Scouting Army: Q&A with coach Rich Ellerson

Rutgers has won the last six games against Army and enters Saturday's game against the Black Knights as a seven-point favorite. It is a home game for the Scarlet Knights despite it kicking off at 2 p.m. at the New Meadowlands Stadium. On Tuesday, Army held its weekly press conference with coach Rich Ellerson, who talks in depth about the challenge Rutgers presents for his squad.

Scouting Army
Kickoff: 2 p.m., New Meadowlands Stadium, ESPN3
Record: 4-2
Coach: Rich Ellerson (9-9, second season, 69-50, 11th overall)
Offense: Triple-option
Defense: Flex
Key players: QB Trent Steelman, FB Jared Hassin, SB Malcolm Brown, C Zach Peterson, WR Austin Barr, DE Josh McNary, MLB Stephen Anderson, ROV Steve Erzinger, CB Richard King

Rutgers hosts Army on Saturday at the New Meadowlands Stadium, and Black Knights coach Rich Ellerson held his weekly press conference Tuesday. Here is what he had to say:

Opening statement:
"We're excited to play. We face a tremendous challenge in Rutgers this week. They're a football team that, we sense, is playing with a bit of a chip on its shoulder. They're starting to find themselves offensively, and that can mean an awful lot of things.

"With (Chas) Dodd getting the start last week and playing as well as he did, and as resourceful as they've been with their personnel throughout the season, their offense can come at you in a lot of different ways.

"Defensively, they're a nightmare. They're ranked nationally in everything. They're a veteran group that's very, very physical. They're not strangers to the option. They're not strangers to ourselves and Navy. They've had great success since coach (Greg) Schiano has been there against the (option) offense.

"We have our work cut out for us. They're a very aggressive team in the kicking game. They make plays consistently week in and week out on that side of the ball as well. They're a complete football team and we're going to have to function in every phase of the game to have a chance."

On the difference of Rutgers' offense with Chas Dodd at quarterback:
"Well, they're still running their offense. The offense doesn't change because they have a different guy at quarterback, but his legs did jump up. You saw that they might be a little bit more aggressive with his legs than maybe they were with (Tom) Savage's early in the season.

"They may not be as reliant on the 'wildcat' as they have been, but that's certainly been a big part of them. I think the impressive thing was how poised and how well-schooled he was within the framework of that system. He was able to go out and get a win for them against a very good football team."

On Army's unorthodox defense against a freshman quarterback:
"The challenge for us defensively, yeah we're a little bit different, but we have to make sure we're not fooling ourselves, which has sometimes been our challenge. When we've struggled a little bit defensively this year is when we've been the ones who have been out of our comfort zone. We have to play our game and play our defense.

"We feel like the system matches up, but that doesn't mean the guys do if they don't have their eyes and feet where they belong and are confident in what they're doing. They do some things, system-wise, that they don't have to look too deep into their playbook to find some good ideas if they watch our game tape this year. There are some things they do very well that we have struggled with this year.

"We have to build a fence around those things and anticipate where they might go with the emergence of Dodd at quarterback, but with the flexibility to get into some of the 'wildcat' things they do with (Mohamed) Sanu. It's a real challenge."

On leading the nation in turnover margin:
"We attack the football. We take great pride in that on the defensive side of the ball with our defensive personnel. On the flip side of that equation, we take great pride in our fundamentals associated with the football on offense. We share the same practice environment. The football team identified that as an area that we wanted to excel in.

"We understand that correlates with success. That correlates with winning like no other box score statistic. The men have taken that to heart and you see that ball awareness all over the football field, both in the kicking game and on defense."

On problems Rutgers offense creates for Army's defense:
"Some of the things they do in terms of their plays and how they structure their offense and how they use their personnel, some of those things, are some of the things we struggled with going back to Eastern Michigan and against Temple. They have the ability to be very physical at the point of attack. They run well on offense and they can air it out."

On challenges Rutgers defense presents:
"It's going to be a real challenge. We feel like we're saying the same thing every week, but this is not every week. These guys are nationally ranked in everything. They're well-schooled. They'll have a well-thought-out plan and a proven approach to what we do offensively, and they're well-personneled for it.

"It's a veteran, talented outfit that takes great pride in how they play on that side of the ball. It's going to be a real challenge. We're playing well offensively. We're doing some good things offensively, but we're still not quite the juggernaut that we could be, we think we can be. We're still growing into that. There are some things different about what we're doing offensively.

"Our opponents talk about that and so do we because, frankly, some of these things are new to us. We're doing some things in combination that complement one another differently than what we've done in the past. We're discovering some things about ourselves, and some capabilities that we have that hadn't been explored here before."

On dealing with Rutgers' speed:
"It's more than the speed. Certainly, they run well and they're an athletic outfit, but it's how physical they are. They're obviously a very well-schooled, gifted group up front, but they play very, very aggressively. They're very well-schooled.

"Their safeties are linebackers anywhere else. They run like safeties, but they hit like everybody else's linebackers. It's a good defensive football team. It's not an accident that they're ranked in virtually every defensive category."

On comparing Army's game against Tulane to Rutgers' game against Tulane:
"If you start comparing scores, you can talk yourself into and out of every game you'll ever be in. You just have to believe what you see when you turn on the tape and watch them play. They're a very gifted football team. We were really fortunate at Tulane. We benefited from great field position, and we capitalized on a lot of that, but not all of it.

"In the Tulane-Rutgers game, Rutgers hurt themselves repeatedly with penalties. Physically, in that game and every game, they're an impressive outfit. They're growing. They've suffered through some injuries and they've shown themselves to be resourceful in coming up with solutions. That was demonstrated with them beating a very good UConn team last week."

On the play of Army quarterback Trent Steelman:
"There's no doubt he's growing and getting better. It's incremental at this stage of the game. I don't think you're going to see any giant leaps forward, but he's an accomplished quarterback with what we do. He sees the game better each time up.

"There are some things about this last game that had him talking to himself. He didn't feel like he played as well as he has or as well as he could have. This football team has high expectations for itself. It doesn't cut itself any slack. It doesn't celebrate being close. They expect to be right, and Trent's very much of that mind. He expects to be right. He expects to be right all the time.

"Frankly, it's going to take something like that this week."

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