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Army Football Opens 2010 Season At Eastern Michigan

WEST POINT, N.Y. - The Army football team will open its 2010 season Saturday at Eastern Michigan. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti, Mich.

No television coverage is will be offered for the game, but fans can still follow along with the action. The Army Sports Network will have the audio call of the game on flagship station WABC (770-AM), as well as WALL (1340-AM) and WEOK (1390-AM), Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 91) and ITT Knight Vision. A live video stream is available on Eastern Michigan's web site, www.emueagles.com.

Head coach Rich Ellerson enters his second season with the Black Knights. Army finished 2009 with a 5-7 mark, including a season-opening victory in Rynearson Stadium. The Black Knights earned a 27-14 victory in Ypsilanti last fall, improving to 4-0 all-time against the Eagles.

EMU finished its first season under the direction of head coach Ron English with a 0-12 mark.

Army is 92-25-3 (.779) in season-opening contests. Last season's victory snapped the Black Knight's 12-game losing streak in season-openers.

Ellerson has stressed Army's experience as a key factor leading into the 2010 season. The Black Knights return 49 letterwinners and 20 starters, including 2009 starting quarterback Trent Steelman.

A look at the matchups:

QUARTERBACK

Steelman (6-0, 204) will be making his 13th career start on Saturday after taking the opening snap in all 12 games in 2009. Steelman is the only Army quarterback ever to start 12 games in one season. He led the team with 706 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in 2009. He also produced the first two 100-yard rushing games by an Army freshman quarterback. Steelman threw for 637 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Sophomore Alex Gillett (6-1, 205) started three of the nine games in which he played for EMU in 2009. Gillett threw for 763 yards and three touchdowns with a 93.42 efficiency rating and 49.6 completion percentage. He also rushed for 484 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Devontae Payne (6-6, 231) may also make his collegiate debut on Saturday.

IN THE BACKFIELD

The Black Knights return senior slotback Patrick Mealy (5-8, 205) to anchor the backfield. Mealy ran for a career-high 673 yards last season, ranking second on the team. His 6.1 yards per carry led the Black Knights, while his three rushing touchdowns ranked second. Mealy collected his first career 100-yard rushing game in last season's victory at EMU after totaling 109 yards on five carries. Army rushed for 300 total yards against the Eagles in 2009.

As a team, Army's triple option offense finished 2009 ranked 16th in the nation with a 203.6 yards per game rushing average. Steelman and Mealy ranked first and second, respectively.  

Senior Dwayne Priest (5-8, 192) led Eastern Michigan with 633 rushing yards and seven touchdowns over 11 games in 2009. Senior Corey Welch (5-9, 179) ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns last season.

WIDE RECEIVERS

The Black Knights will look to replace 2009's top receiver in Alejandro Villanueva. Villanueva tallied 522 yards and five touchdowns a year ago. Juniors Austin Barr (6-4, 210) and Davyd Brooks (6-3, 212), who played in 12 and 11 games, respectively, in 2009, along with sophomore George Jordan will lead Steelman's receiving corps for 2010.

EMU returns senior Tyrone Burke (5-11, 199) and sophomore Kinsman Thomas (6-2, 205) to their 2010 lineup. Burke had 16 receptions for 253 yards and one touchdown in 2009, while Thomas had 15 receptions for 275 yards and a team-high three touchdowns.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Army returns a corps of experienced offensive linemen in 2010. Four of the Black Knights' five projected starters enter Saturday on a streak of at least seven consecutive starts. Senior offensive tackle Jason Johnson (6-3, 250) not only leads the offensive line, but also the team with 22 consecutive appearances in the first unit. His 28 career starts is also tops on the Army ledger. Senior center Zach Peterson (6-1, 270) and senior offensive guard Seth Reed (6-1, 275) started all 12 games last season, while senior OT Anees Merzi (6-3, 274) started the final seven games in 2009.

The Eagles have an offensive line with experience under their belts as well. Senior right tackle Dan DeMaster (6-5, 304) started all 12 games last year, while senior center Eric Davis (6-2, 300) started eight. The Eagles return a two-time letterman in senior left tackle Bridger Buche (6-3, 312) who missed all of 2009 with an injury.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The Black Knights' single-game, single-season and career sacks leader senior defensive end Josh McNary (6-1, 235) returns to the 2010 lineup. McNary finished 2009 with 12.5 sacks, including four against Temple on Oct. 17, to push his career total to 18 quarterback takedowns. He also registered 22.5 tackles for a loss, third-most in program history. His 1.88 tackles for a loss per game ranked second nationally, while his 1.04 sacks per game stood fourth.

After earning three All-America honors in 2009, McNary is on the preseason watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Lott Trophy, which recognize the nation's top defensive player, as well as the Lombardi Award which goes to the top offensive or defensive lineman or linebacker. Senior nose tackle Mike Gann (6-2, 280) is also back to anchor the middle.

Eastern Michigan returns junior defensive end Javon Reese (6-1, 247) and senior defensive tackle Ryan Leonard (6-0, 287) who combined for 16.5 tackles for a loss last season.

LINEBACKERS

With junior Andrew Rodriguez injured, senior Stephen Anderson (5-10, 222) returns from a knee injury that cost him the final three games of the 2009 season to lead the Black Knights' linebackers. Anderson collected 41 solo tackles while tallying 83 in total last season. His 83 stops ranked second on the team behind Rodriguez, despite playing in only nine games. Junior Steven Erzinger (6-1, 222) started all 12 games for the Black Knights in 2009 and finished tied for third with 71 total tackles.

While EMU's top tackler was lost to graduation, senior Tim Fort (6-0, 225) returns to anchor the Eagles' linebacking unit, collecting 43 tackles last season.    

SECONDARY

Senior safety Donovan Travis (6-1, 196) returns to the Army secondary after totaling a team-leading four interceptions in 2009, including a game-winning pick-six against Ball State on Sept. 19. Seniors Jordan Trimble (5-10, 190) and Donnie Dixon (6-0, 201) are expected to cover the strong safety spot. Last season, Trimble and Dixon registered 23 and 29 tackles, respectively.

The EMU secondary is led by safeties senior Ryan Downard (6-0, 198) and Martavius Cardwell (5-11, 195).  Downard has nine career interceptions, while Cardwell returns as the team's leading tackler making 105 stops a year ago.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Army welcomes back junior placekicker Alex Carlton (6-0, 186). Carlton tied the Academy's single-season field goals record in 2009 with 18 makes in 24 attempts. He ranks ninth all-time at Army in career field goals, while his 75.0 career success rate is sixth all-time among kickers with at least 10 attempts. Carlton was dangerous from far out, making six of eight tries from 40 yards or more, including a 51-yarder in the victory over Vanderbilt on Oct. 10.

The Eagles replaced both their punter and placekicker from 2009, and will look to freshmen Kody Fulkerson (5-11, 175) for kicking and Jay Karutz (6-2, 200) to handle the punting.

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 at Michie Stadium is set for noon and CBS College Sports Network will carry the game.

Full season, mini-plan and single-game tickets for all Army home contests are currently on sale at the Army Ticket Office, by phone at 1-877-TIX-ARMY or online at www.goARMYsports.com. Full season ticket packages in a special section dubbed "Coach E's Army," begin at just $99 for lower-deck seating locations in Michie Stadium. Fans who purchase tickets in that section will receive a special "Coach E's Army" T-shirt. A limited number of tickets remain available to Army's game against Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium. In order to purchase Army-Notre Dame tickets, fans must hold membership in the Army "A" Club and purchase 2010 Army football season tickets.

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