Rutgers-Army, As It Happened

The effort level: Really good. The defensive performance: Fabulous. The special teams? Oh, that blocked punt was the single biggest play of the night. The level of execution? The famous John McKay anecdote tells the tale: When asked about the execution of his offense after a very frustrating game, the USC and Tampa Bay Bucs legend replied, "I'm all in favor of it."

14:00 left, first quarter: Terrific catch by Malcolm Brown, a highlight-reel job, but if Trent Steelman puts that ball softly in the breadbasket, it's a touchdown. Those details matter when you're Army and you're playing an opponent from a BCS conference. An A-plus play by Brown, but not quite an A-plus result.

12:45: Rutgers, welcome to the world of the triple option. Snooze on third and long, you lose. Kingsley Ehie says hello. It should be said that the threat of the forward pass—presented by the earlier 21-yard pass from Steelman to Brown—set up that fullback play. That's what a good mix can do, as Rich Ellerson knows quite well.

10:55: Rutgers stays disciplined this time.

10:40: Good for Alex Carlton, who continues his steady play this season. A 41-yarder isn't a piece of cake in these wet, slippery conditions at a rain-soaked Michie Stadium. 3-0, Army, in the early going.

10:32: The kicker, Matthew Campbell, with a saving tackle. File that one away on the kickoff return by Rutgers.

10:25: And there's your key to the game, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Army needs to get turnovers from the Scarlet Knights' freshman quarterback, Tom Savage. No fumble recovery, but already a favorable down and distance situation for the Black Knights.

9:04: So much for the favorable situation. A leaky secondary allows an easy conversion on third down and double-digit yards.

7:07: If Army's defensive front had been able to generate any semblance of pressure on 3rd and 7, that bad snap to Savage would have created an aborted play, but the utter absence of a pass rush enabled Savage to gather the ball without falling to the turf in a fetal position, and then complete a pass to move the sticks. Timing is everything so far, and Army doesn't have it.

6:10: You know what happened, of course, after those third-down failures by the defense. 7-3, Rutgers.

4:50: No replay, ESPN2, of that lateral? Horrible.

4:28: Good active coverage by Rutgers on the edge. That was a decent throw by Steelman, but Ali Villanueva got crowded toward the sideline, and it wasn't interference. Army can't be too upset about that result; good defense, not bad offense, produced the stand and a subsequent punt.

4:05: Now that's unacceptable on the part of Army cornerback Antuan Aaron. No awareness of the ball, and a nakedly inferior display of speed in the secondary. Tim Brown got open easily, and the Rutgers receiver gathered in a long bomb without much difficulty.

2:13: Speed and good angles produce that third-down red-zone stop for Army.  Guess who makes up for his mistake just moments earlier? Mr. Aaron. Well done, sir.

1:35: 10-3, Rutgers.

0:42: What's worth noticing on the two incomplete passes to Villanueva, on the pair of right-sideline go routes, is that Villanueva had his right hand near the ball, but could not free up his left hand to clasp the ball. Villanueva has to get both hands up and ready to grab the pigskin. His right hand is ready to catch, but his left hand isn't.

0:00: Oh, no. A lack of clean execution on the punt snap and reception creates a block and a gift touchdown for Rutgers as the period ends. Not a recommended move in a game where the Knights of Black have no margin for error against the Knights of Scarlet.

End of First Quarter Score: Rutgers 17, Army 3

13:37 left, second quarter: As Army receiver Damion Hunter gets wiped out on a quick hitch for a six-yard loss, it's clear that Rich Ellerson needs to employ misdirection and sleight-of-hand. Rutgers is reading Army's plays and imposing its physicality on the Black Knights. Army can't win this straight up, and there's no shame in realizing that. Army has to be smarter in order to win this game. Billy-basic ball won't cut it; wrinkles and change-ups need to be added to the mix.

11:24: Josh McNary displays excellent instincts on a Savage pass (it was ugly; literally savage as well as figuratively…), but he can't corral the ball; another really good effort that doesn't meet with a supremely satisfying outcome. That's what the Black Knights are up against this evening: They can't just make good plays; they need to produce jawdroppers in order to have a good chance of winning.

10:18: There's some WOW for the Brave Old Army Team. Steelman for 33 on a keeper that totally flummoxed Rutgers. The scamper involves the ingredients that need to come to the forefront: cleverness, finesse, and big-play potency. Army can't expect to mount 18-play, 93-yard drives; the Black Knights need home runs, and lots of them, to keep pace with the visitors from New Jersey.

8:47: A holding penalty. Not what the doctor ordered.

8:36: A fumble. Is there anything more to say? Actually, no. There isn't.

7:05: Army brings the blitz on 3rd and 14, but Rutgers easily picks it up and Savage throws a clean 16-yard strike. A broken record at this point in third-and-long situations for the home team.

5:40: The defense holds that (Long Gray) Line on 4th and inches, with Victor Ugenyi knocking back the Rutgers quarterback with Savage intensity. Maybe that will get the juices flowing for the offense; it bailed Steelman out of jail following his fumble. Let's see how a liberated lad performs on this upcoming offensive series…

4:12: Go for it, Ellerson on 4th and 2. Really, what do you have to lose?

1:11: That's definitely a coverage sack. Great work by the Army secondary; Savage wasn't initially pressured on a bootleg, but he was eventually swarmed by three black-shirted defenders. Army, though, can't get the ball back because Steelman used two timeouts earlier in the half.

