October 30, 2011
Army's youthful defense prevails against Fordham
The last time Army shut out an opponent and put up over 50 points was against Lafayette on October 20th, 1990. The last time Army rushed for over 500 yards was also against Lafayette on September 13th, 1997. Today, Lafayette took a game off and let the Army Black Knights(2-5) handle the Fordham Rams(1-6) in a similar fashion, gathering 514 yards rushing to win the game 55-0 and are now 3-0 against Fordham all-time.
The setting was an October snowstorm that made everything difficult: running laterally, tackling and seeing the ball carrier. However the Black Knights were rock solid on the defensive end, and minimized the number of long drives by making the majority of the plays on the line of scrimmage.
Rich Ellerson on the Army defense: "Obviously, they played well. We were playing a team that wants to throw the ball a lot on a day when it's really difficult to throw it. The conditions played in our favor, with regard to that. I thought the guys played well. We have a lot of young guys out there, and I think every time they get up they're playing a little bit better and that's important."
Although this was the last home game at Michie Stadium for the seniors, they unquestioningly left everything on the field. Senior Broghan Carnes led the team with seven tackles. For the second time this season, Army accomplished their second defensive touchdown in the second quarter, when linebacker Nate Combs pulled off the trifecta by forcing a fumble in the backfield, then the linebacker scooped it up and scored for a fifty-two yard score. Army shut down Fordham at the line of scrimmage, on the sidelines, in the backfield, and in the passing game. The hopeless Rams continued to have three and outs which brought their total offense to 86 yards - the last time Army held a team to less than 100 yards was against Yale in 1996.
Upperclassmen, including Captain Max Jenkins Steven Erzinger who did not play today due to a hamstring injury, have certainly made a major impact on the freshmen who have noticeably improved their play on all levels. Every Army fan should heavily anticipate Army's defense for the next game and the game after that, because these freshmen defenders are getting better.
In total, Army has played 18 freshmen this season, tying the University of Texas. On defense, four freshmen started the game for the Black Knights: linebacker Geoffrey Bacon, cornerback Lamar Johnson-Harris, tackle Jacob Drozd, and strong safety Hayden Pierce.
A Milwaukee native, Bacon, who plays middle linebacker is a force, although small at 6-foot-0, 200 pounds. In a victory against Tulane, Bacon led the team with nine tackles, however did not start. Against Vanderbilt last week, Bacon made his starting debut, and ensured that Coach Ellerson's decision was a wise one. He led the team with thirteen tackles and scored the team's first defensive touchdown, taking off for seventy yards on an interception return. Picking up where he left off, the freshman finished second on the team in tackles with six.
Coach Ellerson had this to say about his freshman linebacker's performance. "Geoffrey's a guy that we think has a great future in this system. There are still some challenges out there. He's got to let it go a little faster. He's trying to make sure sometimes and sometimes you have to trust it and let it go. He'll do that as time goes along."
Also from Milwaukee, Lamar Johnson-Harris debuted at cornerback against San Diego State. Johnson-Harris at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds. showcased his speed after picking off a Fordham pass and returning it twenty-one yards to set up an eleven yard drive touchdown by QB Max Jenkins.
Along with Bacon, Jacob Drozd received the nod to start last week against the Commodores at right tackle, and had two tackles. Drozd once again displayed his aggressive play, logging three tackles on Saturday against Fordham.
At strong safety, Pierce has been starting since their first game against Northern Illinois. Including Saturday's contest, Pierce has already accounted for thirty-one tackles. He led the team in tackles for one game and finished close for many other games.
The key to the defense was keeping their composure especially during a game in which inclement weather can throw off the team's mental preparation. Coach Ellerson informed his team to avoid focus on the crowd, scoreboard and weather, but focus on every snap. Of course the crowd was not a big factor since the cadets represented 95% of the crowd by the second half.
Be prepared to see an amped up defense ready to face Air Force next week as they try to snap their (0-4) road record next Saturday. A win would give the Black Knights the Commander in Chief's trophy on December 10th when Army beats Navy.
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