Sept. 12, 2012
By Kevin Gleason, Times Herald-Record
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Trent Steelman looked positively exhausted as he ducked into an interview room outside the Army sports information office late Tuesday afternoon. Of course he was tired. Steelman had been carrying around Army's season-opening blowout loss for almost three days.
Steelman was asked about those 65 hours since Army's 42-7 clunker on Saturday night at San Diego State. His answers were as genuine and heartfelt as he's ever been with the media. "Really rough and a lack of sleep,'' Steelman said. "It's hard coming off that game, especially when you are a senior and you expect more out of yourself, and the team expects more of you.''
Three botched snaps. Two interceptions. One lost fumble. Three yards on nine carries. Steelman, a four-year starter, didn't need a stat sheet to know his grade. He called it his worst game since stepping foot on campus. What had gone wrong? Army was supposed to open the curtain on a scintillating season. Instead, the Black Knights opened themselves to a stage filled with questions.
Steelman was in no mood to discuss the loss after the game. Seeking counsel from his typical confidantes, dad and brother, would have to wait. Steelman went to his hotel room and tried to sleep. That obviously didn't work out very well, either.
He was still suffering on Tuesday. He was still determined to take the entire blame for Army's across-the-board failures. Steelman felt most badly for letting down teammates. "That's pretty much what's been eating me alive,'' he said.
Army coach Rich Ellerson was even somewhat at a loss to explain Steelman's performance. Ellerson sensed that Steelman, hyper-competitive by nature, was so confident and pumped and prepared that he tried to do too much. "He tried to carry it all on his shoulders,'' Ellerson said. "The truth is, he doesn't need to.''
Steelman called it the "hero syndrome'' and admitted that it's part of his nature. "It's still not an excuse for the way I played,'' he added. And then, suddenly, maybe a quarter of the way through the interview, Steelman seemed to remind himself of something. He no longer had control over the Saturday just passed, only the Saturday days away.
"It's behind me now,'' Steelman said of San Diego State.
Steelman knows he has only one use left for San Diego State. He has been around long enough to know that he can learn more from losing than from winning. Steelman promises to suck every last lesson plan from Saturday night. He better, because he's days from facing a team that Ellerson describes the best team on the schedule.
"What we have to do, frankly, is we have to get over it,'' Ellerson said. "That's not easy.''
It's not easy for a kid who cares as much as Steelman. He started to feel a little better on Monday after watching game film. Turned out he missed only one read off the triple option. You can bet that by Wednesday, Steelman will be entirely focused on Northern Illinois. He will be itching for the arrival of noon Saturday, when Army christens its season at Michie Stadium. Steelman promises to harness his emotions when he steps to the line. There is ample time for Steelman to help produce a memorable season.
Steelman twice got knocked out of last year's game against San Diego State, a 23-20 loss. A week later he led Army to a huge upset of Northwestern. My money is on Cadet Steelman to bounce back in Week 2, to show why he's one of the most productive quarterbacks in Army football history.