“We have a chance now,” Army head coach Rich Ellerson said after Saturday’s dramatic win. “We needed one of these three. We’ve grown each week, and they’ve been able to stay together. We got our nose bloodied a couple times, and we struggled doing some things, but we stayed together and we believed in ourselves. ”
Army stunned a heavily-favored Northwestern on Saturday, scoring a touchdown in the final minutes and stopping the Wildcats’ last-gasp drive to pick up its first win of the 2011 season, a hard-fought 21-14 victory at West Point.
What an exciting game. Army looked like a completely different team from a week earlier when it fumbled eight times and beat itself in a close loss to San Diego State. Trent Steelman was banged up, Jared Hassin’s back has been hurting and a lot of questions hung over the team.
“Our main goal was to come out strong and make a statement,” said Steelman. “That’s what we did.”
Steelman was unstoppable for much of the day; Northwestern struggled all afternoon to control the option, and Steelman stayed cool throughout, picking up clutch third and fourth downs all day long. Like a video game, it was his second straight game with three touchdowns. He showed no signs of the SDU injuries, although he only completed one pass for six yards. Either way, I thought it was probably the best I have seen Trent play in the last three years, he never blinked and got the job done time after time. I think it’s a credit to the offensive line progressing and Army utilizing a variety of running options as Hassin is now less the main back and more a compliment to guys like Malcolm Brown, Jon Crucitti, Raymond Maples and even Scott Williams.
Steelman had his second straight 100-yard rushing effort, too. Very impressive performance all around, from big defensive stops to timely first downs.
“We know what it feels like now,” Ellerson said. “We know what it feels like to step on the field and play an opponent like that and come away with a win. We proved last week we could get on the field and be competitive and stand in there, and this week we proved we can finish it.”
On to the photos: I loved the 3:30 pm kickoff and light throughout — it was overcast for most of the game, ideal shooting conditions. By the end, it cleared a little bit, producing some nice skies for the alma mater and celebration images below:
I began the day with the Superintendent’s Review, a traditional parade held on the historic “plains” in front of Washington Hall and Trophy Point. Below, the honor guard marches onto the plain past a statue of Gen. George Washington:
Cadet Charles Phelps was named the Corps of Cadets’ First Captain in August. Here he is, framed by Lt. General David H. Huntoon Jr., 58th Superintendent of U.S. Military Academy (on the right) and I believe the Commandant, Brigadier General Theodore D. Martin.
I shot most of the review from one position with a 400mm lens since access is restricted.
The Corps of Cadets, with over 4,000 cadets, is split into regiments. Within each regiment, the cadets are divided among companies. Each company has a command structure and is led out in formation. After much ceremonial maneuvers and actions, the Superintendent orders the Corps to “pass in review,” and the cadets then march past the viewing party (Huntoon, Martin and the Dean, Brigadier General Timothy Trainor). Most cadets look over at the Supe while marching by:
I pulled out the 70-200 L for this shot of the cadets marching by; in the background is the West Point band, Washington Hall and the cadet chapel. Reviews like this have gone on, on this field, and in the same uniforms, with the same marching songs, for over 150 years.
The review is concluded by the parachute team jumping into the plain (complete with the Michael Bourne car chase music playing). Once the final jumper has landed, a UH-72A Lakota helicopter buzzed the parade ground, hanging maybe 20 feet in the air as the crowd roared.
A lesser march-on occurs at the football stadium itself — on Saturday, the 2nd Regiment took the field. Here, cadet Bill Dorner stands with his company on the 50-yard line. I got right in his face with my 15mm fisheye lens and he never blinked. His mother found this image and commented, “This is the best picture ever. I’m at work, with tears coming down my cheeks.”
In place of the West Point jump team, a squad from Fort Benning, Ga., took the duties.
Jon Crucitti again had the honor of carrying the flag out. My shot wasn’t nearly as nice or well-framed as last week’s image, with a blue sky, but I got the mascot and the division flag in this frame anyway:
The Steelman-led rushing attack is among the best in the nation after three weeks. According to my buddy Sal over at the Record, Army is second in the nation in rushing offense (362.3 yards per game); Georgia Tech is first (427.6). Army is No. 1 in time of possession (38 minutes, 28 seconds) and Steelman’s seven rushing touchdowns are tied for fourth. (San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman, SMU’s Zach Line and Alabama’s Trent Richardson have eight.) Steelman is also 28th (302 yards) in rushing, and Brown is fourth in yards per carry (9.9).
Northwestern had a big following with fans coming up from the city by car, bus and boat. That created a sea of purple behind the south endzone. So, of course I was on the hunt for portraits utilizing the unique colors.
Jared McFarlin remained the top target in the small passing game.
Steve Erzinger reacts after a big stop:
Northwestern’s Jeremy Ebert had a 14-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter from Kain Colter:
Army has changed its offensive play-calling this season, using cryptic signs flashed to Steelman and the o-line after the team has already gotten in place at the line of scrimmage. Steelman usually barks out some calls, then stands back and checks out the play. What these signs mean, no one outside the team knows. It certainly helps drain the clock and keeps the defense in the dark. The signs below show West Point grad Ulysses S. Grant in a portrait and on a goal coin, along with the Academy’s first African-American graduate, Henry Flipper. I don’t know what the LFA image is, but the smaller sign is the 3rd Infantry Division, based in Fort Stewart, Ga.
Steelman with a classic option toss:
Justin Trimble’s eyes lit up when he saw third-string quarterback Trevor Siemian within arm’s reach:
Trimble than hammered Jacob Schmidt:
… and celebrated a bit with Erzinger:
Kain Colter drops back to pass:
Steelman celebrates his first of three touchdowns in the north endzone with Will Wilson and Mike McDermott. As you can tell, the cadets wore patches honoring the 82nd Airborne Division:
Raymond Maples looks to get outside:
Another purple portrait, this time with Rich Ellerson:
Most of Steelman’s touchdowns resembled this, his face peeking outside a wall of bodies at the goaline:
Steelman dives for the endzone; he would score on the following play:
Trent loves to celebrate with co-captain Max Jenkins, and after his first touchdown, I had it all focused up:
Alex Carlton gets congratulated by Kolin Walk after nailing his final extra point. Carlton had missed a 24-yard field goal earlier in the game that would have made it a two-score game for Army:
Army went into victory formation and took a knee, sending the team racing onto the field as the final seconds ticked away. I followed the team across the field with my fisheye lens attached to my second camera, a Canon 1D Mark II set to ISo 1600. Here, Justin Schaaf hams it up for the video camera:
Huntoon walks off with the team, including kickoff specialist Eric Osteen:
Here’s some AP photos from the game
I can also report that I will soon be contributing images to US Presswire, one of the leading sports news photo agencies in the country. Probably the next game, for me.