Air Force-Army: Showdown On The Hudson

Ken KraetzerCorrespondent IINovember 5, 2010

DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 25:  Trent Steelman #8 of the Army Black Knights runs with the ball against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

This Saturday, about an hour north of New York City in the picturesque Hudson Valley, 40,000 fans at sold out West Point's Michie Stadium will witness the intense rivalry between two of the nation's service academies as 5-3 Army will host 5-4 Air Force.

This is the first of the Commander In Chief games for Army which has not beaten Air Force over the past four seasons since a 27-24 win at Colorado Springs in 2005.  

This season, on October 2nd, Air Force defeated Navy 14-6 in Colorado in the first of these hotly contested rivalry contests.  All at the service academies look forward to these games which feature spirit videos on the scoreboards provided from bases around the world, flyovers by military aircraft, and lots of VIPs in attendance. 

Army is planning to wear special uniforms for this game reflecting the dress gray uniforms worn by the Corps of Cadets at West Point.

Both teams have aggressive option running games.  Air Force is the second leading ground team in the NCAA with 313 yards per game, Army having fully implemented its option offense this season is averaging 281 yards seventh best in the country. 

The Black Knights have been led by steady sophomore Quarterback Trent Steelman from Bowling Green, Kentucky, who has run for touchdowns in Army's last six games, while not throwing an interception on the season. 

Transfer from Air Force, sophomore Jared Hassin from Delafeld, Wisconsin, has played very well for the Black Knights topping 100 yards the past three games, averaging 83 yards per game on the year,and scoring eight touchdowns.  He has also become Steelman's favorite target for passes out of the back field catching nine balls in the past four games for 127 yards.

Army, ranked 27th in the country in rushing defense letting up just 118 yards per game, is led by senior nose tackle Mike Gann from Roswell, Georgia, and senior defensive end Josh McNary from Houston, Texas. The 235 pound McNary holds the West Point record for tackles for a loss at 48.5 and has 9.5 of the teams 21 quarterback sacks on the year.

West Point goes into the game after last week's 29-7 win over VMI at home. This contest witnessed the Black Knights wearing camouflage helmets, jerseys and pants, rushed for a season high 316 yards and two touchdowns. 

QB Trent Steelman scored on a one yard plunge in the first quarter, his ninth rushing touchdown on the season.  This was the sixth straight game that Steelman has scored a rushing TD for West Point. 

Jared Hassin scored the second TD on a 38-yard run down the right side in the second quarter.  Hassin ran for a career high 158 yards on 14 carries, his third straight game of 100 plus yards.

Junior place kicker Alex Carleton from Wilmington, Delaware, had a strong game with field goals of 43 and 41 yards.

On the defensive side, the Black Knights generated a safety against VMI when the Keydets were called for holding in their own end zone in the second quarter. 

Late in the game senior defensive back Donovan Travis from Glendale, Arizona, intercepted a VMI pass at his own 21 yard line, ran the ball over midfield to the 42, where he lateraled the ball to teammate Jordan Trimble from Ashburn, Virgina, who evaded VMI tacklers to reach the end zone for Army's final TD of the game.

Travis led the defense with six solo tackles in the game followed by senior linebacker Stephen Anderson, the inspirational leader of this team from Ijamsville, Maryland, who had six on the day.

After the VMI game, Army head coach Rich Ellerson was frowning for a brief moment about the lateral on the interception play in his post game remarks because he preaches ball control and "winning the turnover battle" to his players. 

Coach Ellerson was very pleased with the victory which gives Army five wins, as many as all of last season, and one shy of making Army bowl eligible for the first time since 1996.

Many West Point fans fans believe this is the year that their team catches up to its service academy rivals.  To do so, Army, a team which has played well on the road, will need to "play in the moment" as Coach Ellerson often says and not get caught up in the excitement of the day.