Payam Saadat, the Army co-defensive coordinator, says working at the Academy provides special moments all the time.
Saturday's Army-Rutgers game at Yankee Stadium was one of those days, containing special moments that showed what good can come from college football.
The highlight was seeing Rutgers player Eric LeGrand come back to the matchup in which he received a paralyzing injury last year while covering a kick. Eric came out in his wheelchair with the Rutgers captains for the pregame coin toss.
He received an ovation from all in attendance.
A strong sense of mutual respect was displayed by both schools. Eric LeGrand's family and the Rutgers community has expressed appreciation for the numerous cards sent to Eric and the visits made by Army players since the injury.
The ongoing support is valued as the Army prioritizes helping "wounded warriors".
Rutgers wore white helmets with the "R" logo depicted in stars and stripes, honoring both Veterans Day weekend and the US Military Academy.
The bands and choirs from both schools joined together in the pregame ceremonies to play each school's football marching music and national anthem.
The day showed college football can bring people together.
As for the game, Army started freshman quarterback Angel Santiago in place of Trent Steelman, the injured three-year starter. Santiago played well, and Rutgers held a 13-12 lead with less than seven minutes left.
They then blocked an Army punt and ran it back for a touchdown.
A late score by Rutgers made it a 27-12 final, another disappointing loss for Army, but a positive day for college football in New York.
Army's day in the Bronx began with a pep rally led by the cheerleaders and Cadet Spirit Band on the track near the site of the original Yankee Stadium.
Making an appearance in the Bronx was venerable "Army Jack," a fixture at West Point for generations.
Jack's predecessors served the Army well by carrying supplies through barren and mountainous terrain. He never let his soldiers down.
A smart idea by the West Point athletic staff was to recreate in the Bronx the popular "Black Knights Alley" normally held outside the East stands at Michie Stadium.
They held the popular "Fanfest" in the new park across the street from Yankee Stadium. The pregame radio show was held there as well as many attractions for children, including face painting provided by several cadets.
I always enjoy this kind of atmosphere on game day.
After Army fans endured January-like weather two weeks ago for the Fordham game, what a pleasure it was to enjoy the sunny and comfortable fall weather Saturday.
Notice the trees outside Yankee Stadium showing the peak colors of the foliage season.
It was neat to walk around the playing field at Yankee Stadium. I can only imagine how it was for the Black Knights to dress in the Yankee locker room and run out of their dugout onto the big playing field of Yankee Stadium.
Hard to forget this is the playing field of Derek Jeter, "A-Rod" and so many other famous baseball players.
Maybe after the first hit of the game, the ghosts disappeared.
Of course, it is not the same as when football was played across the street at the original Yankee Stadium. But the scene and atmosphere was close enough to give a feel for the days of old when Army and Notre Dame played for the national championship and the Colts and Giants played for the NFL title.
I always regretted never seeing a football game at the old Yankee Stadium, just many baseball games going back to Mickey Mantle and Mel Stottlemyre.
Junior quarterback Trent Steelman had started 32 straight games for Army before a high ankle sprain suffered against Vanderbilt three weeks ago put him on the sideline for the Fordham and Air Force games.
He looked comfortable tossing with Max Jenkins and moving around, but the coaches decided to hold his return off for at least another week until next Saturday at Temple.
Freshman Angel Santiago was given the starting assignment.
The game began with Army playing freshman center Ryan Powis and fullback Larry Dixon. All played well and showed Army football has a bright future.
While heading upstairs to the upper deck to take pictures of the pregame ceremonies, I ran into a bunch of Cadets taking the opportunity to enjoy lunch on the stadium concourse.
French fries, hot dogs and colas appeared to be the meal of choice.
The West Point Band is a regular guest at Yankee Stadium, often playing for Opening Day or key postseason games. This is a professional band composed of regular Army soldiers who are also highly-trained musicians.
In last year's game between Army and Rutgers, Eric LeGrand of the Scarlet Knights was seriously injured on a kickoff play.
The Army football team and members of the West Point community kept in touch with Eric during his rehabilitation process, offering him encouragement during his recovery, which continues today.
The Rutgers community was very appreciative of this, and a special relationship has developed between the two schools.
This special relationship was demonstrated by the West Point Band inviting the Rutgers Band to join them in playing each school's favorite musical march on the field.
