The home opener for the West Point Black Knights against the San Diego State Aztecs fell on the day before the 10th anniversary.
The theme of the day was "A Salute to Heroes" with many police, firemen, emergency workers and military members on hand as guests.
Among the special guest was Rudolph Giuliani, the mayor of New York City during the 9-11 attacks and was credited with having demonstrated extraordinary leadership during the days and months which followed.
A Medal of Honor recipient was recognized during the game as were numerous soldiers recently returned from overseas service.
The game itself saw a meeting of bowl winning teams from 2010 located from about as far apart in the continental US as is possible.
San Diego State was coming a win over Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl and Army its thrilling win over SMU in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl meet for the first time turned out to be a dandy going down to the last minute.
The game was played on a sunny and warm Saturday in the Hudson Valley, a pleasure for fans and players a like after torrential rain during the preceding week.
The game ended with a great example of sportsmanship and respect.
After hurricanes, an earthquake, and more rain, Game Day at West Point, September 10, 2011 was a beautiful sunny warm late summer day in the Hudson Valley.
More than a few have said that Michie Stadium is one of the most scenic places to watch a college football game in the country.
It is not the biggest stadium at just under 40,000 capacity, but the view from the top of the upper deck across West Point and the Hudson River is stunning.
Group tailgating is big at West Point with elaborate set-ups on Buffalo Soldier Field across from the Thayer Hotel.
What is neat is when the Cadet Spirit Band comes over and performs "On Brave, Old Army Team" and "Army Strong" for all the guests.
Quite often families of the Cadets will sponsor the tailgates and provide some home cooking off the barbecue for their son or daughter and their friends.
A fun place before Army games is Black Knights Alley which is located between the east stands and the reservoir.
For several hours before the games, there are Army equipment demonstrations, face painting, merchandise sales, games, music, and food.
Our friends Bob Outer and John Minko do a live radio show from the Alley for 90 minutes before the game broadcast to military bases around the world.
Several of the Army athletic teams sign autographs for fans each game day in Black Knight Alley. A delight for young fans attending the game.
Normally the game ball comes into Michie Stadium from the air with the Cadet Parachute Team.
Saturday the game ball was simply presented by the First Captain of the Corps of Cadets to the game official.
This year the First Captain is Charlie Phelps, from Woodinville, Washington, who was named to the Academy’s highest cadet position on Aug. 8.
The First Captain, visible leading the Cadets at parades and graduation, is responsible for the overall performance of the approximately 4,400-member Corps of Cadets.
The West Point Band has been performing since the era of the Revolutionary War.
They perform concerts throughout the year at West Point and the community around the Hudson Valley.
On game days they begin their performance by performing a march in honor of the visiting team.
For the National Anthem ceremony, several hundred Cadets will march out onto the field in their company formations.
At West Point their are four regiments composed of companies of about 150 students each.
The companies have student from each class year and they line up formation together each morning before marching off to breakfast at Washington Hall.
In the cool weather, the Cadets wear jackets that will display the varsity letters they have earned as athletes.
West Point band performs National Anthem with Regiment of Cadets standing in formation organized by their companies.
As you can imagine their are many many veterans in the stands at West Point games. It is neat to see them offer a salute.
Those who have not served in the military show respect by placing their hand over their hearts during the National Anthem.
It is a tradition at Michie Stadium that the players run out onto the field through a line of cadets.
They are led out of the tunnel by flag carriers and their cheerleaders called the "Rabble Rousers".
Each week the players will carry out onto the field a flag from the Army division or branch that they wear a patch for that day on their uniform.
This week because of the 9-11 commemoration, an American Flag which had flown at Ground Zero was brought to West Point and sophomore #36 Jon Crucitti had the honor of running it out on to the field.
Steve Erzinger has developed into an invaluable defensive foundation for the Black Knights.
In the opening game of the season, senior captain made 21 tackles, he was literally all over the field against Northern Illinois.
Of those, 3.5 of his tackles resulted in losses. So far he is the only player in the nation to achieve over 20 tackles in one game this young season.
With return on #42 Andrew Rodriquez, the Black Knights have a solid nucleus in the middle of their defense.
Andrew Rodrquez played his first game back at Michie Stadium on Saturday after missing the entire 2010 season with a serious back injury.
In 2009 West Point's "AROD" was the leading tackler for the team with 85 tackles of which 40 were solo.
The coaches brought him along slowly during the preseason working him carefully back to full speed.
Now he is often pairing with fellow senior and Steve Erzinger to cover the middle of the Black Knight "Second Row".
Both Rodriquez and Erzinger serve as Captains of the team along with back-up QB Max Jenkins.
Army has a strong kick off specialist in junior Eric Osteen who routinely boots the ball into the end zone. The Aztecs Colin Lockett decided to keep this one in the end zone for a touchback.
On the opening play for San Diego State, Ronnie Hillman carried the ball for 12 yards to the Army 32.
