Black Knights look to rebound

Michie Stadium

Having opened with a loss on the road to Northern Illinois, coach Rich Ellerson and his team hope to avoid the Black Knight's first 0-2 start in Ellerson's three years at West Point.

It won't be easy.

The Knights host San Diego State, the team that hammered Navy in last season's Poinsettia Bowl.

The Aztecs, who, like Army, run the option, opened their season with a 49-21 win over FCS Cal Poly and bring a potent attack to Army this week, the first of two tough home games in a row for the Knights, who host Northwestern in Week 3.

Army turned the ball over three times in the first as Northern Illinois broke the game wide open and cruised home for the opening victory.

"You turn the ball over against a good football team and will almost always break your heart," coach Rich Ellerson told his weekly media gathering Tuesday.

Quarterback Trent Steelman, making his 26th straight college start, didn't play well in the opener, his hand in three turnovers "atypical for him" in the words of his coach.

That has to get better in Week, with Ellerson hoping the old adage about the biggest improvement in a football team coming between the first and second games holds true.

On defense, the Black Knights were hit hard by injury in the opener, with tackle Jarrett Mackey, the only starter returning up front, lost with what looks like a serious knee injury and others banged up and perhaps unavailable for Saturday.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Army started 2-1 each of the first two years of the Rich Ellerson Era at West Point, but will have to beat both San Diego State and Northwestern at home the next two week to equal those two season starts.

--QB Trent Steelman, the workhorse leader of the Army offense, did not have a strong game in the opening loss at Northern Illinois.

--With FB Jared Hassin clearly targeted by NIU as the main cog in the Army offense, the Black Knights finished with 303 yards rushing, but just 16 of those yards were amassed by Hassin. With the inside game, Army hit the perimeter and found success, but coach Rich Ellerson said, "Frankly there should have been more there."

--San Diego State is 2-21 on the road against FBS teams since 2000 and this is the Aztecs' first trip to the east coast since visiting Miami in 1991.

--Army takes a second swipe at all-time win No. 650. The Black Knights enter this game with an all-time record of 649-462-51.

--Activities are planned at West Point this weekend to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

--The Black Knights are ticketed to play a team from the Pac-12 Conference in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. Should the Pac-12 not have enough bowl eligible teams, that bowl has agreements with the MAC, ACC and WAC to provide a replacement team. Army must record six wins prior to its annual showdown with Navy Dec. 10 in order to be bowl eligible.

SERIES HISTORY: This is Army's first meeting with San Diego State.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Rugged quarterback Trent Steelman is coming off a tough week. "Trent didn't play a great game. There's no other way to say it," coach Rich Ellerson said Tuesday. The Black Knights debuted some freshmen last week who played well enough to get more time this week, but this team needs fullback Jared Hassin to get the ball more than seven times and net more than 16 yards. Freshmen runners Larry Dixon and Trenton Turrentine, sophomore center Michael Kime and freshman wideout Jared McFarlin all impressed their coach in the debuts, thus earning more time this week.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Tackle Jarrett Mackey, the only returning starter up front, apparently suffered a serious knee injury in the opening loss at Northern Illinois but that's just one of the problems heading into this week. "Some other guys are probably not available; we're young and we're getting younger," coach Rich Ellerson said Tuesday. San Diego State is a smaller group but one with speed and talent, with quarterback Ryan Lindley throwing four touchdown passes in the opener. Ellerson liked the play of young safeties Tyler Dickson and Hayden Pierce last week and said "we're doing some retooling" for this week's game because of the injuries up front. Remember, the Knights already lost cornerback Antuan Aaron for the season. Army also has to worry about wide receiver/kick returner Colin Lockett, the latter breaking a kickoff for 94 yards and a score last week.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We can't kid ourselves about who and what we are. We're underdogs, but that's OK. We kinda like that place, we'll have a plan and we'll play better." -- Coach Rich Ellerson on his team heading into this week's home game against San Diego State.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Army vs. San Diego State, Sept. 10 – The Black Knights fell behind 49-6 after three quarters in their opener at Northern Illinois and now hosts San Diego State, a quality opponent that beat Navy in last year's Poinsettia Bowl. The Knights, banged up on what was already a young defense, come into this home opener as 7-point underdogs and with good reason.

KEYS TO THE GAME: As usual, Army has to play as close to mistake-free football as it can play. Turn the ball over three times in the first half, like the Knights did last week, and it makes it very tough to win. Quarterback Trent Steelman has to play better, fullback Jared Hassin has to get the ball more and the young defense has to keep from getting over run.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

QB Trent Steelman -- Always the key to an offense, especially an option offense, the quarterback is where it all starts and Steelman, who has started all 26 games as a collegian, didn't have a good game in last week's loss to Northern Illinois.

FB Jared Hassin -- "The Assassin" really makes the offense go and last week he netted just 16 yards on just seven carries. Both those numbers have to increase this week.

Rover Steve Erzinger -- His 21 tackles last week were the most by an Army player since Caleb Campbell had 21 against Air Force back in 2005. He received honorable mention at linebacker by the College Football Performance weekly awards.

WR Jared McFarlin -- He came with advanced hype and then had four catches, including an 11-yard touchdown pass from backup Max Jenkins.

ROSTER REPORT

--DE Jarrett Mackey was apparently seriously injured in the opening loss at Northern Illinois and was clearly out of this week's game. Coach Rich Ellerson would not comment further but reports indicated he could be out for the season.

--DT Chad Littlejohn, also hurt last week, is questionable for San Diego State.

--DE Shola Mustopha will start in place of Mackey, with freshman Julian Holloway listed as the backup.

--DT Broghan Carnes is now listed as the back to A.J. Mackey on the depth chart.

--WR Austin Barr, injured in the preseason, was listed on the depth chart as a possibility for this week.

--CB Richard King, thrown out of the academy after an airport confrontation with members of singer Patti LaBell's entourage, was reinstated as a cadet but isn't expected to play football in his senior year. He said he suffered a concussion in the skirmish.

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