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Army Wins 55-0 over Fordham: Slideshow from Snow Storm at West Point

Ken KraetzerCorrespondent IIDecember 21, 2016

Army Wins 55-0 over Fordham: Slideshow from Snow Storm at West Point

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    It started to snow at noon, just over three hours before Army's scheduled 3:30 p.m. start at Michie Stadium against the Patriot League's Fordham. The prediction was for three to six inches of snow north and west of I287, the beltway that circles the New York metropolitan area and cuts across the Tappan Zee Bridge. 

    The storm proved worse than that.

    Since West Point is west of the Hudson River, 30 miles north of the Tappan Zee Bridge, and elevated several hundred feet above the river, Michie Stadium received the full treatment of the storm, which brought January-like conditions to the area.

    A sellout crowd of over 39,000 was expected at the game to see the last home game of the year at West Point while enjoying the peak of the fall foliage season in the Hudson Valley.  Many Fordham alumni planned to make the drive to West Point to cheer on their team, which is beginning the slow process of attempting to move up in the world of college football by giving out full athletic scholarships.

    Fordham had been a power in college football during the pre-World War II era under coach Jim Crowley.  In 1940, the Rams were 8-1 and earned a trip to the Cotton Bowl, where they lost to Texas A&M, 13-12. In 1941, the Rams played to another 8-1 record and the Sugar Bowl, where they beat Missouri 2-0.  

    Army and Fordham last played in 1949, soon after the sport was "de-emphasized" at the Rose Hill campus. 

    This year, Army (2-5) came into the game after two consecutive road losses at Miami of Ohio and Vanderbilt.  Fordham (1-6) gained 565 yards of offense but lost last week at Lafayette, 45-24.

Snow and Sleet Cover Michie Stadium

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    Saturday was supposed to be a great fall day with a sellout crowd of over 39,000 on hand to enjoy tailgates, a parade of cadets, the peak of the leaves turning in the Hudson Valley, Senior Day and the visit of a school just an hour away in New York City bringing many fans to West Point.

    Instead, it was one of the worst weather days imaginable, with up to four inches of snow on the field and more falling throughout the game.  The Corps of Cadets of course attended, along with a few thousand fans who could reach the stadium across snow-covered roads that had not been cleared or sanded in most cases.

Army Captains Take the Field

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    This photo shows Army captains Steve Erzinger and Max Jenkins, with Andrew Rodriquez just behind, running on to the Michie Stadium Field covered by snow and ice. 

    It was Senior Day, and Jenkins made his first career start for Army, taking over for the injured Trent Steelman, who had started the previous 32 games. 

    Erzinger leads the defense with 73 tackles, 30 of them solo on the season. 

    Rodriquez was announced during the week as 1 of the 16 finalists for the Campbell Trophy, given to the nation's premier scholar-football player of the year.  Cadet Rodriquez is also a West Point nominee for a Rhodes Scholarship.

Matthew Villanti Takes the Field

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    No. 71 Matthew Villanti is a junior from Katy, Texas, who has been a key addition to the Black Knights offensive line.  The 6'3", 278-pound player has filled in at right guard for the injured Joe Bailey.  

    Offensive coordinator Ian Shields tells us that the blocking of the guards is crucial in the Army option offense. 

Black Knights Honor the Famed First Cavalry Division

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    The Army team honored at the game the first First Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas.  The unit dates back to 1855 and the Civil War.  It is known as "America's First Team" because it was the first unit to enter places like Tokyo during World War II, North Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. 

    (I just learned that the unit sent 1,000 members from Texas in 1942 to Oregon to help form the 91st Division, which was my dad's unit as a newly commissioned Army officer.  This unit helped liberate northern Italy during the last year of World War II.)

    The Army players carried in the division banner to Michie Stadium and wore the unit patch on their jersey sleeve.

Black Knights Need a Win for Any Bowl Hope

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    Senior offensive tackle Brad Kelley (No. 78), offensive guard Jordan Pleasants (No. 60), and junior defensive tackle Tom Houser (No. 54) set for the start of the game.  Note the piles of snow behind them and on the bench seats.  

    Going into the game, Army is 2-5 and needs to win out through this game, at Air Force, at Yankee Stadium against Rutgers, and at Temple to qualify to play on New Years Eve in San Francisco in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Plaque Players Touch Entering the Field

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    An Army officer holds the famous West Point plaque the players touch as they enter Michie Stadium.  It presents a famous quote from General George C. Marshall:

    "I want an officer for a secret and dangerous mission, I want a West Point football player."

Several Thousand Fans Reach Michie Stadium for the Start

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    Over 39,000 fans were expected for the sold-out last home game of the year.  But driving conditions were nearly impossible, as I can attest to driving to West Point up the Palisades Parkway. 

