WEST POINT, N.Y. – The Army football team will conclude its two-game homestand, against Southeastern Conference foe Vanderbilt, Saturday at noon at Michie Stadium.
Army, 2-3 after a 17-16 loss to Tulane a week ago, will look to get back on track against the 2-3 Commodores.
The Black Knights are playing a team from the highly regarded SEC for the first time since losing to Auburn in the 1996 Independence Bowl. The last regular season matchup was against Vanderbilt, in 1991.
Vanderbilt opened the season with a 45-0 waxing of Western Carolina, dropped a 23-9 decision to No. 4 ranked LSU, lost to Mississippi State, 15-3, ousted Rice, 37-17, with a strong second half and fell to No. 21 Mississippi, 23-7.
“Every week is a test and a challenge, but the emphasis still needs to be on our play,” said Army first-year head coach Rich Ellerson. “The discipline, the detail, the precision that we are looking for, the sense of urgency that we should come away from this last week with – we’ll have a great chance. If we don’t do those things, we have no chance. We don’t know how we are quite going to match up physically. We just don’t have that frame of reference. We’ve been on the field with good people, so we’re not going to freak out because they are from the SEC. We know it’s going to be hard, but that’s not new.”
During Saturday’s game, Army will honor Heisman Trophy winner Felix ‘Doc’ Blanchard when his number 35 is retired during halftime ceremonies. The first 5,000 fans through the gates of Michie Stadium will receive a Blanchard bobblehead.
CBS College Sports (Time Warner Cable Hudson Valley, Channel 457; Direct TV Channel 613; Dish Network Channel 152) will carry the game nationally with Dave Ryan and Jason Sehorn calling the action.
In addition, 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), XM (channel 104) and Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 156). An in-game blog (goARMYsports.com) and in-game twitter updates (twitter.com/ArmyAthletics) provide another avenue for fans to follow the action. The Spanish Army radio can be heard on WNSW 1430-AM with Clemson Smith Munoz and Roberto Abramowitz.
Army and Vanderbilt are meeting for the eighth time in a series that began in 1968. The Commodores hold a 4-3 advantage in the series.
A look at the matchups: QUARTERBACK Army freshman Trent Steelman will make his sixth start and is coming off a career-high 95-yard rushing performance against Tulane. Steelman (6-0, 185), has completed 13-of-28 passes on the season for 163 yards and one touchdown and one interception. He has rushed 73 times for 243 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Chip Bowden (6-0, 211) has connected on 8-of-22 passes for 87 yards and run for 43 yards while Carson Williams (6-3, 212) has thrown for 91 yards on 8-of-18 passing.
Vanderbilt sophomore Larry Smith (6-2, 220) has connected on 66-of-142 passes for 702 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. Mackenzie Adams (6-3, 220) has played in two games and thrown for 34 yards.
IN THE BACKFIELD Army has continued to rely on a stable of running backs with 13 players who have registered carries. Slotback Patrick Mealy (5-8, 203) has a team-best 303 yards on 36 carries while fullback Kingsley Ehie (5-10, 221) has two touchdowns and 253 rushing yards. Slotback Jameson Carter (5-11, 187) has carried 42 times for 171 yards and a pair of touchdowns while slotback Ian Smith (5-8, 180) has 54 yards on 10 carries.
Senior Jared Hawkins (5-10, 203) leads the Commodores’ ground game with 337 yards on 50 carries. He has three rushing touchdowns, averages 67 yards a game and 6.7 yards per carry in an offense that averages 147 yards per game.
WIDE RECEIVERS Senior Alejandro Villanueva (6-10, 283) continues to lead the Army receivers with 12 catches for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Damion Hunter (5-10, 166) shares the team lead with Villanueva with 12 catches for 100 yards. Carter has three catches while Austin Barr (6-4, 203) has two catches for 16 yards.
“We just need to utilize him,” Ellerson said in reference to Villanueva. “We don’t need to add anything that we’re not doing or haven’t done. We’ll continue to practice those things and improve those things, but we need not to talk ourselves out of trying to take advantage of those. Sometimes it’s on our list of things to do, but when you get into a three-and-out there are a lot of things on your list of things to do that you don’t get to. We need to make sure we keep him involved.”
