo, against the Keydets. McNary ranks fourth in the nation in sacks per game (1.15) and is tied for the national lead in tackles for loss per game (1.95). His 19.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage rank third on the Army single-season ledger. Since moving from linebacker to defensive end at Texas A&M last season, McNary has 28.0 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback sacks in 18 games.
One of the biggest areas, literally, that North Texas addressed in the offseason was the defensive line. The Mean Green brought in six new players to help the defensive line and added a lot of size. Transfers Kelvin Jackson and Shavod Atkinson are the regular starters at defensive tackle, weighing in at 309 and 307 pounds respectively. True freshman defensive tackle Kyle White, who tips the scales at 309 pounds, saw his first action against Alabama. Add 301-pound redshirt freshman Tevinn Cantly to give you the fourth interior defensive lineman that are all playing this year. Last year North Texas didn't play any defensive lineman that weighed 300 pounds or more.
In accounting for the loss of leading tackler Stephen Anderson, who was injured in the loss to Air Force, sophomore whip LB Andrew Rodriguez came through with eight stops against VMI. Rodriguez and fellow sophomore Steve Erzinger are the Black Knights' top active linebackers with 63 and 54 hits, respectively. Freshman Kyler Martin drew his first career starting assignment in place of Anderson and collected seven tackles.
With the departure of Tobe Nwigwe (foot injury), junior Craig Robertson has been the leader of the Mean Green defense. Robertson leads the team and ranks second in the Sun Belt in tackles with an average of 8.9 tackles per game (89 total). He posted a career-high with 12 in the season opener against Ball State and has led the team in tackles in five of the 10 games.
Junior FS Donovan Travis made a career-high 12 tackles, including 11 solo stops in the win over VMI. Travis ranks second on the team with 68 tackles and four interceptions this season. Sophomore CB Antuan Aaron, who ranks second in the secondary with 45 stops, has started 16 consecutive games dating back to his freshman season. Manning the opposite corner is senior Mario Hill, who owns a streak of 22 straight starts in the Black Knights' defensive backfield.
North Texas still has a very young defensive secondary, with all four starters either in their first or second year with the Mean Green. Sophomores Royce Hill and DaWaylon Cook are starters at cornerback and safety after playing extensively as true freshmen last season. Adryan Adams transferred to North Texas last year, but is in his first year as a full-time starter at cornerback. Fellow transfer Ira Smith is in his first year at North Texas and is the other starter at safety. The foursome has held up admirably in 10 games - they rank third in the Sun Belt Conference in pass defense (227.4 yards per game) and pass defense efficiency (131.3 rating).
Sophomore K Alex Carlton had his third three-field goal game of the season in the win over VMI. Carlton also kicked three field goals against Tulane and Vanderbilt. His last field goal opposite the Commodores was the game-winner in overtime.
The Mean Green have not returned a kickoff for a TD since Nov. 14, 1998. That span of 131 games and counting is the nation's ninth-longest streak. Air Force owns the country's longest drought at 285 games.
Army has two weeks off before matching up with arch-rival Navy on Dec. 12 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. It is the 110th meeting between the two academies. The game will be broadcast live nationally on CBS beginning at 2:30 p.m. EST.