    Nevertheless, several thousand fans, along with the 4,000 members of the Corps of Cadets, were on hand at the start.

Fordham Kicks off to Open the Game

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    The snow and sleet was heavy at kickoff, and the job the ground crew did to clear the field of snow prior to the game was already being re-covered by a new layer of several inches of ice and snow.

Scott Williams Takes Kick in the Snow

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    Scott Williams of Army takes the opening kickoff and runs it 21 yards to the Army 32.  The slotback from Villa Park, California, has been very reliable at taking kickoffs and moving the ball to favorable starting positions for the offense.  

Max Jenkins Starts at Quarterback for Army

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    For 32 straight games, Trent Steelman started at quarterback for Army—a U.S. Military Academy record.  Against Vanderbilt, Steelman suffered a high-ankle sprain that will keep him out for an unknown amount of time.

    Starting against Fordham was senior Max Jenkins from Houston, Texas.  Max has played in several games when Steelman has been hurt and is known for his knowledge of the offense, often working closely by headset from the bench with offensive coordinator Ian Shields. 

    Jenkins holds the Deputy Brigade Commander position at West Point, which means that he is the No. 2 member in the chain of command in the Corps of Cadets.

Army Goes Ahead 7-0

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    The game appeared at times like one between teams from two dormitories going out on a snow-covered football field, sliding around and not being able to move very fast.

    The West Point offense moved right down the field on the opening drive, led by the running of sophomore slotback Raymond Maples, who ran for 67 of the 68 yards.  Quarterback Max Jenkins completed the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.  

    Army went ahead 7-0 with just 2:30 gone in the first quarter.

Fans Brave the January-Like Weather

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    When it rains at Michie Stadium, fans tend to cluster under the overhang of the upper deck. But on Saturday, many just stood and watched most of the game, or at least the first half, from their snow-covered seats. 

    Army fans are not easily shaken by the weather.  Many are veterans or staff at the Academy brought up in the Army culture, which instills on young soldiers the need to deal with all weather conditions by saying:

    "It is not training, unless it is raining!"

Army Kicks off with Early Lead

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    Snow cover gets worse, as Army kicked off after the first of their eight touchdowns on the day. 

    Stadium staff tried to keep the five-yard lines clean during the break, but it was tough as the heavy, wet snow was a constant during the game.

Army Goes Back on Offense

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    After a Fordham punt of 57 yards by Patrick Murray was downed at the Army eight-yard line, the Black Knights offense went back to work. 

    Freshman fullback Larry Dixon started the drive with a 13-yard run to the 21.  Then he was given the ball two more times and ran 4 and 10 yards.  After Jenkins attempted a first-down pass to senior Davyd Brooks, Raymond Maples ran for 9 yards to the Army 44.  Jenkins converted the only third down of the drive with 3-yard run.

    Raymond Maples then broke free for 18 yards to carry the ball well across midfield to the Ram 35.  Sophomore Jonathan Crucitti then ran for 5 yards to the Fordham 30.

Freshman Fullback Larry Dixon Breaks Free

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    Larry Dixon, the 220-pound freshman from Bremerton, Washington, has been given increased opportunities at fullback with injuries slowing the season of junior Jared Hassin.  Dixon has a combination of strength and speed.  He is also an engaging young cadet to speak with.

    Has anyone noticed the amount of talent coach Rich Ellerson has collected on offense?  There is depth at every position from quarterback to the backfield to the offensive line.  Much of this talent includes underclassmen, which shows the Black Knights have built a future for themselves.

Army Goes Ahead 14-0

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    Dixon broke free on the play that began at the Fordham 30 and proceeded down the left side with excellent downfield blocking to score Army's second touchdown of the day.  The drive was 92 yards on nine plays, all on the ground except for one incomplete pass attempt.

    The Black Knights are built for late-season, bad-weather football with a consistent running game.

Alex Carlton Kicks Extra Point

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    Alex Carlton has had a bit of a struggling year, only making one field goal on the season after kicking 33 in his prior seasons at West Point.

    One of the factors is the effectiveness of the West Point offense scoring touchdowns 21 out of 27 times in the "red zone" so far this year.  Carlton just has not had that many field goal opportunities.

Cadets Come Dressed for the Weather

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    As said earlier, the Army plans for operations in all kinds of weather.  Normally, the Cadets come to games in some version of their dress uniforms.  They all wear the same uniform of the day except for the band, which dresses a bit more informally in warm weather.

    Saturday the Cadets came in their camouflage parkas, pants, cadet field hats, black gloves and boots.  They had a lot to cheer about, as their team advanced to an early lead and continued to pile up yardage and points against a still-developing Fordham team working towards advancement, perhaps beyond the Patriot League one day.

Army Cheerleaders Supporting Their Team

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    The Army cheerleaders kept supporting their team despite the freezing weather. 

