October 13, 2010

Army vs. Rutgers: The Battle of the Knights



On Saturday, the Army Black Knights and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights will compete in the first college football game between FBS programs at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

It will also pit Army's solid running attack against Rutgers highly ranked defense.

Coming into the contest, Army is ranked 9th in the nation in rushing, where they average 274 yards per game. Conversely, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano's defense is ranked 10th nationally and give up a stingy 90 yards on the ground per game.


Getting Healthy

For the first time this season, it appears that Army will have all the backfield weapons healthy … or as healthy as one can expect this time of the year.

Against Rutgers' aggressive and physical defense, don't be surprise to see offensive coordinator Ian Shields and running backs coach Tucker Waugh utilize the quality of depth that has emerged with this group.

Of course, both coaches are happy to have senior slotback Patrick Mealy back … although he may not at full strength.

"The Temple game he played and he was close to 100%, but it set him a little bit back from where he had been," shares Shields, who knows the benefit of having Mealy available on Saturday. "He could have played against Tulane if we had to, but I'm glad that we didn't have to … he would have been less than 100%."

"He should be good to go and he's anxious to go against Rutgers. I think if you ask Pat he would say he'd say he will be at 100%. He's a leader and a valuable guy for us and we need him out there for these upcoming games."

In Mealy absence against Tulane, freshman Raymond Maples went the whole game in Army's 41-23 win. "He did some good things out there, he blocked well at time and ran well at time and will only get better with more game action … he's just getting back to full speed as well.," professes Shields, who also has another frosh waiting in the wings in Jonathan Crucitti.

"Looking back I would have like to have seen Crucitti in for about 12 snaps in the game to rest Raymond as well. Sometimes even as coaches we get caught in the game and probably didn't want to mess up the continuity of the game," says Shields when talking about the flow of the running game.

Fullback Jared Hassin finally appears to be 100% after having a bout with back spasms earlier in the season. Despite an outstanding against Tulane where he logged in 144 yards rushing and two touchdowns, Shields knows that Hassin must do a better job on holding onto the ball, especially against the aggressive style of the Scarlet Knights' defense.

"He had a couple of fumbles that he would like to have back, although one they overturned," Shields states.

"We had the ball on the ground a little bit more than we are use to at this point. He had a heck of a game along with the offensive line … they controlled the game. But that is an area (fumble) that we have fix."

One thing is for sure …. Come Saturday, Army will play how they play and that doesn't change based on who the opponent might be. Or as Shields often states … "We are going to come in throwing fast balls because that's all we know how to throw," which old school triple option football.

As the Black Knights enter in to the second half of the season, you can expect to see the normal cast of characters offensively with the Merzi, Allen Peterson, Reed and Johnson up front.

They will be called to lead the charge for the backfield that will consist of Hassin, Mealy, Brown, Cobbs, Maples, Bohn and Crucitti who will continue to be the recipients of Steelman's option pitches. On the passing end, look for Brooks, Barr and possibly Allen at wide receiver.

Clearly the Black Knights are improved from where they were in 2009 when they faced the Scarlet Knights … which could lead to a classic match-up at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

The Army - Rutgers game at New Meadowlands Stadium (East Rutherford, New Jersey) is scheduled for a 2:00 (ET) kickoff.


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