Sept. 26, 2013
DALLAS, Texas - One of the most history-rich programs will play in one of the most storied venues in college football Saturday afternoon when the Army Black Knights travel to Dallas to face Louisiana Tech at Cotton Bowl Stadium. The Heart of Dallas Classic, which kicks off at 4 p.m., marks Army's first appearance in the venerable facility since 1967.
Saturday's game represents another first for the Black Knights. For the first time since the channel's launch in August, Army will appear on Fox Sports 1.
Army and Louisiana Tech have met once before on the gridiron. The Black Knights claimed a 14-7 victory versus the Bulldogs on Oct. 25, 2008 at Michie Stadium.
Both the Black Knights and Bulldogs enter Saturday's game with 1-3 records. Army is coming off a 25-11 home loss to Wake Forest. Junior running back Terry Baggett posted a career-high 125 yards, including a career-best 51-yard run, against the Demon Deacons. Junior Daniel Grochowski provided most of Army's scoring with three field goals in as many tries. Army also recorded a safety when junior defensive lineman Richard Glover brought down a Wake Forest running back in the end zone. Army led 11-10 late in the third quarter, but the Demon Deacons scored the final two touchdowns.
The Bulldogs suffered a 13-10 defeat at the hands of the Kansas Jayhawks. The Bulldogs led 10-3 in the fourth quarter thanks to a first-quarter touchdown pass from Ryan Higgins to Hunter Lee and a 39-yard field goal by Kyle Fischer early in the third quarter. Kansas scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, including a 52-yard field goal as time expired. Louisiana Tech outgained the Jayhawks 443-396, including 289 yards through the air. Higgins completed 35 of his 55 pass attempts. The Bulldogs fumbled twice inside the Kansas 5-yard line during the fourth quarter.
"This is about guys who know they're right on the cusp of getting something done, and we feel the same way," Army head coach Rich Ellerson said. "We are anxious to play. Again, it's the team that goes in there and plays the closest to their best self. We struggle with those unforced errors even though some of those errors were forced last week. They have hurt themselves with some unforced errors as well. We're talking to ourselves, and we're determined to get this thing done."
The Black Knights' run game is ranked 10th in the nation at 303.2 yards per contest. Army is averaging 78.0 yards per game through the air, the program's best mark since throwing for 78.1 yards per contest in 2010.
Junior quarterback Angle Santiago paces the balanced Army rushing attack with 271 yards and three touchdowns. Baggett is next on the list with 258 yards, while junior fullback Larry Dixon has 242 ground markers and a team-best 80.7 yards per game. Dixon missed last week's game against Wake Forest and has been slowly working his way back in practice. Baggett and Dixon have both been gouging opposing defenses. Baggett's average of 8.3 yards per rush ranks seventh in the nation among players with at least 30 carries. Dixon is gaining 7.8 yards per carry, including Army's longest play of the season, a 71-yard touchdown run at Ball State. Senior Raymond Maples, one of only three Army players to register at least two 1,000-yard seasons also did not play against Wake Forest and is out for this weekend's match up with the Bulldogs.
Santiago is also the Black Knights' top passer with 193 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore A.J. Schurr has played in three games, completing nine of his 14 throws (.643) for 74 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Kelvin White made his career debut in the fourth quarter against Wake Forest. White went 5-for-6 for 45 yards on his one drive.
Freshman receiver Xavier Moss leads the team with 12 catches for 146 yards. His career-high eight receptions against the Demon Deacons were the most by an Army player in the latest triple-option era (since 2008). Moss's reception total was the highest since Jeremy Trimble caught 11 balls versus Tulsa on Nov. 17, 2007. Junior Chevaughn Lawrence and senior Anthony Stephens both have five catches. Lawrence has caught a pass in 14 straight games, the longest run by a Black Knight since Trimble caught a pass in 22 straight games during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Lawrence and rookie Edgar Poe have accounted for Army's two receiving touchdowns.
Louisiana Tech is allowing 22.8 points and 416.0 yards per game. Linebacker Daniel Cobb leads the Bulldogs' defense with 34 tackles, including eight behind the line of scrimmage. Cobb's 2.0 tackles for loss per game is tied for sixth best in the nation. Strong safety Kentrell Brice is next on the list with 27 stops. Defensive end IK Enemkpali has racked up 5.5 quarterback sacks and is tied for the fourth best average per game in the country (1.4). The Bulldogs' defense has nine takeaways this season, intercepting five passes and recovering four fumbles.
"We're back to fundamentals," Ellerson said. "We don't know who they're going to have lined up out there on defense. They could be looking at tape and seeing what we have struggled with on defense, and they could emulate that. They could get in an eight-man front. They could go into a 4-3. They can be doing a lot of stuff, and we'll probably see more than one of those things. We are going to prepare generically, which may help us. We'll get back to the fundamentals, and not be too smart or too tricky. We need to run our offense and be ourselves."
The Louisiana Tech offense averages 16.5 points and 373.0 yards per contest. The Bulldogs have shown a balanced attack, posting 173.5 yards per game on the ground and 199.5 yards via the pass.
Tevin King and Kenneth Dixon spearhead the Bulldogs' running game, averaging 77.2 and 70.8 yards per game, respectively. Both are averaging at least 5.9 yards per carry and have scored one touchdown. Higgins and Scotty Young have split time at quarterback this season. Young started the first three games and threw for 452 yards and two touchdowns. He has completed 52.9 percent of his throws (46-87) and has not thrown an interception. In two games played, including the start against Kansas, Higgins is 42-for-71 (.592) for 346 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. D.J. Banks, Sterling Griffin and Richie Casey have all caught at least 11 passes. Banks leads the team with 18 receptions for 114 yards. Andrew Guillot, Hunter Lee, Trent Taylor and Jaccari Jackson have all caught one touchdown pass.
"What he (Higgins) brings to the equation is also a pair of legs," Ellerson said. "The biggest difference when he entered the game was their willingness to use him in the zone read. Obviously, he's not afraid of throwing the ball, and they do spread you out. We saw that last week and three weeks ago against Ball State. We're playing better out on the corner. We're getting used to this. The difference will be to manage his legs, rush the passer, and don't let him ruin your day in a single play. They're going to throw, but we can frustrate a good quarterback. We did that for most of the day against Wake Forest."
Army is ranked in the top half of the Football Bowl Subdivision in passing yards allowed (t-42nd, 194.5) and total defense (58th, 375.8). The Black Knights have shaved more than 50 yards off last season's average allowed.
Senior rover linebacker Thomas Holloway had nine tackles against Wake Forest to take over the team lead. His 34 total stops ranks first among the Black Knights, four ahead of junior free safety Geoffery Bacon. Junior defensive tackle Richard Glover has a team-high 3.0 tackles for loss, while freshman cornerback Josh Jenkins has accounted for both of the Black Knights' interceptions. Army has generated five turnovers in its four games.
"We're going to have to continue to improve." Ellerson said. "Offensively, we're going to be looking at some things we've been looking at since last spring in preparation for our season. There are some wrinkles about (Louisiana Tech) that are unique, but there are some things about every opponent that are unique. We're going to have to adapt to whatever we get from them defensively. Some of the things that have been driving us crazy are very fundamental things that have slipped away from us."
Saturday's game is the first of two straight outings away from West Point. Following the match up with the Bulldogs, Army travels to Boston College on Oct. 5. The Black Knights return home to face Eastern Michigan on Oct. 12.