November 22, 2010

Army - Notre Dame: The Monday After

As the sold-out crowd of 54,251 converged on Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York to witness the game between these two historic institutions, the venue carried a World Series or SuperBowl like atmosphere.

For the second time in three weeks, Army had the opportunity to make a statement on the national stage where they encountered Air Force and now Notre Dame.

However, none more telling than Saturday's contest versus the Fighting Irish.

For Notre Dame, they demonstrated that they were the more dominate team and were not fazed by the splendor that came with the setting. To their credit ... they knew it was a special venue as they wore they "special occasion" green jerseys and with the same swagger that allowed them to take down #14 Utah last weekend, they brought that to the House that Ruth built and the Steinbrenner's rebuilt.

For Army, who now has a two-week bye window before they play their December 11th contest Navy … Saturday's game left many fans and perhaps even coaches and players scratching their heads.

Notre Dame came out of the gate on its first series of the game and marched down field inside the Army six yard line. On a 2nd and goal, quarterback Tommy Rees pass to wide receiver Michael Floyd is deflected by middle linebacker Stephen Anderson and intercepted by free safety Donovan Travis. It is Travis' fifth pick on the season and could not have come at a better time as the Black Knights were able to dodge their first bullet on the evening.

For the Army fans, they were able to deliver a sigh of relief as it would now be a chance to see if the Brian Kelly's defense had made the necessary adjustments to ensure they Notre Dame defense does not have another let down against the option, as they had against Navy early this season.

To the Black Knights' fans pleasure and the displeasure the Fighting Irish contingent, in a stadium where Yogi Berra made his mark, it must have appeared like Déjà vu all over again.

Army starts their drive with 10:55 on the clock and on a series that saw carries by slotbacks Brian Cobbs, Patrick Mealy, and quarterback Trent Steelman, as well as a 27 yard pass to wide receiver Davyd Brooks to open the drive … the Black Knights marched 78 yards on 17 plays and used 8:45 off the clock.

However, the net result was only 3 points off of Alex Carlton's leg. Army's inability to hit pay-dirt with 1st and goal from the 8 yard line probably inspired the ND defense that would limit Army's offense for the balance of the game.

The irony of the Black Knights' best drive of the evening is that fullback Jared Hassin did not touch the ball one single time.

Clearly Kelly's defense were determine to shutdown the fullback's effectiveness and were open to see if others in the Army running game could carry the weight.

And Army's first drive, albeit minus a touchdown, would suggest that they were open to let Steelman, Cobbs, Mealy and even Jonathan Crucitti fuel the attack. Especially, the sophomore Cobbs, who with Malcolm Brown still on the injured shelf … represents Army's only true outside threat.

The 1st quarter or should we say Army's first and only drive of the quarter saw Cobbs rush for 22 yard, Mealy 18 and Steelman 15.

However, as the 2nd quarter started, so did Army's collapse. The Fighting Irish were able to answer Carlton's three points with three of their own as kicker David Ruffer hit on his 19th consecutive field of the season, as his 47 yarder tied the game at 3-3.

Turning Point

With the Army offense going three and out, Jonathan Bulls who has had an very solid season picked the worse time to have perhaps his worse punt of the season. From his own 28 yard line, Bulls punts 12 yards out-of-bounds to the Army 40 yard line.

Four plays later, running back Robert Hughes found the end zone from one yard out. The highlight of the "drive" was a perfect pass from Rees and a tremendous over the shoulder catch by tight end Tyler Eifert for 35 yards to the one yard line … as he simply beat linebacker Steve Erzinger up the seam.

Notre Dame 10
Army 3

By the time the first half ended, the Fighting Irish had added seven more and took a 17-3 lead into the locker room.

The good news was that the Black Knights would open the 3rd quarter receiving the ball. The bad news is that Cobbs, who sustained an injury, would not return the contest and any true outside threat for Army was on the sidelines.

The other bad news was on the defense. It was becoming crystal clear through the first half and would continue throughout the game, that defensive end Josh McNary was not 100%. Despite his efforts, this game and even against Kent State, #44's presence or lack of allowed Rees all day to find his targets, where he was 12-20 for 214 yards and one touchdown. But it was a balanced offensive attack that kept the Army defense guess and with no answers.

On the Black Knights' first series of the 2nd half and a 3rd & 7 from their own 26 yard line, Steelman's pass is picked off by cornerback Darrin Walls, who pranced up the sidelines for a 42 yard interception return.

Notre Dame 24
Army 3

Although 14:00 showed on the 3rd quarter clock and the entire 4th quarter to follow, the Black Knights looked lifeless … for the first time all season, there was sense of uncertainty.

For the balance of the 3rd, as well as the 4th, Notre Dame controlled the flow of the game.

Clearly the Fighting Irish defense answered the bell as they held an Army team that came in averaging 277.8 yards rushing per game to only 135 on the night and just 174 in total offense.

Fullback Jared Hassin finished the evening with 23 yards on eight carries and his longest run was for 4 yards.

Final Score:

Notre Dame 27
Army 3


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