Of course every game on the schedule is significant for the Black Knights, but the "must win" label probably carried no greater meaning for Army than when they took on Kent State this past Saturday.
This was a team that had to rebound after suffering an emotional loss to Air Force at Michie Stadium in front of a sold out crowd, along with seeing the Falcons retain the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.
So heading on the road to play Kent State and get back into bowl eligibility status, Army needed to win, plain and simple.
And win they did, as Ellerson's team came away with a 45-28 victory. As such, GBK selected 10 plays that we believe help shape the outcome of the game, which turned out to be a quality rebound game for the Army Black Knights.
1.] When it happened: 9:36 into the 1st quarter and Army's first offensive series. What happened: On 4th down and inches, quarterback Trent Steelman gained three yards and an Army first down. Why it mattered: D? vu all over again. Two weeks ago against Air Force, the Black Knights' first drive of the game saw them settle for a 30 yard field goal versus going for it on 4th and 1. Did that send the wrong message, that this top 10 rushing team did not have the confidence to gain one yard and perhaps jump on Air Force and go up 7-0. Well this time around Ellerson decided to go for it and three plays later, fullback Jared Hassin breaks several tackles on his way to a 12 yard touchdown run.
2.] When it happened: 4th & 5 at the Army 30 yard line with 8:04 remaining in the 2nd quarter. What happened: What appeared be an decision based on desperation versus trickery failed and gave Army the ball on their own 26 yard line. Why it mattered: It was too early for Kent State not to at least attempt to get 3 points on the board through via a field goal.
3.] When it happened: Army has 3rd & 6 at their own 30 yard line and 6:30 left in the 2nd quarter. What happened: Outstanding play action fake by Steelman, who hits wide receiver Davyd Brooks fully in stride for 41 yards to the Kent State 29 yard line. Why it mattered: It put the nation's top ranked run defense in an aware mode and reinforced that the Flashes' defense could not just be run-defend minded. Four plays later, slotback Brian Cobbs scored from two yards out giving the Black Knights a 21-7 lead.
4.] When it happened:4:18 left in the 2nd quarter and on Kent State's first playing Cobb's touchdown. What happened: Free safety Donovan Travis intercepts Keith Spencer's deep pass at the Army 28 yard line and returns it back to the Kent State 22 yard line. Why it mattered: Taking the ball away from the Flash defense allowed Army to continue to dominate the game. It also saw the offense cash in on the turnover, whereby four plays later, Steelman hit pay dirt from three yards out. Army now had a comfortable 28-7 first half lead.
5.] When it happened:7:45 remaining in the 3rd quarter. What happened: Freshman slot back Raymond Maples scored on a 1st & goal from the five yard line Why it mattered: In addition to his 5 yard score that saw Maples beat a Kent State defender as he dove to the corner flag, but during this 9 play - 82 yard drive, Maples had runs of 14 & 7 yards. He also scored his first rushing touchdown as a Black Knight. But perhaps more importantly, it allowed for the freshman back, who has been hampered by nagging injuries throughout the season to knock off some of rust and get back into the rotation.
6.] When it happened:At the :13 mark in the 3rd quarter, 1st & 10 from their own 30 yard line and a 35-21 Army lead. What happened: Cornerback Richard King picks off a Giorgio Morgan pass at the Army 46 yard line and returned it to the Kent State 38 yard line. Why it mattered: Although Army was dominating the game, the Flashers were only two touchdowns behind. Six plays later and on 3rd & goal, Cobbs scores is second touchdown on the day from three yards out and a comfortable 42-21 Army lead.
7.] When it happened: 4th quarter and 6:40 on the clock. What happened: Kicker Alex Carlton makes good from 49 yards out. Why it mattered: A pesky Kent State team had scored again, which reduced Army lead to 14 points. Carlton's field made it a three possession game and time running out for the host. Perhaps more significant was it was Carlton's longest field of the season, as well as his eight straight 3-pointer.
8.] When it happened: 4:46 left in the game. What happened: It was King once again on defense, as he makes the pick on an overthrown pass and returned it to the Army 41 yard line. Why it mattered: It sealed the victory for the Black Knights, although the Black Knights punted after going four and out.
9.] When it happened: 1.32 remaining in the 4th quarter and 3rd & 10 at the Army 38 yard line. What happened: Captain Stephen Anderson stripes the ball from running back Sal Battle that is recovered by senior defensive tackle, Mike Gann. Why it mattered: How fitting was it to have these two senior close out the game as they teamed together on the play, very much as they have for the past four years making plays and providing leadership for the Black Knights' football program.
10.] When it happened: 0:00 on the clock. What happened: Army registered their sixth win of the 2010 season and became bowl eligible for the first time 1996, where they played in the Independence Bowl. Why it mattered: Because the Coach Ellerson and his staff, along with the 2010 team will always be able to look back at this moment in Army football and West Point history and declare they were part of something special.