A parachute drop into Yankee Stadium by members of the 82nd Airborne with the game ball was planned, but high winds curtailed that.
As an alternative, the duties were conducted by the Cadet First Captain and a special guest, West Point alum Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army.
General Odierno's son, Captain Anthony K. Odierno, is an executive of the Yankees working on stadium operations. We interviewed Tony earlier in the week and chatted at the package drive for troops the Yankees held Friday morning.
He was injured seriously during service in Iraq and is now a board member of the "Wounded Warrior" project.
West Point has four regiments of cadets divided up into companies of approximately 150 members each. The companies will have representation from each class and are self contained organizations. At home games, one of the regiments will "march on" in their company formations.
At the Army-Navy game in December, every cadet company will "march on" in an impressive display.
On Saturday, it was the turn of the Fourth Regiment to "march on" to the field for the national anthem ceremony.
In another sign of unity and respect displayed before the game, a combined choir was formed from the student choirs from the two schools.
If you look at the photo closely, you will see that representatives of each school alternate in the four lines of vocalists. It is a bit hard to tell, since the Rutgers choir wore grey jackets similar in color to the Cadets uniforms.
The Rutgers performers did wear red ties.
A West Point tradition is their football team enters the field through a cordon of fellow cadets led by flag carriers and cheerleaders. They had the honor of doing this at Yankee Stadium Saturday.
When I was heading toward the press box elevator, Eric LeGrand was right there in the hallway waiting to go to the field and rejoin his teammates for the start of the game.
Eric was seated in a very high tech wheel chair that he could control through a mouth piece. He was very alert and positive. We chatted for a moment, and I invited him to call into our Army football radio show later in the year.
He seemed very happy to be at a football game wearing his No. 52 jersey. We wished him the best in his continued rehabilitation.
Rutgers came into the game 6-3 and already bowl eligible. Some forecasters are projecting they might finish in the Big East slot contracted to play here on New Year's Eve in the Pin Stripe Bowl.
Army was 3-6, having just lost a a heartbreaking game at the Air Force Academy the week before after leading 14-0 at the half.
On the third offensive play, the Army offensive line was able to open a big hole for freshman fullback Larry Dixon, who ran through the right side of the Rutgers line and down the field. He was finally tackled at the Rutgers 3-yard line.
Three running plays failed to reach the end zone, but senior Alex Carlton kicked a field goal to give Army the early 3-0 lead.
Heading back downstairs, I stopped to say hello to five more cadets enjoying the game from the upper deck concourse area.
Uniforms so impress me—they are different form what we are used to in daily life. They represent the sacrifices and commitment to teamwork military members must make.
Chas Dodd, a sophomore from Lyman, SC, led the Rutgers offense.
In the first quarter, Army completed another drive led by QB Angel Santiago running the ball himself on five of the 11 plays. Junior Fullback Jared Hassin ran for 10 yards to the Rutgers 19-yard line on the longest play of the drive.
The new turf was being chewed up quickly in the baseball infield portion of the field that Army was working in. They could not push the ball into the end zone from 1st-and-goal at the 9-yard line. The 3rd-and-goal play nearly resulted in a fumble recovery by Rutgers but a replay called the ball down.
Alex Carlton added his second field goal of the day from 19 yards out.
At the end of the first quarter, Army led 6-0 but Rutgers was driving.
Senior linebacker Steve Erzinger leads the Black Knights in tackles. He and fellow senior Andrew Rodriquez provide leadership to a unit dominated by freshmen and sophomores.
Freshman Angel Santiago from Fontana, CA played the entire game at quarterback for Army. He filled in for junior Trent Steelman who is still recovering from a high ankle sprain suffered against Vanderbilt. The coaches like the quickness Santiago brings to the game and have confidence in his ability to throw the ball.
In the second quarter, an eight-minute, 13-play Army drive stalled on fourth down at the Rutgers 40-yard line. The Scarlet Knights then marched down the field and capped it off with a touchdown on a Chase Dodd to Michael Burton three-yard pass play.
The Rutgers extra point was missed by San San Te in the chewed up infield.
At the half, the score was tied 6-6. The Army offense out-gained Rutgers 177 to 109 and controlled the ball for nearly 19 minutes.
There was a time at West Point when every Cadet had to learn to ride a horse.
