Army Welcomes Western Kentucky On Senior Day

Thomas Holloway could be back in the lineup Saturday for Senior Day

Thomas Holloway could be back in the lineup Saturday for Senior Day

Nov. 7, 2013

WEST POINT, N.Y. - The Army football team will make its final appearance of the season at Michie Stadium this afternoon when its hosts the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Kickoff is set for noon, and the game will be televised live by CBS Sports Network.

Saturday is the first time that Army and Western Kentucky have met on the gridirion. The Hilltoppers moved to the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision in 2008 after a successful run in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Hilltoppers won the 2002 Division I-AA national championship under the leadership of head coach Jack Harbaugh.

Prior to kickoff, the Black Knights will celebrate the careers of the Class of 2014. The group, along with their friends and family, will be recognized in a pre-game on-field ceremony.
   
Army is playing its first home game since a 50-25 victory over Eastern Michigan on Oct. 12. The Black Knights have lost their last two outings, road tilts at Temple and Air Force. Army has split its first four home games, scoring wins over Morgan State and Eastern Michigan, and losing to Stanford and Wake Forest. Following today’s game, the Black Knights will have two weeks off before making the trek to Hawai’i on Nov. 30. That game is the team’s final contest before facing arch-rival Navy on Dec. 14 in Philadelphia.
   
The Black Knights and Hilltoppers share two common opponents — Morgan State and Navy. Both teams have defeated the Bears. Army scored a 28-12 win in the season opener, while Western Kentucky defeated the Bears, 58-17, on Sept. 21. The Hilltoppers also own a 19-7 win over the Mids.

“We’re hurting, and we don’t have a lot of time,” head coach Rich Ellerson said. “We have to turn this around because we are going to face a team this week that is very different from the last two weeks. Their running attack is as productive as anyone in the country, and defensively, they have already seen our style of play when they went up against Navy earlier in the year. They ran a version of our defense against Navy and had great success. Again, they have a belief system built around us and have already had a shot at it. The good news is we have an idea of where they are going to be, but they have some really good folks along the front that are going to be tough to handle.”
   
Army running back Terry Baggett is on the cusp of becoming the Black Knights’ fifth 1,000-yard rusher in the last four seasons. Baggett ran for 121 yards and a touchdown at Air Force to increase his season total to 889 yards. If he can run for 111 yards before the end of the season, Baggett will join Jared Hassin (2010 — 1,013 yards), Raymond Maples (2011 — 1,066 yards; 2012 — 1,215 yards) and Trent Steelman (2012 — 1,248 yards) as players who have reached the millennium mark since 2010. Junior fullback Larry Dixon is also in shouting distance of his first 1,000-yard season. Dixon, who missed a game earlier this season, has run for 672 yards in eight games. He needs to average 109.3 yards per game over the final three outings. He is currently averaging 84.0 yards per game and has three 100-yard games to his credit so far in 2013.
 
While the Black Knights obviously boast a potent rushing attack, Army has showed some proficiency through the air in recent weeks. Last week at Air Force, the Black Knights completed eight of 14 throws, for a season-high 109 yards. It was the third time this season that Army cracked the 100-yard mark through the air.
   
Junior Angel Santiago leads the team in passing with 442 yards and two touchdowns. He has completed 48.4 percent of his throws (30-62), throwing just one interception. Backup Kelvin White is 15-for-30 for 143 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown, while A.J. Schurr, who has been limited with an injury, is 9-for-14 from 74 yards and a score.
   
Freshman Xavier Moss is the team’s top receiver with 26 catches for 333 yards and a touchdown. Moss’s reception total is the highest by a Black Knight since Damion Hunter and Alejandro Villanueva caught 26 and 34 passes, respectively, during the 2009 season. Moss has caught at least two passes in seven of Army’s nine games. Chevaughn Lawrence, Patrick Laird and Edgar Poe have all caught a touchdown pass this season.
   
Army’s vaunted ground game is led by Terry Baggett with 889  yards and seven touchdowns. Fullback Larry Dixon is next on the list with 672 yards and six scores, while Santiago boasts 495 rushing yards and seven scores. Army needs to average 323.7 yards per game in order to reach the 4,000-yard mark for the third straight season. Army set a school record with 4,438 yards in 2012.
   
The Western Kentucky defense ranks among top one-third in the nation, allowing only 361.9 yards per game (29th). The Hilltoppers are giving up an average of 26.7 points per contest.
   
Army must account for linebacker Xavius Boyd, who leads the team with 83 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He ranks among the nation’s top 35 players in all three categories. Andrew Jackson is next on the list with 59 tackles, while Cam Thomas has made three interceptions and defended 10 passes. Jonathan Dowling and Tyree Robinson have made two interceptions.
The Hilltoppers boast one of the nation’s most prolific offenses. Western Kentucky is averaging 476.6 yards per game, the 25th best average in the nation, and 30.8 points per game.
   
The Black Knights will be keying on running back Antonio Andrews, the most productive runner in the nation. His 1,290 yards is the most by any player, and his 11 rushing scores are the 13th most in the country. Andrews is also a regular in the passing game and on special teams. He has caught 29 passes for 368 yards and leads the team in both punt and kickoff returns. His 227.22 all-purpose yards per game leads the nation. Last season, he joined Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders as the only players in NCAA history to crack the 3,000-yard mark in all-purpose running.
   
The Hilltoppers can also be productive through the air. Quarterback Brandon Doughty ranks among the nation’s top 50 in completion percentage (16th, .673), completions per game (22nd, 21.0), passing yards (19th, 2,251), passing yards per game (31st, 250.1) and total offense (50th, 239.2). Doughty has thrown nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Western Kentucky has struggled with turnovers, ranking 121st in the nation with a -1.4 turnover margin per game.
   
Western Kentucky has six players with at least 20 receptions. Willie McNeal is tied with Andrews with 29 catches and leads the Hilltoppers with 404 receiving yards. Nicholas Norris holds the team lead with three touchdown receptions.
   
The Army defense was bolstered by the return of junior free safety Geoffery Bacon at Air Force. Bacon was back in the starting lineup after missing four games with an injury and led the team with 10 tackles.

“I was concerned about how well he’d be able to get people on the ground with his hand clubbed up, but he tackled better than what you’d expect,” Ellerson said of Bacon. “He struggled having been out for five or six weeks, that was hard for him. Play in and play out, there are some plays he desperately wants back, but he isn’t the only one.”

Senior Thomas Holloway has missed the last three games and is questionable for today’s game with a leg injury. Despite the lost playing time, he still leads the team with 48 stops. Junior defensive lineman Robert Kough leads the Black Knights with six tackles for loss. He and Colin Linkul each have two quarterback sacks. Senior Justin Trimble and freshman Josh Jenkins have two interceptions each.

“I love our team,” Ellerson said. “Our seniors have done a great job in trying to manage the team. I give the seniors credit. We were in a good place emotionally going into that contest and we worked really hard to keep that together. That group has been banged up. We’ve got some guys like Hayden Tippett, Thomas Holloway and Raymond Maples who have been right in the middle of our efforts. They haven’t been able to get out on the field with us these last few weeks and that’s killing them. As hard as they work to keep their focus, they’re not out there between the white lines to help that effort. They’ve been though an awful lot together, and they’ve bought into what we’re doing. This is another great challenge for them. We’ve been dished up something we didn’t want, but we’ve got another challenge and an opportunity to play. That’s hard, but frankly, we’ve got the right guys on the job.”



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