Army Football: Inside Slant

"We don't have the storybook ending that we all wished for and wanted, but we did everything to set it up," Ellerson said after the Army-Navy game.


The Black Knights didn't get to the postseason but made progress in coach Rich Ellerson's first season.

Army won five games, coming within a victory of making it to the program's first bowl game in 13 years. In the end, a 3-0 halftime lead against rival Navy turned into a 17-3 defeat as Army failed to score a touchdown against Navy for the third consecutive season.

Army settled for a 5-7 record after almost making it the EagleBank Bowl against Temple.

"We don't have the storybook ending that we all wished for and wanted, but we did everything to set it up," Ellerson said after the game. "There is nothing I can do right now to help with this horrible feeling of hurt, but it's not going to be too long before we start to reflect and appreciate how far we've come."

A win over Navy would have been a major step, but that doesn't mean the Knights didn't make great strides in Ellerson's first year.

"There won't be a greater feeling than being able to beat Navy and just be able to go a bowl game," said quarterback Trent Steelman, who started every game in his freshman season.

The Black Knights were 3-6 after nine games but then beat lower-division VMI and North Texas to get to 5-6, allowing them to have thoughts of a bowl game. But they just weren't talented enough to keep from losing the program's eighth consecutive game to Navy.


GAME OF THE YEAR: Army 16, Vanderbilt 13 (OT) -- Alex Carlton kicked a 42-yard field goal and Andrew Rodriguez forced a fumble in overtime as the Black Knights moved to 3-3 with a win over an SEC team that had won the Music City Bowl a season earlier.

QB Trent Steelman -- He started all 12 games as a freshman, running for 706 yards and five touchdowns and passing for 637 yards and three TDs. He threw two interception on 110 attempts. Navy players said he was tipping dive plays in the season finale, but he'll learn.

DE Josh McNary -- The junior was in on 65 tackles and ended the regular season tied for second in the country with 22.5 stops for loss. He was also fourth in the nation in sacks, with 12.5.

FAST FORWARD: The Black Knights had won two straight and led Navy at halftime with the chance to go bowling. They didn't get there, but the 5-7 record in Rich Ellerson's first year is certainly a step in the right direction. Ellerson has a cornerstone quarterback in Trent Steelman, but needs to put more skill around him. Army has to replace its top wideout -- 6-foot-10 Alejandro Villanueva, who had 34 catches for 522 yards and all five of the team's receiving touchdowns.

RECRUITING TRAIL: You never really know what the service academies have coming in. had Army with five recruits, including three-star center A.J. McGovern from Plymouth, Pa. The Black Knights' win at North Texas, in a state in which Army loves to recruit, can only help bring in more players for 2010.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's what we strive at every year, just coming out and having a winning season, getting this thing turned around and bringing back the tradition Army football had for so long." -- Army quarterback Trent Steelman, after the season-ending loss to Navy.


QB Trent Steelman -- He started all 12 games as a true freshman and will lead the offense next year. His five wins this season were the most ever by an Army freshman quarterback. "In the next three years, we are going to be something to stop," Steelman promised after the Navy game.

DE Josh McNary -- He had 22.5 tackles for loss this season, tied for second in the country, and his 12.5 sacks were fourth in the nation.

LB Andrew Rodriguez -- He led the Black Knights in tackles with 85 and also had two interceptions, two forced fumbles, two recoveries, three pass breakups and five passes defended.

SL Pat Mealy -- He ran for 673 yards three touchdowns this season.

WR Alejandro Villanueva -- Army has no pro prospects for the immediate future, as all players have a two-year service commitment following their eligibility. But keep an eye on Villanueva for the future. There has already been talk of the 6-10 former offensive tackle having a pro future, perhaps at tight end.

--K Alex Carlton finished the season 18-for-24 on field goal attempts, with a long of 51.

--S Donovan Travis was in on 71 tackles and had four of Army's 13 interceptions.

--QB Trent Steelman sustained a cracked rib in the second quarter of the Navy game and played the rest of the game. "I've been playing a little banged up all year," he said. "It's just part of me. I fight through that stuff."

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