Army Intercepts Fordham Pass

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    Trailing 14-0, on 3rd-and-10 from Fordham's own 20-yard line, Rams quarterback Ryan Higgins' pass was intercepted by Army freshman Lamar Johnson-Harris.  The cornerback from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, caught the ball at the Fordham 32 and ran it back 21 yards to the 11.  

Army Sets to Convert Turnover

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    With snow and sleet falling at Michie Stadium, quarterback Max Jenkins sets his team at the Fordham 11-yard line for their third score of the quarter.

    On 1st-and-10, Raymond Maples ran to the seven-yard line.  On 2nd-and-6, Jenkins ran for his second score of the day on a seven-yard run.

    Alex Carlton hit his third point-after-touchdown kick to give Army a 21-0 lead with 5:07 left in the first quarter.  

Cadets Do Push-Ups After Touchdowns

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    A tradition at West Point is for cadets and often cheerleaders to do push-ups after touchdowns, equal in number to the total points scored on the day. 

    The cadets—in many cases, I suspect, the freshman or plebes, as they are known at West Point—had the opportunity to do a lot of push-ups on the day.  The saving factor was the accumulated snow piles limited available space.

End of First Quarter: 21-0 Army

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    Army fumbled a Fordham punt late in the first quarter, allowing the Rams to take over at the Black Knights 35-yard line.  The defense held on downs and gave the ball back to the offense at their own 32.

    The Black Knights outgained Fordham 185-14 in the first quarter.

Halftime: Army Holds 42-0 Lead

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    Army continued to dominate in the second quarter with three scoring drives.

    Carrying over from the first quarter, Army went 68 yards on eight plays, culminating with Max Jenkins throwing a 30-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Stephens. Stephens is a sophomore from Greenville, South Carolina.

    On the next Fordham drive, Ram quarterback Ryan Higgins was sacked for a loss of 13 yards by Zach Watts and fumbled.  The loose ball was picked up by linebacker Nate Combs and run back 52 yards for a touchdown.

    After another short possession by Fordham, Army took over on their own 14-yard line.  On the first play, Raymond Maples ran 57 yards to the Fordham 29.  Maples would end up with 159 yards on 10 carries in the half.

    Fullback Jared Hassin converted the five-play, 86-yard drive with a three-yard scoring rush.

    A dominating first-half performance in the snow by the Black Knights producing 305 yards of rushing offense, and Army dominated the yardage battle 335-46.   

    Coach Ellerson played his bench in the second half.

Quarterbacks Santiago and DeBartolo Play Second Half

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    In the second half, Army played many reserves.  Freshman quarterback Angel Santiago from Fontana, California, relieved senior Max Jenkins. Santiago, known for his speed and quickness, ran for 58 yards on three attempts.

    In the third quarter, Army scored on a seven-play, 70-yard drive, capped by four-yard run by Jon Crucitti. The extra point was missed amidst the continuing snow and sleet.

    Another freshman quarterback, Gino DeBartolo from Kenosha, Wisconsin, got a chance to play in the fourth quarter.  DeBartolo was not even on the program roster.  He ran for 24 yards on four attempts and was sacked once, leading to a fumble.

    In the fourth, Army scored on another long drive—eight plays and 74 yards—finished off with a Hayden Tippett 10-yard run.

    The final score was 55-0.

     

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Hand Shakes After the Game

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    Army turned in a dominating performance and shrugging off two difficult losses on the road.  The energy demonstrated in the game should provide a lift as they prepare for the first Commanders-in-Chief game next week at Air Force.

West Point Alma Mater

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    The West Point players line up in front of the Corps of Cadets for the singing of their Alma Mater.  The Fordham players and coaches showed great respect and sportsmanship by staying on the field and standing behind Army during the Alma Mater.

Corps of Cadets Sing Alma Mater

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    The West Point Corps of Cadets sing Alma Mater amid the snow.

Head Coach Rich Elerson Comments About Game

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    Head coach Rich Ellerson commented after the game that his days coaching in the Canadian Football League had prepared him for snowy days like this.

Army Players After the Game

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    Senior Max Jenkins, sophomore Raymond Maples, senior Andrew Rodriquez and junior Nate Combs discuss the win over Fordham, playing in the snow, and Senior Day.

Next Week: A Trip to Air Force

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    Coach Ellerson seriously avoids talking about future games.  But the first of the maximum rivalry games appears next on the schedule, with a trip coming up to play the Air  Force Academy at Colorado Springs on Saturday.

     

    Ken Kraetzer covers Army football for WVOX radio, located in New Rochelle, New York.  He produces the West Point Football Report by Sons of the American Legion Radio, broadcast Tuesday nights during the season at 5:30 p.m. on 1460 AM and nationally on WVOX.com.

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