On just the second play from scrimmage, Aztec quarterback Ryan Lindley unloaded a ball deep down field that was caught by #24 Colin Lockett for a 68 yard scoring play.
San Diego State had a 7-0 lead just 32 seconds into the game.
Junior Trent Steelman lined up as quarterback starting his 26th straight game for the Black Knights.
Army moved the ball across mid-field to the SDSU 44 yard line where freshman fullback Larry Dixon fumbled the ball which was recovered by the Aztecs at their own 42.
SDSU caused Army to fumble eight times in the game of which the Aztecs recovered three times, the difference in the game.
The Army defense came back onto the field after the fumble needing to make a stop. After giving up two first downs, on 4th and 12 at the Army 38, SDSU punted to the Army 9 yard line.
For their second possession of the game, Army came out led by their junior center #66 the formidable 285 pound Will Wilson from Great Falls, Virginia.
There is a lot to like about Cadet Wilson who brings much needed size to the middle of the offensive line. Coach Ellerson talks about the "poise" Wilson has shown so far.
A Trent Steelman fumble led to the Aztecs taking over at the Army 27.
In just three plays starting at the Army 27 yard line, the Aztecs were able to convert the Army mistake into six points on Ronnie Hillman 12 yard run.
With the extra point, San Diego State had a 14-0 lead.with 5:33 left in the first quarter.
Junior quarterback Trent Steelman has started every game for Army since his arrival as a plebe in 2009.
He has demonstrated leadership in working with upperclassman and the ability to run the option offense often taking the ball himself in crucial situations.
A native of Bowling Green, Kentucky is a country music fan.
#68 is Army senior offensive tackle Mike McDermott from Stewertsville, NJ.
He bring experience having been a key reserve player in 2009 and 2010.
At 6"6' and 269 pounds he brings size to the line as he is a key blocker in the option offense.
The Black Knights started their comeback on the next possession at their own 29 yard line.
Trent Steelman engineered a drive down field led by his own 28 yard run to the SDSU 28.
#20 Nate Berhe, a sophomore from Colton, CA makes this play for the Aztecs.
After marching down the field, Steelman lines-up with three backs behind him the backfield.
The Black Knights culminate an 11 play 71 yard drive with a 1 yard dive up the middle by Trent Steelman his first of three scores for Army.
#22 Nate Combs is providing depth to the WHIP linebacker position working with Andrew Rodriquez. He is a Junior from New Albany, Indiana.
As part of the "Salute to heroes program" Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry was introduced as "Guest of Honor" on the field during a break in play. The crowd gave him a standing oviation. His citation reads:
Staff Sergeant Leroy A. Petry
United States Army
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Staff Sergeant Leroy A. Petry distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy in the vicinity of Paktya Province, Afghanistan, on May 26, 2008.
As a Weapons Squad Leader with D Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Staff Sergeant Petry moved to clear the courtyard of a house that potentially contained high-value combatants.
While crossing the courtyard, Staff Sergeant Petry and another Ranger were engaged and wounded by automatic weapons fire from enemy fighters. Still under enemy fire, and wounded in both legs, Staff Sergeant Petry led the other Ranger to cover.
He then reported the situation and engaged the enemy with a hand grenade, providing suppression as another Ranger moved to his position.
The enemy quickly responded by maneuvering closer and throwing grenades. The first grenade explosion knocked his two fellow Rangers to the ground and wounded both with shrapnel.
A second grenade then landed only a few feet away from them.
Instantly realizing the danger, Staff Sergeant Petry, unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his safety, deliberately and selflessly moved forward, picked up the grenade, and in an effort to clear the immediate threat, threw the grenade away from his fellow Rangers.
As he was releasing the grenade it detonated, amputating his right hand at the wrist and further injuring him with multiple shrapnel wounds.
Although picking up and throwing the live grenade grievously wounded Staff Sergeant Petry, his gallant act undeniably saved his fellow Rangers from being severely wounded or killed.
Despite the severity of his wounds, Staff Sergeant Petry continued to maintain the presence of mind to place a tourniquet on his right wrist before communicating the situation by radio in order to coordinate support for himself and his fellow wounded Rangers.
Staff Sergeant Petry's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service, and reflect great credit upon himself, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the United States Army."
As play resumed, Army started on their own 18 yard line. Steelman led the Black Knights on a drive up the field.
Trent Steelman's second score of the game for Army was on an 11 yard run culminating an 15 play 82 yard drive. The Black Knights tie the game with 6:53 left in the first half.
#65 Derek Bisgard is a junior offensive tackle from Scottsdale, Arizona. #1 Malcolm Brown is off to a great start on the season for Army as a starting slot back.
The junior from Philadelphia, PA is averaging 8.9 yards per carry and 84.5 yards per game.
The Corps of Cadets moved to the east stands of Michie Stadium last season where they sit right behind the opponents bench area.
They are also more visible to television viewers from this position.