Sophomore Udom Umoh (6-0, 175) is one of 13 players with a reception for Vanderbilt. He has 12 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown. Turner Wimberly (6-1, 192) has seven catches for 65 yards while tight end Austin Monahan (6-7, 255) has nine catches for 81 yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE Army is averaging 231 yards rushing per game, thanks to the effort of the front five. Center Zachary Peterson (6-1, 267), guards Joe Bailey (6-2, 283) and Seth Reed (6-1, 275) and tackles Mike McDermott (6-6, 255) and Jason Johnson (6-3, 257) are listed as the starters. Former defensive tackle Fritz Bentler (6-3, 248) is coming off an injury and may see time.
Vanderbilt features two offensive linemen that weigh at least 300 pounds, the third straight week Army has faced a massive line. Guard Eric Hensley (6-6, 322) is the biggest of the bunch which also includes tackle Thomas Welch (6-7, 315), guard Ryan Custer (6-3, 294), center Bradley Vierling (6-3, 292) and tackle Reilly Lauer (6-6, 275).
DEFENSIVE LINE Army is allowing 110 rushing yards per game in its double-eagle flex defense. End Josh McNary (6-1, 225) is third on the team with 28 tackles and has a team-best 10.5 tackles for loss as well as 4.5 sacks. Tackle Victor Ugenyi (6-3, 262) has 18 tackles and seven tackles for loss while tackle Mike Gann (6-2, 275) has 2.5 tackles for loss and 13 tackles. End Bradley Marren has 3.5 tackles for loss and 13 tackles.
Vanderbilt is surrendering 132 rushing yards per contest and also plays a 4-3 defense. End Tim Fugger (6-4, 250) has 10 tackles and fellow end Broderick Stewart (6-5, 228) has 3.5 sacks. Tackle Greg Billinger (6-3, 297) has 12 tackles while Adam Smotherman (6-4, 290) has eight.
LINEBACKERS Army linebacker Stephen Anderson (5-10, 229) leads the team with 42 tackles, 26 of them primary stops. He also has 3.5 tackles for loss. Andrew Rodriguez (6-3, 210) has 23 tackles in his first year as a starter while Steve Erzinger (6-1, 215) has three tackles for loss and 25 stops.
Chris Marve (6-0, 228) is Vanderbilt’s leading tackler from his middle linebacker spot with 46 stops. Patrick Benoist (6-0, 224) is second with 43 tackles while John Stokes (6-5, 234) has 17.
SECONDARY Army safety Donovan Travis (6-1, 190) is second on the team with 29 tackles and has a team-best three interceptions. Fellow safety Donnie Dixon (6-0, 196) has 13 tackles and a pass breakup. Cornerbacks Mario Hill (6-0, 175) and Antuan Aaron (5-9, 193) complete the starting secondary.
Safety Brent Trice (6-3, 214) is third on the Commodores with 32 tackles and has two pass breakups. Corner Casey Hayward (5-11, 182) has 31 tackles and an interception. Fellow Corner Myron Lewis (6-3, 202) has a team-high three interceptions. Joe Caldwell (6-1, 195) has 26 tackles from his cornerback position.
SPECIAL TEAMS Kicker Alex Carlton (6-0, 186) has converted 7-of-10 field goals with a long of 45 for the Black Knights. Jonathan Bulls (6-1, 217) is averaging 39.8 yards per punt while Matthew Campbell (5-9, 195) is averaging 59.2 yards per kickoff.
Hunter continues to return kickoffs and is averaging 21.2 yards per kick return. Josh Jones (6-1, 187) was the primary punt returned a week ago.
Vanderbilt kicker Ryan Fowler (5-10, 165) has converted 5-of-9 field goals with a long of 37 yards and averages 62.9 yards per kickoff. Brett Upson (5-11, 188) is averaging 40.8 yards per punt. Alex Washington (5-10, 188) has averages 6.5 yards per return and Warren Norman (5-11, 188) averages 26.3 yards per kickoff return.
UP NEXT Army will hit the road for the third time this season with a trip to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia to face Temple at 1 p.m.
Individual game tickets for the VMI contest on Nov. 14 at Michie Stadium can be purchased for just $29 per seat. In addition, fans can purchase a Rutgers (Oct. 23) ticket package for $49 per seat. This two-pack includes a ticket to the game versus the Scarlet Knights plus the VMI contest.
Ticket orders can be placed online at www.goARMYsports.com, in person at the Holleder Center Box Office, or by phone at 1-877-TIX-ARMY. Flexible payment plans are available by calling the Army ticket office.