Army 31, Eastern Michigan 27

Heavily favored Army avoided being upset by Eastern Michigan when the Cadets rallied late on a Jared Hassin touchdown with 38 seconds left to pull out the victory 31-27. It was the second consecutive season opening win over the Eastern Michigan for the Black Knights. Eastern Michigan is still seeking its first victory under second year head coach Ron English.

Jared Hassin scored three touchdowns in his Army debut. Hassin, the highly touted Air Force transfer, had an inauspicious start as he fumbled his first carry after taking a huge hit from the Eagle's Tim Fort. Fortunately Army slot back Patrick Mealy recovered the fumble. Hassin spent the rest of the game demonstrating the quickness and leg drive that had the coaching staff excited about him. He finished the game with 68 yards on twelve carries. Coach Rich Ellerson said, "This was his debut. He'll be a lot better than however he is now."

Eastern Michigan scored with starling ease on its first possession of the game. The Eagles unleashed their new offense that featured jet motion handoffs and misdirection. The Black Knights had no answers on defense as mobile quarterback Alex Gillett and running back Dwayne Priest moved the Eagles down the field. Eastern Michigan ran the ball on 10 of its 11 plays. To make matters worse whip linebacker Nate Combs, who was replacing Andrew Rodriguez, was injured and missed the rest of the contest. In the Eagle's only pass attempt Army rover Steve Erzinger committed a costly third down penalty for face guarding. Eastern Michigan scored three plays later on a Dwayne Priest five-yard run to take an early 7-0 lead.

Army produced two first downs on its opening series before being forced to punt. A nice punt by Jonathan Bulls pinned the Eagles at their own five. Two plays later Army's new tackle, Jarrett Mackey, forced a fumble that Josh Jackson recovered at the Eagles fifteen yard line. Four plays later Jared Hassin scored his first touchdown to tie the score at seven.

On the next defensive series, which featured the Black Knight first sack of the year, they stopped the Eagles on downs. After Army's slot back Malcolm Brown used his speed to gain 15 yards and a first down the drive was interrupted with a power outage at Rynearson Stadium. When play resumed Army produced two first downs before the drive stalled and they attempted a 41-yard field goal. Black Knight kicker Alex Carlton suffered hisown power outage as his field goal attempt fell way short of the goal post.

The next series Eastern Michigan quarterback Alex Gillett once again broke containment and showed his speed on a twenty-nine yard run. On the next play the Eagles went for it all as Gillett attempted a seam route pass to a receiver. Army's ball hawking free safety, Donovan Travis, intercepted the pass and returned it thirty yards.

Army moved the ball fifty-five yards on a thirteen play scoring drive that ended with another Jared Hassin three-yard touchdown run to give Army a 14-7 lead. The key play of the series was Pat Mealy's 19-yard reception on third and 18 to keep the drive alive. In addition to that reception, Mealy led Army with 81 rushing yards. The off season speed work that Mealy did, discussed in our feature Army Strong Part II, was fully evident as Patrick was noticeably faster this game.

Army's pooch kickoff with forty seconds left in half backfired as the Eagles return man Corey Welch returned the short kick 26 yards to the Army 39. It took Eastern Michigan only four running plays to tie the score. The Eagles ran right at the Black Knights flex defense which had no answers. The defensive performance was a far cry from last year's team that finished the season ranked 16th in the nation. The Black Knights really seemed to miss graduated Victor Ugenyi's size at tackle and injured whip linebacker Andrew Rodriguez who called the defensive signals. Poor, shoddy tackling was a problem for the defense most of the game as they allowed the Eagles 285 rushing yards.

Army opened the second half with the triple option clicking on all cylinders. Army drove 75 yards in nine plays as it attacked an EMU defense that finished last in rush defense in 2009. Pat Mealy's 11 yard touchdown run gave Army a 21-14 lead. On the ensuing kickoff Army's Bill Prosko forced a fumble and recovered it. A poor pitch by Trent Steelman behind Malcolm Brown to open the series was fortunately recovered by Brown but effectively ended the drive. Army settled for an Alex Carlton field goal from 42 yards to take a 24-14 lead and seemingly control of game.

However this was not last year's Army defense on Saturday night. Eastern Michigan took the kickoff and drove 74 yards on eleven plays. The drive featured 10 running plays and ended with an Alex Gillett one yard touchdown run. The Eagles new kicker Jay Karutz missed a critical extra point as Army's lead was narrowed to 24-20.

Army responded with a drive of its own. New slot back Brian Cobbs showed his terrific speed in breaking off a 39-yard run. Cobbs finished the game with 60 yards on three carries. The drive ended when Trent Steelman made another poor pitch that was recovered by the Eagles.

After allowing a first down Army defense finally forced its first punt of the night. Army offense took over at its own 13-yard-line. After two Pat Mealy runs set up a third and one, a series of mistakes nearly cost Army the victory. On third down Trent Steelman quick snapped to take advantage of the center Zach Peterson being uncovered. It would have worked except Army was correctly whistled for illegal motion. The five yard penalty set up a pass attempt that Steelman badly under threw to a wide open George Jordan forcing a punt. Bulls hit a line drive punt that hit and rolled sixty yards. Army was called for illegal punt formation in that they didn't have seven players at line of scrimmage. After the five yard penalty Bulls ensuing punt was shanked and only went 26 yards. Army was once again penalized for illegal punt formation and the five yard penalty gave Eastern Michigan the ball at the Army 33. It took Eastern Michigan nine plays to drive 33 yards and take the lead (27-24) on a Gillett 10 yard touchdown pass to tight end Ben Thayer.

With only 2:55 left in game and 72 yards to go Army was staring at a potentially devastating opening game loss. The Black Knights responded to the challenge. They drive opened with a 16 yard pass to wide receiver George Jordan. Slot back Malcolm Brown, who had an excellent game, took a pitch 13 yards. Brian Cobbs took another pitch 11 yards and Army was in business at the Eagles 32 with two minutes left. Disaster almost struck when another poor pitch by Steelman bounced behind the pitch back. This time Steelman was able to gather the lose pitch and run across field for a seven yard gain to advert potential disaster. Three plays later Steelman broke for a 14 yard run that nearly went the distance. The next play Army ran a counter with fullback Jared Hassin who scored his third touchdown and gave Army a 31-27 lead.

After the kickoff, Gillette put the ball in Army territory. Gillette attempted to hit his receiver Tyrone Burke in the end zone. Richard King had him blanketed but as the pass hit the ground they stumbled over each other's feet. Only to the MAC referees, who have whistled Army with some mysterious calls the last few years, is that a penalty. The penalty moved the Eagles 15 yards closer with three seconds left. Gillette's last desperate heave under pressure from Josh McNary fell incomplete through the back of the end zone. You could almost hear Army fans everywhere breathe a collective sigh of relief as Army held on for the 31-27 win.

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