They stand through the game and make quite a presence in their summer white uniforms or later in the year when they wear their camouflage uniforms to the games.
#76 is Robert Kava, a 255 pound offensive guard from American Samoa. Has played in prior seasons against Iowa State and VMI.
Late in first half, the Aztecs threatened for another score as QB Ryan Lindley arched a throw deep down the left. 24 Colin Lockett had the Army defense beat but could not hold to the reception.
Army Jack is the subject of much lore at West Point. Every year the Midshipmen at Navy plot to provide him an unscheduled visit to their Academy.
Jack is loyally at every Army game and makes friends with all the young visitors and even the gray haired veterans.
His ancestors served the Army well as a key means of transporting heavy supplies through tough terrain especially up mountains. Think of Italy during World War II.
Army Jack could always be counted on to complete his mission serving soldiers. He has proved hard to replace even with the most expensive equipment the Pentagon has developed.
With the score at the half, 14 all, a "Salute to Heroes" Program was held on Blaik Field. Members of police, fire, emergency service personnel and the military were honored.
A special guest for the day was Rudolph Giuliani, the Mayor of New York City during the 9-11 attacks.
Former New York City Mayor Giuliani gave a rousing talk thanking the members of the military for their service. The crowd gave me an appreciative response of applause.
The culmination of the half-time ceremony was the presentation of a huge American Flag that covered virtually the entire football field.
Within seconds pictures like this were being sent through cell phone cameras around the world.
In the second half Army took the kick and drove from their own 20 to the SDSU 29 where they could not convert on a 4th and 2.
After an exchange of punts, SDSU began a drive on their own 20 yard line with QB Ryan Lindley leading them up the field.
Running back Ronnie Hillman converted an 8 play 80 yard drive with a 20 yard run up the middle to give the Aztecs a 20 to 14 lead.
The extra point was missed giving the Black Knights the chance to take the lead with a touchdown and conversion.
On the SDSU kick, Scott Williams returning the ball 29 yards to the Army 30 where the Cadets went to work on offense.
On the first play of the 4th quarter, Malcolm Brown converted a 4th and 1 at the Army 39 yard line for a 30 yard gain to the Aztec 30 yard line.
Trent Steelman completed the 7 play 70 yard drive by scoring his third touchdown of the day on a 17 yard run to tie the game at 20 all.
Senior Alex Carlton then missed his second point after touchdown kick of the season.
San Diego State took possession at their own 20 yard line and proceeded on a drive up the field to attempt to take the lead in the game.
With 4th down and 8 at the Army 25, Abelardo Perez kicked a 42 yard field goal to give the Aztecs the lead 23-20 with just 5:31 seconds left in the contest.
Army took over at their own 25 yard line looking to tie the score or score a go ahead touchdown.
While gaining 8 yards on second down, Trent Steelman was injured, and replaced by senior Max Jenkins.
After 13 plays Army had the ball down to the SDSU 25 yard line and looking at a field goal attempt well within the range of Alex Carleton. Steelman came back in but again left holding his shoulder.
A fumble, offside, and a sack moved the ball back to the SDSU 40 yard line.
With 4th and 25 at the SDSU 40 yard line. Jenkins pass to McFarlin was incomplete and the Aztecs took over on downs ending the game at 23-20 in the favor of SDSU.
After the game ended the players shook hands and I could hear the San Diego State captains, yell out to their team, "We will will stand over here!" pointing to the area behind where the Army players were lining up up in front of the Corps of Cadets.
Just a great gesture of sportsmanship and respect for West Point as the Aztec players and coaches stood behind the West Point players during the playing of the "Alma Mater".
One of the great traditions at West Point is the playing of the Alma Mater after each game.
Always a memorable moment during a visit to a game at West Point as the Cadets remember their mission and those who came before them.
Army players line-up seniors on the front line during the Alma Mater with their helmets carried on their left side.
Just a great job by the San Diego State players, coaches, and officials to respect the West Point "Alma Mater" by standing behind the Black Knights and in front of the 4,000 members of the Corps of Cadets.
Quite a sizable number of Aztec fans were on hand at Michie Stadium and the chance to celebrate with their players after the game.
A disappointing loss for the Black Knights who rolled up 403 yards rushing the football led by the three touchdowns and 157 yards on the ground gained by Trent Steelman.
Three fumbles lost and penalties at crucial times hurt the Black Knights chances to pull out an upset.
Big improvements seen in the offensive line led by center Will Wilson and the overall defense from the season opener.
Next week the Black Knights will a host a Big Ten team at Michie Stadium for the first time since 1988 as the Northwestern Wildcats come to the Hudson Valley. late start at 3:30 for this one, good day to come out and watch the Parade of Cadets on the "Plain" starting at 12 Noon.
Ken Kraetzer reports on West Point football for SAL Radio and WVOX in New Rochelle, NY. Reach him on firstname.lastname@example.org.