The Rutgers offense opened up in the third quarter with an eight-play drive that culminated in Chase Dodd's second touchdown pass of the day. This one went to Brandon Coleman for 38 yards.
With the extra point kick, Rutgers took the lead at 13-6.
After an Army three-and-out, the Army defense was able to stop an eight-play Rutgers drive without damage when San San Te missed a 26-yard field goal with 6:30 left.
Later Army free safety Thomas Holloway intercepted a Chase Dodd pass near midfield to give Army the ball at the Rutgers 36-yard line.
Army drove the ball down to the Rutgers 23-yard line when the third quarter ended. The score still saw a 13-6 Rutgers advantage.
The fourth quarter opened with optimism for Army. Army continued the drive started by the Thomas Holloway interception. The big play, a 17-yard Angel Santiago pass to slot back Malcolm Brown set up a 1st-and-goal from the Rutgers 6-yard line.
On the second play, fullback Larry Dixon ran the ball two yards for the score to bring Army within one at 13-12.
Alex Carlton then missed the extra point, so Rutgers maintained a 13-12 lead.
After an exchange of punts, Army generated their second interception of the day, this one by junior safety Kyler Martin to give the Black knights the ball on their 34-yard line.
On second down at the Army 48 came the play of the day. Freshman slot back Stephen Frasier ran 52 yards for an apparent Army touchdown, but a tripping penalty was called on Frank Allen, bringing the ball back to the Army 43.
On 4th-and-15, Chris Bolt's punt was blocked by Wayne Warren, who ran straight up the left side of the Army line.
Thomas Jordan recovered for Rutgers and ran the ball 32 yards into the end zone.
Rutgers took a 20-12 lead.
Just like that, a probable Army lead was taken away and a kicking play gave the opponent a touchdown.
After an Army drive stalled at the Rutgers 38, Rutgers scored its fourth touchdown of the day on a 56-yard Jawan Jamison run.
Final Score: Rutgers 27—Army 12
It was a disappointing day on the score board for Army, who fell to 3-7 on the year while Rutgers improved to 7-3.
A number of young players played very well for Army.
Angel Santiago ran 30 times for 88 yards and looked crisp, completing six of 15 passing attempts in his first complete game. The freshman from California gives Army a future after the career of Trent Steelman.
Trent Steelman demonstrated leadership coming out to the freshman QB and offering encouragement after the completion of each drive.
Freshman Larry Dixon played much of the game and generated 93 yards, including a 55-yard run in the first quarter. Freshman slot back Stephen Frasier had a 50-yard run called back.
Playing a young defense anchored by Steven Erzinger and Andrew Rodriquez, Army held Rutgers to 314 yards, slightly the Scarlet Knights season average of 323 yards per game.
Sophomore Thomas Holloway led Army in tackles with 14 on the day of which six were solo, and an interception. Freshman middle linebacker Geoffrey Bacon had seven tackles. Junior strong safety Kyler Martin had six tackles and an interception.
Freshman tackle Jacob Drozd had the Black Knights lone sack on the day.
All in all the defense did their job keeping Army in this game into the fourth quarter.
The announced crowd at Yankee Stadium of 30,028 was disappointing for such a beautiful fall day. Perhaps the prices closer to that of a Yankee game for many of the lower level seats and parking at $45 discouraged fans.
Perhaps more bus trips for groups need to be encouraged.
The next Army game here is scheduled for 2014 against Boston College, which should draw well. The Air Force game planned here in 2012 has been moved back to Michie Stadium because of a potential scheduling conflict with the World Series schedule.
Army playing at Yankee Stadium brings big time college football back to New York City.
Games with Syracuse or Connecticut would probably do well. Perhaps down the road, Fordham will elevate its program to the top level of college football. Fordham versus Army would be a terrific rivalry.
Yankee Stadium itself provides a sense of grandeur to an event and a just a wonderful visual sight for both spectators and the television audience. Playing at the new stadium reminds us of the many historic college and professional games played across the street, where youth baseball fields now stand.
College football in New York City is good for the sport and hopefully good for the football program at USMA. I hope the Army at Yankee Stadium Series can continue and flourish.
Ken Kraetzer produces the West Point Football Report of WVOX AM 1460 in New Rochelle, NY every Tuesday evening during the season. The show can be heard nationally on WVOX.com. Ken can be reached on email@example.com