0:43: This hasn't been a good night, and it just got worse. Ugenyi is down and being tended to by Army's training staff. After about five minutes, he's helped up, and then he walks off the field. Whew!

Halftime Score: Rutgers 17, Army 3.

Observations: Beyond the realm of the obvious (turnovers, home run plays, etc.), Army needs to be aggressive and creative. Black needs to use the speed of Scarlet as a weapon in this Knight fight; Ellerson needs to snooker Greg Schiano and find ways to spring people for game-breakers. A well-timed fake punt or onside kick might well be necessary as we go forward at West Point. The defense has held up its part of the bargain; without the blocked punt, it's 10-3, and Army's right in the thick of the fray. The Black Knights must compensate for that huge mistake with even more second-half magic. Getting an interception against Savage wouldn't hurt… whoops, that's the realm of the obvious. Let's play some second-half ball, shall we?

14:04 left, third quarter: Brown smokes Aaron on a downfield route, again.

13:36: The ball was loose for a second. Those plays have to start going Army's way.

12:16: Brown gets wide open as another third-and-long blitz fails to generate any pressure. Fortunately for the Black Knights, Brown drops the ball. Yes, Army won't mind getting a little help; Ellerson's outfit will need some.

12:10: Illegal formation on a failed Rutgers punt fake. There's more help; the Brave Old Army Team gets a heaping helping of field position. Christmas in October.

11:04: Patrick Mealy on the edges. Army's getting these value-added plays; can the Black Knights accumulate enough of them?

10:22: Rutgers offside on back-to-back snaps. More stocking stuffers for Ellerson and Co.

10:15: Lonnie Liggins strolls in from 17 yards out. Hmmmm….. quick drive? Check. Big chunks of yardage as opposed to small chunks? Check. Help from Rutgers? Check. 17-10, and it's game on at Michie Stadium!

8:29: Tim Brown is making a strong case for player of the game honors. His ability to get open in third-down passing situations is the biggest reason why Rutgers has been able to hold onto the ball and generally win the field position battle. Rutgers's offensive line has been solid, too, but it's Brown who is always managing to break free and give a clear target to Savage, his freshman quarterback.

7:22: Savage had seven points, and he somehow found a way to overthrow a receiver who was genuinely abandoned in the Army secondary. The Black Knights get more help from their Scarlet competitors.

6:35: Are you KIDDING ME?!? How much more action will those pipes at that end of Michie Stadium receive? Wasn't the Vanderbilt game enough???? 20-10, Rutgers. Sheesh.

  3:56: Terrible play call by Army, but Rutgers clearly lined up in the neutral zone, and it's amazing that no one on the Rutgers sideline noticed. More help is coming from the most generous and altruistic visitors from Piscataway. Santa Schiano still sees his men handing out gifts!

2:13: Ehie fumbles. So much for the one-way gift giving. Army hands Rutgers a precious plum of a pigskin. That occurred at the Rutgers 34, folks. The Black Knights were so close to making it a 20-17 game; Ehie probably would have made the first down there on 3rd and 2.

1:16: Army's Stephen Anderson comes THISCLOSE to a pick-six. Still, a great series by Army's defense, which—remember—has conceded only one touchdown tonight and 13 net points.

0:20: That's a fullback losing the ball on a modest hit. Atrocious. Brad Gallik (wearing No. 40, not No. 29) coughs up the pill. Rutgers has allowed Army to stay within striking distance, but the Black Knights refuse to narrow the scoreboard margin. The agonizing aspect of this game—like so many this decade—is that these Army errors are not being forced by incredible defensive plays; they're the result of insufficient execution and inadequate fundamentals.

End of Third Quarter Score: Rutgers 20, Army 10

14:18 left, fourth quarter: That's not on Army's defense, and kudos to ESPN2 play-by-play man Joe Tessitore for immediately saying as much on his call of this national broadcast. 27-10, Rutgers.

 10:56: One's tempted to say this is getting away from Army, but that happened on the Gallik fumble; this is just add-on material now.

8:38: That's clearly a fumble. Will we get a review and an overturn of the call?

8:38: Yes, and yes. The only people who are really, really, really worked up about that play are the ones in Las Vegas. (Check the line for this game.)

7:44: It's really cool that the Michie end zone has "West Point" and not "Army" or "Black Knights". That's a great change-up! Yes, I'm acting like a commentator who's trying to fill time in a decisive game midway through the fourth quarter.

5:03: Army's defense still competing very, very hard and well. Hats off to those guys, who have earned hearty applause tonight.

3:55: Chip Bowden is in at quarterback.

3:28: A thought on using Ali Villanueva: Throw the stop-fade to his back shoulder. Have Villanueva use his height and overall size to box out smaller cornerbacks, basketball-style. The pure go route doesn't work for him. Fades or jump balls are better—throw the ball with loft and arc, not length and the flatter trajectory that accompanies length.

0:00: The effort level: Really good. The defensive performance: Fabulous. The special teams? Oh, that blocked punt was the single biggest play of the night. The level of execution? The famous John McKay anecdote tells the tale: When asked about the execution of his offense after a very frustrating game, the USC and Tampa Bay Bucs legend replied, "I'm all in favor of it."

Final Score: Rutgers 27, Army 10. 
 


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