Trophy hopes alive, Army takes down Air Force

It won’t be a winning season for Army, nor will it be especially memorable, but for now, a worthy prize remains in reach: Army stunned rival Air Force on Saturday, taking its first step toward winning the Commander in Chief’s Trophy since 2005. At 2-7, Army can still walk off the field next month with a collective smile with a win over Navy, and after so thoroughly shutting down Air Force’s offense this past weekend, that reality may not be so far-fetched.

Army has toyed with us this season, looking good in certain halves, on certain drives, even for full games. An upset win over Boston College breathed life back into the season, but it’s been an autumn of finding ways to lose, it seems. That came to an end on Saturday as the Army defense finally stood up and slowed a 5-4 Falcons’s offense while winning the turnover battle for the first time in what seems like years.

“It was a hard fought game,” said head coach Rich Ellerson, who has faced his doubters at times this year. “I’m really proud of the way the guys prepared. The story behind this is how well our guys prepared. I made the statement earlier – this is a good football team that doesn’t have a good record. It’s done the things that good football teams do. It’s stayed together. It continued to come to practice and focus and work hard. It kept itself focused on the next opportunity. It competed on every snap. We started to build that fundamental base to do the things that win on Saturday. That’s what happened today.”

Senior quarterback Trent Steelman rushed for 101 yards and threw for another 100 to help Army secure the 41-21 victory. The co-captain completed 4-of-6 passes for 100 yards and also rushed 29 times for 101 yards and two scores. Sophomore running back Larry Dixon gained 89 yards on 18 carries, junior running back Raymond Maples earned 73 yards on 20 touches and sophomore running back Trenton Turrentine collected 47 yards. Maples, Turrentine, wide receivers Chevaughn Lawrence and Patrick Laird each had a reception, with Maples perhaps the most clutch. Sophomore linebacker Geoffrey Bacon, who ranks No. 20 in the national in tackles-per-game, led the Army defense with 13 tackles and an interception while senior bandit Nate Combs was credited with eight stops, two tackles for losses, an interception and a pass breakup.

“I want them to enjoy this win today, but I want them to come back in tomorrow and refocus,” Ellerson added. “This team can do that because we do it every week. It’s more fun to do it this week. It’s still a challenge. There is always someone trying to pull you back into what happened last Saturday. This one is a little more seductive because you want to think about what happened. To keep this going and build on it, we have to clear and focus.”

Here’s my take on the game. As you can see above, West Point enlisted its two mule mascots for the pre-game ceremonies, which was new to my memory. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno was back to support the Corps squad, a day before being an honored guest at MetLife Stadium for the Giants-Steelers game:

Here’s the mules leading the team onto the field. Odierno is on the right alongside the supe:

Here’s an iPhone 5 panoramic image from the south endzone. Superstorm Sandy wiped out some of the nice yellow leaves in the background, but the blue sky and puffy clouds is hard to beat. You can see some other photographers on the far left and Air Force’s mascot to the right of me:

A fisheye shot of Maples taking the field:

Army wore the patch of the 1st Cavalry Division, one of my favorites since it’s big, yellow and just looks good on the uniform:

A certain angle from the north endzone allowed me to get some red autumn leaves in the background. Here’s Dixon rushing the ball in the first quarter:

Steelman took it in for a touchdown and I was blocked by the referee as usual. I got him screaming on his run back to the sideline:

My photo of Ellerson, turned into a giant head, made its return (on the far right) alongside another shot of Ellerson, plus the Dean, Brig. General Tim Trainor and what I can only assume is Air Force quarterback Connor Dietz’s girlfriend:

What’s it mean? No idea. Air Force had similar play cards:

Here’s a tight crop of Steelman at the line:

I always like these special teams photos as you can get one-on-one battles like this. Plus the sunlight from the south endzone was really nice:

Here’s Bacon doing his thing:

Nate Combs and Bobby Kough celebrate a stop:

This shot of Maples running through traffic was selected as one of ESPN.com’s Photos of the Week — I’m now 6-for-6 in getting selected by ESPN

Bacon, Justin Trimble and Zach Watts combine on a stop:

Larry Dixon breaks free for a nice gain:

Here’s some cadets hamming it up for the CBS camera arm:

Air Force brought a couple falcon mascots, and I got some cool portraits of them in front of their nice blue jackets:

This shot was one of four that made USA Today’s Best of Week 10 gallery:

This was one of my favorite shots from the day, a nice background, both sets of eyes and a nice composition:

This was a nice angle too with the Corps in the background:

How about this? A split-second slip on the field turf produced this crazy shot — those are all tiny black rubber pellets that love getting stuck in your sneakers:

Here’s a rare bonus shot of me (on the left) and my buddy Tommy in action, thanks to Mark Aikman:

Steelman was emotional in the final moments. A late defensive touchdown wrapped up the win, and I so I changed to a wide-angle lens after taking this shot and prepared for some celebrations:

Here’s Mike DeWitt pumping up the crowd with two minutes left. He was standing on a bench:

Steelman revved up the a chanting Corps and it made for some cool shots, almost like he’s conducting an orchestra:

Reality begins setting in as the clock ticks down:

Larry Dixon gets ready to celebrate — Odierno is on the left:

What does it feel like to finally beat Air Force? Kyler Martin, clad in war paint, lost himself at midfield:

The Corps stormed the field, or at least some of the Corps, making for some neat shots. This was the first big “storming the field” moment since Army beat Vanderbilt in overtime in 2009, although some cadets did celebrate on the field after beating Boston College this year, too:

The giant heads were everywhere. Here’s Nate Combs smiling down on the Corps:

Remember Jared McFarlin, one of Army’s leading receivers last season? He was right in the middle of the celebrations, too:

The motto is “Sing Second,” a reference to the winning team singing its alma mater second. I knew this surge was coming, so I back-peddled here as the Corps and team swallowed me up:

Frank Allen:

Brandon Whittington, the First Captain of the Corps of Cadets:

Here’s a funny shot of a cadet, Jerome Raphael, which actually was published in my local newspaper, The Journal News:

 

Here’s a shot that made Bleacher Report:

Here’s the Corps hopping the wall:

Dixon:

Maples:

 

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4 comments

  1. Dannny,

    Thank you for all you do. I really love looking at your website.

    It’s been a tough season, but I really think we are still headed in the right direction. People are just too impatient. It takes a long time to change things fundamentally, and I believe Rich Ellerson is doing that. Hope he gets the chance to continue for many years.

    Thanks!

    Pat Mente
    Army ’68

    1. Thanks Pat! It has been a frustrating year, I don’t think anyone anticipated the defense would struggle as much as it has or that we’d still have such trouble with turnovers. I think Army firmly believes in Ellerson though, he has that internal support.

      -D

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