WEST POINT, N.Y. - Army begins its 121st season of competition on Saturday, Sept. 4 when it travels to Eastern Michigan. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
The Black Knights' offense returns plenty of experience from a year ago, including sophomore QB Trent Steelman. Steelman set Army rookie quarterback records for starts (12) and wins (5) in 2009. He became the first West Point signal caller, regardless of class, to start 12 games in one season. The Bowling Green, Ky., native led the Black Knights 202 carries, 706 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. He also threw for 637 yards and three touchdowns. In addition, four of the five offensive line spots are manned by returning starters, and senior SB Pat Mealy is back after rushing for 673 yards and three touchdowns in 2009.
The Black Knights' stop unit will have high expectations in 2010, returning eight starters from last season's squad that ranked 16th in the nation in total defense (304.7 yards/game), 30th in the country in scoring defense (21.9 points/game) and third in pass defense (152.8 yards/game). Senior LB Stephen Anderson is back after suffering a season-ending knee injury against Air Force last season that caused him to miss the final three games. Anderson still finished second on the team with 83 tackles and made 9.0 stops behind the line of scrimmage. The pass rush is keyed by senior DE Josh McNary. A preseason candidate for the Lombardi Award, the Lott Trophy and the Nagurski Trophy, the Houston native made an Academy-record 12.5 sacks last season and enters 2010 as West Point's all-time leader (18.0). Senior DB Donovan Travis returns to his free safety position where he led the defensive backfield in 2009 with 71 tackles and a team-high four interceptions, including one against Eastern Michigan.
There are plenty of familiar faces back on the special teams as well. Junior K Alex Carlton tied the Army season record with 18 field goals in 2009 (18-24), including six from 40-or-more yards (6-8). Senior Matt Campbell will once again handle the kickoff duties, and senior Jonathan Bulls returns for his second year as Army's punter. Bulls averaged 39.2 yards per punt in 2009.
Army is 1-8 all-time in season openers on the road. 2010 marks the fifth time in six years the Black Knights have started the season away from West Point.
Saturday's game will not be televised.
Army Sports Network
Flagship: WABC (770-AM, New York, N.Y.)
Affiliates: WALL (1340-AM, Middletown, N.Y.); WEOK (1390-AM, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.)
Play-by-Play: Rich DeMarco
Color Analyst: Dean Darling
Sideline: Joe Beckerle
Program Host: Bob Outer
• The 90-minute "Army Football Tailgate Show," begins at 5 p.m. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m.
The Army Sports Network game broadcast will be carried via Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 91) and beginning at 7 p.m.
The entire Army Sports Network broadcast, including the "Army Football Tailgate Show," will be streamed live via ITT Knight Vision on www.goARMYsports.com each week. Subscription fees apply.
A live video feed is available on www.emueagles.com. The game may be purchased on a pay-per-view basis for $5.95.
On Tuesdays of game weeks, Rich Ellerson's weekly press conference will be video streamed live on ITT Knight Vision. Thursday's "This Week in Army Football," show will also be video streamed live. Both events are available only to ITT Knight Vision subscribers.
COACHING MATCH UP
ARMY HEAD COACH RICH ELLERSON
Alma Mater: Hawai'i, 1977
2nd Season at Army (5-7, .417)
11th Season Overall (65-48, .575)
Record vs. Eastern Michigan: 1-0
EASTERN MICHIGAN COACH RON ENGLISH
Alma Mater: California, 1990
2nd Season at Eastern Michigan (0-12, .000)
2nd Season Overall (0-12, .000)
Record vs. Army: 0-1
A WIN VS. EASTERN MICHIGAN WOULD ...
• Be the second straight season Army opened the season with a win in Ypsilanti.
• Mark the first time Army opened at least two straight seasons with a victory since a seven-game winning streak in season openers from 1990-1996.
• Improve Army's record against Eastern Michigan to 4-0.
• Be the Black Knights' third win in its last four games against Mid-American Conference teams.
