In the first half of Saturday's Army - Rutgers game, every facet of the Black Knights' game plan on the offensive and defensive of the ball unfolded exactly as it had been drawn up by Black Knights' head coach, Rich Ellerson.On 4th & 6 (10:43), at the Army 36 yard line, punter Chris Bolt shanks one and the net is 9 yards to the Black Knights' 45. Four plays later, Nova finds an open Coleman once again, this time over Justin Trimble and a 14-7 Rutgers' lead.
And Army's opening drive to start the game was indicative of that fact. The combination of quarterback Trent Steelman, whose 102 rush yards put him over 1,000 for the season, along with slotback Raymond Maples lead the 76 yard offensive march downfield in 16 plays and 7:26 off the clock. However, it was fullback Larry Dixon's 26 yard burst that was the highlight of the drive and an early 7-0 Army lead. Unfortunately, Dixon suffered a slight ankle injury and would not return until midway through the 3rd quarter.
And with Army's defense picking where it left off versus Air Force, the "D" force Rutgers a quick 4 & out, as the Scarlet Knights were forced to punt and give the ball back to a confident Black Knights' offense.
That confidence showed on the very next series, along with a few bag of tricks, when on 2nd & 9 from the Rutgers' 49 yard line, Steelman faked the handoff right to slotback Malcolm Brown, only to have wide receiver Chevaughn Lawrence come around for a 11 yard gain on a reverse. Unfortunately, three plays later the drive stalled on the Scarlet Knights' 23 yard line, as Daniel Grochowski was called upon to attempt a 43 yard field. However, this would be one of many special teams disasters on the day, a Marcus Cooper would come of the right edge to block Grochowski's kick and keep Army from adding to their lead.
Although the Black Knights would go on to put on what might have been their finest defensive performance on the year, it was the typically potent triple option offense that would statistically out perform their opponent on the day ... but costly and untimely turnovers would lead to their demise.
Senior cornerback Josh Jackson had this to say about the defensive performance on the day. "Obviously and despite how everything turn out today, the way our defense came out from the first snap ... the whole game and the energy we had, we were right with our eyes, our assignments and that's how we should have been playing the entire year," said Jackson after the game. "I heard someone on the sidelines saying this is "D" that we've been talking about when we started the beginning of the year. For us to finally get it especially against a great team like Rutgers, I agree with them. This is the defense we've talking about and I believe we can play the same type of defense against Temple."
While Rutgers wasted little time to start the 2nd quarters and on second offensive series, it became the Jawan Jamison show. The Scarlet Knights' leading rusher carried the ball seven times on Rutgers' 11 play drive, but it was his final touch that made the difference. On Army's 16, the sophomore running back took a pitch right, pulled up and lofted a pass over the out stretched hands of cornerback Marcus Avery and into the hands of wide receiver Brandon Coleman, for six points despite Avery being called for interference.
Army - 7
Rutgers - 7
However, Rutgers still had no answer for the Army offense that saw the trio of Steelman, Maples and fullback Hayden Tippett, who was substituting for the injured Dixon ... march down to the Scarlet Knights 26 yard line with 7:50 remaining in the 2nd quarter. On 2nd & 9, slotback Stephen Fraser is held for no gain, but a face mask call against defensive back Tejay Johnson moves the ball 1st & 10 to the RU 13 yard line.
On the very next play, Steelman finds a crease for 3-4 yards, but defensive back Lorenzo Waters puts his helmet on the ball and the loose pigskin is recovered by Rutgers.
ANOTHER MISSED OPPORTUNITY
With the defense staying true to form, RU is forced to punt and Josh Jackson demonstrated a little return magic and puts the offense in a position with 4:48 remaining the first half to put Army ahead going into the locker room.
But the Black Knights' drive is stalled at the Rutgers' 13, as Grochowski is called upon to redeem himself, but the frosh kicker's 30 yard field goal attempt is blocked once again and with .27 remaining .... the half ends, with a 7-7 tie.
Once again, Rutgers was able to dodge another bullet, where Army was inside the 20 yard line three times in the half, only to come away with 7 seven point and that would be all that the Black Knights would be able to deliver on the day.
The 3rd Quarter
In the 3rd quarter, saw the 23rd ranked Scarlet Knights passing game was on shutdown, thanks to performance of Army's defensive backfield corp's coverage and effective pressure against Rutgers' QB, Gary Nova. And when Jamison went down with an apparent ankle injury, it appeared that the Black Knights were in the driver's seat, despite the score still being tied 7-7.
To start the final stances of the 3rd and having possession, the Black Knights final turning moment of the game came with 2:40 left in the quarter and 2nd & 8 at the RU 17 yard line. Dixon hit the hole between the center and guard, but is met my two Scarlet Knights' defenders and the tough running fullback loses the ball and it's recovered by Rutgers ... whereby two plays later it's the conclusion of the 3rd.
And although the Army defense took the wind out of Rutgers' sails once again, as an array pass by Nova landed in the Army of linebacker Justin Trimble, the Black Knights' offense was unable to take advantage once again.
Continued Special Teams Meltdown
But before you knew it, Rutgers would put up 14 points as a direct result of Army's inept special team's play. The first portion of the game were the squandered field goal opportunities, and then the 2nd half it became the punting circus.
On Army next series they are forced to punt. With a 4th & 9 from 36, the snap goes over Bolt's head and recovered by RU at the Army one yard line. Two plays later, Jamison hits paydirt. With 6:28 remaining in the game, Rutgers' lead is extended to 21-7.
The rest was history as Rutgers adds one final touchdown to seal the deal and another win over their Northeast counterparts.
The 43,250 on hand saw Army put on a hard fought battle, to the extent that several boo-birds let their feelings be known to the Rutgers coaching staff and players throughout the course of the contest.
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