September 1, 2010

Pre-game Preview: Army vs. Eastern Michigan

The good news for Eastern Michigan is that it returns 12 starters from last year's football team. The bad news? It returns 12 starters from last year's football team.

The Eagles were winless last season, averaging 16 points per game while allowing an average of 427 yards (276 rushing) and 38 points.

So don't be surprised if you see a repeat of last year's game at Ypsilanti, when Army threw the ball only five times in its 27-14 victory.

With Army having even more starters back under second-year coach Rich Ellerson, the road to victory would appear to be an open highway.

"We're improved,'' Ellerson said on Tuesday, "but so is Eastern Michigan. They have some transfers, and I expect they're gonna be a physical, hard-playing defensive unit. With a new defensive staff, that will be a little bit of a mystery, so what that means is we have to prepare for almost everything under the sun.''

With Army's potent run game improved, and its defense potentially better than last year's very productive unit, EMU might spend the afternoon looking blinded by the sun.

The Eagles, whose coach (Ron English) is also in his second year, return sophomore quarterback Alex Gillett and its top running back in 5-foot-8 senior Dwayne Priest. The most depth on the offense side is the receiving corps.

A good offensive line should be an improvement to help everything else get cranking.

But this is not being a scrimmage between shirts and skins.

The Black Knights essentially have nine players back with a vast amount of starting experience, and did rank 16th in the country in total defense last year, 30th in scoring defense and 3rd in pass defense.

In last year's game Eastern Michigan totaled 40 yards rushing and 223 total yards on offense.

The matchups when Army has the ball should be just as daunting for the home team, as Army ran up 300 yards on the ground last September.
Sophomore QB Trent Steelman has a much better feel for the offense, his receivers are more explosive, and the running backs are certainly better if only due to the addition of 6-foot-3, 235-pound Jared Hassin, a sophomore transfer from Air Force.

Army also has an advantage in the kicking game with all its starters back. EMU lost both their punter and place kicker to graduation.

BLACK KNIGHT KNOTES - In 121 years of football, Army opened with a road victory last season for the first time ever, having lost all previous eight attempts, a stretch that began in 1965 at Tennessee. Army had opened a season away from home only four times up to the year 2000…The Knights are 6-7 against Mid-American Conference teams the past five years and will play two other MAC teams this season in Temple and Kent State. They will continue the trend in the next two years as they are scheduled to face MAC squads nine times.

Game captains Saturday will be seniors Stephen Anderson, Carson Homme, Matt Campbell and L.B. Brown…Players will be wearing the patch of the 1st Infantry Division, the second straight year they have worn the marking of, "The Big Red One'' for its season opener. Headquartered in Fort Riley, Kan., the division has fought in World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, Bosnia, Kosovo, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan.

The game will not be televised, but can be heard on radio stations WABC (770-AM out of New York, WALL (1340-AM in Middletown, N.Y., and WEOK (1390-AM) in Poughkeepsie.

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