• Bump head coach Rich Ellerson's win total to six victories in his first 13 games, the best start for an Army coach since Tom Cahill posted a 10-3 mark in his first 13 outings (1966-67).
• Be the 643rd win in the 121 seasons of Army football (642-456-51; .581).
THE ARMY-EASTERN MICHIGAN SERIES
• Army and Eastern Michigan have met three times before on the gridiron, including each of the past two seasons. The Black Knights are 3-0 versus the Eagles, including a 27-14 win at Rynerason Stadium to open the 2009 season.
ARMY VS. THE MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE
Eastern Michigan is the first of three Mid-American Conference teams on Army's docket this season. The Black Knights will also host Temple and travel to Kent State.
Army played three games against the MAC in 2009, going 2-1. The Black Knights scored wins over Eastern Michigan and Ball State, but lost to Temple.
2010 marks the fifth straight season Army has played at least one game versus a MAC opponent. It is the fourth straight year Black Knights have opened the season versus a Mid-American Conference foe (Akron, 2007; Temple, 2008; Eastern Michigan, 2009).
The Black Knights are 6-7 against the MAC since 2005. (2005: 1-1; 2006: 1-0; 2007: 1-2; 2008: 1-3; 2009: 2-1).
Army is 19-12 all-time against teams currently competing in the MAC (Akron, 3-1; Ball State, 2-0; Buffalo, 1-2; Central Michigan, 0-2; Eastern Michigan, 3-0; Kent State, 1-0; Miami, 2-2; Northern Illinois, 1-0; Ohio, 1-0; Temple, 4-3; Western Michigan, 1-1).
A total of nine games against MAC teams are slated for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The Black Knights will travel to Northern Illinois, Ball State, Miami (Ohio) and Temple next season, and will host Northern Illinois, Kent State, Ball State and Temple as well as a road game at Eastern Michigan in 2012.
SCOUTING THE EAGLES
Eastern Michigan is under the direction of second-year head coach Ron English. The Eagles return 43 letterwinners and 12 starters from last season's team that went 0-12. Eastern Michigan played nine true freshmen and 25 newcomers last season.
Offensively, Eastern Michigan averaged 278.3 yards and 16.4 points per game in 2009. The Eagles ranked 88th in the nation with 126.25 rushing yards per game and 108th nationally with 152.08 passing yards per game. Sophomore QB Alex Gillett returns after being forced into action as a rookie in 2009. Gillett played in nine games, including three starting assignments. He threw for 763 yards and three touchdowns and finished second on the team with 484 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Gillet ranked 10th in the Mid-American Conference with 138.6 yards of total offense per game.
The EMU running game will be anchored by senior Dwayne Priest. In 34 career games, Priest has rushed for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns, inlcuding 633 yards and seven scores in 2009.
The Eagles return 10 wide receivers who earned varsity letters last season. Senior TE Ben Thayer is the leading returning pass catcher with 29 receptions for 261 yards and two touchdowns in 2009. Senior WR Tyrone Burke is also back after recording 16 catches for 253 yards and one score as a junior.
Defensively, the Eagles return six starters from last year's unit that allowed an average of 427.25 yards and 38.25 points per game. A matchup to watch on Saturday will be Army's rushing offense versus the Eagles' rushing defense. The Black Knights boasted the 16th-ranked rushing unit in the nation (203.58 yards/game) last season, while Eastern Michigan was 120th in the country in stopping the run (276.75).
The Eagles are deep along the defensive front, returning seven lettermen from 2009. The duo of junior DE Javon Reese and senior DT Ryan Leonard return after combining for 16.5 tackles for loss last season. Last season's leading tackler Andre Hatchett (113 tackles) was lost to graduation, but senior Tim Fort returns to anchor the linebacking corps. Fort is the group's top returning tackler with 41 stops.
The EMU secondary is anchored by safeties Ryan Downard and Martavius Cardwell. Downward, a senior, has nine career interceptions. Cardwell, a junior, is the team's leading returning tackler after racking up 105 stops in 2009.
