Count them .... 1,2 & 3. Yes, three straight loses and zero wins for Steve Erzinger when you look at his resume since putting on the Black & Gold of Army and facing academy rival, Air Force.
Well, it's too late for the talented linebacker to embrace the "three times a charm" phrase and hope that it applies. However, perhaps the forth time around will work in favor of the Houston (Texas) native and his senior teammates as they head out to face Air Force at Falcon Stadium in Colorado on Saturday.
"It's obviously very important for anyone at the service academies to beat the other service academies ... sorta bragging rights for the rest of the year," shared the Captain with GoBlackKnights.com prior to Thursday's practice. "It would be an excellent milestone in our season to take with us and move forward."
Erzinger is aware that players, coaches and Army fans desperately want to beat Air Force, and many fans wondered if the Black Knights' leading tackler, who is also 15th in the nation at 10.43 per game who be physically ready after sitting out Army 55-0 win over Fordham.
"Yes, I'm ready to go ... I'm feeling pretty good, practicing ... doing the whole deal. Hamstring was a little worn from the season, so apparently they didn't need me last Saturday," chuckles Erzinger.
"But seriously, I don't like. You do all the right things to stay on the field and be healthy, but sometimes stuff happens and doesn't allow you to do that. The best you can do is to take a different role. I wasn't on field, but I could watch and be an extra set of eyes for the defense. Although I wasn't happy on the sidelines, I did try to make myself useful that will ultimately help out the team."
Must Be Air Force Ready
As dominate as the Black Knights were against Fordham on Saturday, the team's inconsistency, along with their inability to win on the road draws legitimate concern as they will try to turn the tides in Colorado. Clearly, Air Force is not Fordham.
No one knows better than Erzinger, that in order to come away victorious, it is as much mental as it is physical and that it will take a team effort against Air Force.
"It comes down to sticking with what we do best and that's playing within ourselves," he adds. "We aren't made up of number one draft picks, but made up of a bunch of guys that do well as a team. And against an option offense, defensively you need to trust that the guy next to you is going to do his job ... and that I'm going to do my job and it's the same way offensively."
"It's one of those things where you have to build up that trust. I think everyone trust everyone, it's just getting on that mindset that when we are on the road, we are there for business and this is not a time to relax or a time to have fun ... it's a business trip. See your family when come visit you at the hotel, but other than that, we're there to play a game."
It will be that mindset, along with the continued progression of Army's young defense that could be the determining factor in Saturday's contest.
During the first quarter of the season, Erzinger was in the top in the nation in total tackles, but each week his numbers have dwindled. However, it is because of lack of production on the part of the senior, but a change in the defensive scheme, along with other players beginning to step up.
"Defensively we went to a different scheme, so I'm no longer in the middle, but I'm kind of on the outside funneling everything back to everyone, which is why my number are what they are now," acknowledges Erzinger, who also points to job some of the younger players have been doing of late.
"Defensively, Bacon (Geoffrey), Pierce (Hayden), Johnson (Lamar) ... they're all doing a great job and making plays and yes, they're freshmen, but if you are a Yuck (sophomore) and you didn't play as a freshman, well that's the same thing. Trimble (Justin) is doing a great job, Holloway is play well, a lot of the defensive linemen are doing a great job, Nate Combs who didn't play last year because he was hurt - he's doing great job. So it's not just the freshmen, but the entire defense as whole is playing a lot better."
And it is that collective effort that will be needed against the Falcons.