With the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy still up in the air, all three of the major service academies—Army, Navy and Air Force—will conduct "Senior Day" at home games this weekend.
Senior Day is special at the academies because not only is it the last time each group of seniors will play on their home field, all involved know that a year from now the players will be commissioned officers in the U.S. Armed Services. Despite the talent several of them possess, none of these players will have a chance at the NFL until they have completed most, if not all, of their five-year service commitments.
For the first time in memory, Air Force is out of the Commander-in-Chief race, having lost to both Navy in October at home and at West Point earlier this month. With the prized trophy going to the winner, Army and Navy will play in Philadelphia on December 8th in what should be a great matchup.
To say Army is anxious to break Navy's 10-year winning streak and win the CIC Trophy is a major understatement. Saturday's game between Temple and Army should give a good indication whether West Point is ready to play the type of game they did in wins against Boston College and Air Force and a close loss to Northern Illinois. The Army defense—built mostly on freshmen and sophomores—is maturing every week. Once the greatest weakness, defense of line is now becoming a strength.
This day will be special for Army because it is the last home game at Michie Stadium for 22 seniors. One of them, Trent Steelman, has started almost every game for four years and holds a host of West Point records. The Bowling Green, Kentucky native is the Academy leader for quarterbacks in rushing attempts with 735, rushing yards with 3,085, rushing touchdowns with 41 and points scored with 250. Two more touchdowns would allow Steelman to tie the West Point record for career touchdowns of 43 held by 1946 Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis.
What you don't see from Trent Steelman is the toughness that has allowed him to take even more hits on his body during the 735 rushing attempts. In the Army option offense, the quarterback's job is to hold on to the ball as long as possible before pitching out to one of the slot-backs. The quarterback takes a shot even without the ball. Steelman just keeps on rising from the hits and encouraging his teammates on both side of the ball.
Here is a preview of the three service academy games this week:
The Air Force Falcons (5-5) take on Hawaii (1-8) at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Friday night at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
This is Air Force’s final home game of the 2012 season, and they will showcase their No. 2-ranked rushing offense versus a struggling Hawaii team. QB Connor Dietz has been very impressive through the air, posting a 167.4 passer rating, which has backed defenses off the line of scrimmage. He can also use his speed to make plays on the ground, accumulating 606 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Senior RB Cody Getz is ranked 18th in the nation with his 111.8 yards rushing per game.
Offensively, the Falcons will seek to continue to sustain drives by converting third downs. They are eighth in the country with a 51.8 third-down conversion percentage. They average nearly 31 points per game and will play a terrible Hawaii defense that has allowed just over 43 points per game.
The Army Black Knights (2-8) battle the Temple Owls (3-6), who have lost their last four games, at Michie Stadium in New York on Nov. 17 at noon on the CBS Sports Network.
This will be the last home game for Army’s 22 seniors, including QB Trent Steelman, who surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season with his 102-yard performance last week against Rutgers. His touchdown brought him within two of legendary Glenn Davis’ school record of 43. Junior RB Raymond Maples, who looks to join Steelman as a 1,000-yard rusher, enters the game with 965 yards on the ground.
Look for those two to lead Army’s No. 1-ranked ground games versus the Owls’ No. 77-ranked defense. The Black Knights’ rushing attack has been explosive all year, averaging 366 yards per game, but their defense has been the surprising story over the past two weeks. They gave up an average of 295 yards over that span, playing against the high-powered offenses of Air Force and Rutgers. They also have four interceptions over the last two weeks.
Temple has struggled on offense in 2012, averaging only 293 yards of offense per game, which ranks No. 118 in the country.
The Navy Midshipmen (6-4) are home against the Texas State Bobcats (3-6) on Nov. 17 at 3:30 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network
The Midshipmen seniors are playing their final home game this weekend. They are the No. 6-ranked rushing offense in the nation, averaging 274 yards per game. Senior RB Gee Gee Greene leads the attack with 679 yards rushing with an incredible 7.5 yards per carry. Freshman QB Keenan Reynolds has been impressive through the air and on the ground. He’s thrown for 719 yards and eight touchdowns and has rushed for 535 yards and nine more scores.
Navy’s No. 45-ranked pass defense will be challenged by Texas State senior QB Shaun Rutherford, who has proven to be an accurate passer, completing 64.5 percent of this throws for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns with only three interceptions. Texas State and former Navy slot-back Marcus Curry, who has rushed for 513 yards, an average of 6.1 yards per carry and nine scores, leads the Bobcats’ ground game.
Chris Eberhart contributed to the game previews in this article. Ken Kraetzer covers Army football and Iona basketball for WVOX 1460 AM in New Rochelle, New York and Sons of the American Legion radio.