The Eagles must replace both their punter and their placekicker from the 2009 season. Entering preseason camp, EMU was counting on freshman Kody Fulkerson to handle the kicking chores and Jay Karutz, a rookie from Austrailia, to do the punting.
THE LAST MEETING: ARMY 27, EASTERN MICHIGAN 14 (SEPT. 5, 2009)
YPSILANTI, Mich. - The Black Knights ended a 12-year drought in season openers, topping Eastern Michigan, 27-14, in front of 14,499 at Rynearson Stadium in head coach Rich Ellerson's Army debut. The Black Knights moved to 1-0 for the first time since the 1996 season.
The Army defense keyed the victory, forcing three turnovers and limiting the Eagles to just 223 yards of offense. The Black Knights sacked quarterback Andy Schmitt six times, including 2.5 each by Victor Ugenyi Josh McNary. The Black Knights racked up a total of nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The Black Knights struggled most of the game, but came through when it counted, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter. Army had 308 yards of offense, including 300 on the ground. Two hundred seven of those markers came in the second half.
Pat Mealy led the squad with his first career 100-yard game. Mealy racked up 109 yards only five carries, including a career-long 75-yard to set up the Black Knights final touchdown. He also reached the end zone for the first time this season, scoring from six yards out on Army's first possession. Kingsley Ehie was a big part of Army's fourth-quarter success, scoring both touchdowns. The fullback had a career night with 75 yards on 12 carries and his first two career scores. Trent Steelman ran 13 times for 20 yards. Steelman, the first Army plebe to start at quarterback in the modern era (since 1944), completed 2-of-5 passes for eight yards. The win was the first for the Black Knights with a rookie at the helm since the 1987 season, snapping an eight-game losing streak.
McNary led the team with nine tackles, including the 2.5 sacks. Donovan Travis recorded seven stops and intercepted one pass, while rookie Josh Jackson made his first career interception.
EMU quarterback Andy Schmitt went 18 for 31 for 183 yards , one touchdown and two interceptions Dwayne Priest led the EMU ground game with 83 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
The victory snapped Army's eight-game losing streak in season opener s played away from West Point (1-8).
ARMY IN SEASON OPENERS
Army owns a sterling 92-25-3 record in its previous 120 season-opening games (.779).
The Black Knights' 27-14 victory at Eastern Michigan in last season's opener stopped a 12-game losing streak that dated back to a 35-25 loss in 1997 to Marshall.
While Saturday's game marks just the 10th time Army has opened a season away from Michie Stadium, it has become the norm in recent years. It is the fifth time in six seasons the Black Knights have made their debut away from Michie Stadium. The Black Knights are 1-8 in their previous season openers away from West Point. The only win came last season in Ypsilanti.
Army head coach Rich Ellerson is 5-5 in season openers in his previous 10 years as a head coach.
Army has made one of its goals for the 2010 season to be the No. 1-ranked team in the nation in turnover margin. The Black Knights were tied for 29th in the nation last season with a +0.42 margin per game.
The Black Knights have good reason to focus on turnovers in 2010. Last season, in its five wins, Army averaged 3.4 takeaways and held a +2.0 turnover margin average. Army was 4-0 when it held a positive turnover margin. Conversely, in its seven losses, Army averaged just 1.0 takeaway per game and was on the wrong end of a -0.71 turnover margin average. The Black Knights were 1-7 last season when either even or on the negative side of the turnover category.
Since the start of 2006, the Black Knights have posted a 8-2 record when winning the turnover battle. On the flip side, Army is 5-22 when on the wrong end of the turnover margin and 1-9 when the turnover margin is even.
Army is 1-8 in its last nine games without forcing an opponent turnover.
UP NEXT ...
Army will make its home debut when it hosts head coach Rich Ellerson's alma mater, Hawai'i, on Saturday, Sept. 11. The game has been designated "Salute to Heroes Day" and local fire, police and EMT personnel will be honored throughout the day. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.