Army finds defense in win over Tulane

For Rich Ellerson and his Army football team, Saturday really couldn't have gone any better. Well, once the Black Knights got over the first series of the day, anyway.

The Knights yielded a three-play, 80-yard scoring march by Tulane, but then hammered the Green Wave, moving to 2-3 with a resounding 45-6 Homecoming victory.

Winning was a must if Army has any hopes at all of reaching a bowl game for a second consecutive year.

"Obviously, I'm thrilled with the outcome," Ellerson said afterward.

But it was more than the outcome. It was his defense taking the ball away four times after producing exactly zero turnovers the previous three games. This while Army fumbled it away twice, but the defense stiffened both times.

It was quarterback Trent Steelman going 3-for-3 through the air, after Army had completed one pass the previous two games.

It was about young players getting a chance to make their marks.

And, it was about five Army sacks.

"You saw the turnover battle start to work in our favor," Ellerson said. "One, we got some, and offensively we took advantage of those turnovers. Conversely, defensively, when our offense turned it over, uncharacteristically, our defense stepped in and answered it.

"Our defense really struggled a week ago, and some of that was my fault because I don't think we had come to grips with the personnel set we'd been presented. So, we challenged ourselves this week. We changed some things to leverage the quality guys that we have, and not pretend we have some guys that graduated last year or some guys who got hurt earlier in the season."

Slot back Raymond Maples recorded a career high in rushing for the third consecutive week, going for 141 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.

Steelman, tying the Army record for consecutive starts by a quarterback with his 30th, ran for 54 yards and two scores on eight carries, and threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Davyd Brooks.

Even kicker Alex Carlton, who missed three field goals in a row after making 11 straight, was 1-for-1. OK, it was only a 23-yarder, but we're not going to let a small detail ruin a delightful day for the Knights, who visit Miami (Ohio) this week looking for their first victory in three 2011 road games.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Army improved to 2-3 with a 45-6 thumping of Tulane at West Point's Homecoming. The victory left the Black Knights needing four victories in the next six games to earn a second straight bowl bid.

--The Knights visit Miami (Ohio) this week for their third road game of the season, all against MAC teams. Army has lost the first two, to Northern Illinois and Ball State, by a combined score of 97-47.

--Army ran for 353 yards and is second in the nation in rushing.

--QB Trent Steelman tied the program record for consecutive starts by a quarterback with his 30th in a row. He will break the tie with Leamon Hall Saturday.

--Pete Dawkins, Army's 1958 Heisman Trophy winner, was at the game and appreciated the 2011 effort. "What a difference a week makes," Dawkins told the Middletown Times-Herald Record. "This is really so reassuring to see them playing this way. They are playing with poise. We have some key people injured, so coach Ellerson had to make some adjustments. There was a lot more stunting and movements on the defensive front. One of the things that has impressed me is how well the defensive backs are doing. A number of sacks occurred because of the deep defense. There was nobody open. That's been really encouraging because that's been an iffy part of the program so far."

--After going three straight games without a takeaway, Army won the turnover battle, 4-2, the first time this season the Knight caused more turnovers than they coughed up.

--The 39-point margin of victory was the largest by Army against an FBS school since a 49-7 victory at Boston College Oct. 21, 1995.

--Army has won two straight and four of the last five games against Tulane, evening the series with the Green Wave at 9-9-1.

--Army coach Rich Ellerson is 14-16 in his first 30 games at West Point, the best 30-game coaching mark at the academy since Jim Yo0ung was 16-13-1 from 1983-85.

--The Knights are contracted to the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco this year, the Military Bowl in Washington D.C. in 2012 and the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego in '13.

KEEP AN EYE ON: This team on the road. Army has made two trips this season, both to play MAC teams, and lost to Northern Illinois and Ball State by a combined 97-47. The Knights visit winless Miami (Ohio), which is 0-4 after losing, 27-0, to Cincinnati Saturday.

LOOKING GOOD: The Army defense, stung by a 67-yard run and an ensuing touchdown that capped an 80-yard opening drive, yielded only 119 yards the rest of the day and producing four turnovers. "Tulane has a great offense, so that was a big morale-booster for the defense," linebacker Nate Combs said. QB Trent Steelman ran for two touchdowns and threw for one, as 11 players accounted for Army's 62 rushing attempts. "I feel great right now and am very blessed to feel the way I do right now," Steelman said. "It just goes back to others taking it upon themselves to do big things. Raymond Maples (third straight career high rushing week) continues to improve on a week to week basis and he is one heck of a runner and athlete."

STILL NEEDS WORK: The Black Knights put the ball on the ground three more times, losing two fumbles. Army needs to figure out a way to get a road victory because a loss to winless Miami (Ohio) would surely mean the chances at a second straight bowl game are gone. K Alex Carlton ended a run of three straight missed field goals by making a 23-yarder.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When the other team scores, you always want to respond with a touchdown. Our offensive line and entire offense did an awesome job of matching that intensity, being tuned in and keying on their assignments. When we do that, it shows we're a hard offense to stop." -- QB Trent Steelman, after the Black Knights responded to an opening touchdown by Tulane with 45 straight points.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES:

--QB Trent Steelman, who tied Leamon Hall's Army record of 30 consecutive starts by a quarterback, ran for two touchdowns and threw for another. In fact, he was 3-for-3 through the air, after he and backup Max Jenkins had combined to go 1-for-11 over the previous three halves. Steelman moved into sixth place on Army's all-time rushing touchdown list (25), into eighth place in total offense (3,701) and 12th place in rushing (1,862).

--Sophomore RB Raymond Maples recorded a career high in rushing for the third straight week, this time going for 141 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. "We're not surprised that he's a good running back," coach Rich Ellerson said. "Obviously, we thought we saw this when we started recruiting him. He's been able to get some things started in the past. He has tremendous ball skills. What you're seeing now is how he finishes runs. He's enjoying the physical part of the running game where he finishes runs and he's running through people. He's more than willing without the ball. He's a really accomplished guy blocking the perimeter for his teammates. The thing that hasn't shown up recently is his ball-catching ability. He's a threat down the field."

--Freshman LB Geoffrey Bacon recorded nine tackles in the rout of Tulane. He had one tackle this season coming into the game.

--WR Davyd Brooks caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Steelman.

--Sophomore FB Hayden Tippett debuted and ran for 37 yards on seven carries.

--Freshman DE Colin Linkul had his first two career sacks as Army recorded five in the game. Freshman DE Jacob Drozd, sophomore DE Clayton Keller and junior LB Kyler Martin each picked up their first career sacks.

--LB Steve Erzinger was needed to make only five stops while starting his 30th consecutive game. He is fifth in the country with 11.20 tackles per game.

--Freshman RB Terry Baggett made his first start and carried four times for a net of five yards.

--RB Kelechi Oducha scored his first college touchdown.

--P Chris Boldt boomed a career-high 64-yarder.

ROSTER REPORT



--LB Justin Trimble, who left the game at Ball State on the third defensive play because of an ankle injury, didn't play in Saturday's rout of Tulane.

--Freshman WR Jared McFarlin, considered a threat in the underused passing game, missed the game because of a concussion, on a day the Knights actually went 3-for-3 for 70 yards through the air.

--Freshman RB Trenton Turrentine was out again because of a knee injury.

--C Ryan Powis got the start.

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