Today's victory comes as no surprise to those Army faithful who have followed this year's team ... at least as it relates to the pattern of the season, along with the Black Knights' potential.
The only question coming into Saturday's contest as Army hosted the Tulane Green Wave .... would the team play to their potential against their visitors as they had against Northwestern?
And from the coaches perspective, would the staff provide the schemes and even personnel to get the job done ... especially defensively?
"Our defense really struggled a week ago, and some of that was my fault because I don't think we had come to grips with the personnel set we'd been presented," points out Head Coach Rich Ellerson, who admits that the staff had to shake up personnel and schemes coming into Saturday's game. "So, we challenged ourselves this week. We changed some things to leverage the quality guys that we have, and not pretend we have some guys that graduated last year or some guys who got hurt earlier in the season. We put a lot of pressure on that young defense to go out there and master some things that we hadn't necessarily done a lot of.
But from Tulane's opening series, Ellerson and his staff have wonder if their message had fallen on deaf ears as the Tulane went 80 yards in just 3 plays and six quick points before the late arriving crowd of 32,135 could settle into their seats.
It was running back Orleans Darkwa who spearheaded the drive that just took 3 plays, as the sophomore broke off a 67 yard burst to Army 3 yard line, but on the very next play he was able to waltz in the end zone untouched.
But as effective as Darkwa would be throughout the contest (142 yards rushing), albeit 115 yards came in first half, Army had their own answer to counter Darkwa's performance.
Enters Raymond Maples, who registered 125 yards last week against Ball State and it was obvious from the beginning that the talented sophomore was going to pick up where he left off. The Philadelphia native finished the day with a new career high in rushing with 146 yards (9.4 avg) and one touchdown. But to understand Maples as a player, it just not his running that impacts the game, but he has become the Black Knights best blocker on the perimeter.
As such the Black Knights were able to answer Tulane's opening touchdown with a 70 yard and 10 play drive that saw an assortment of players touch the ball from Maples, to quarterback Trent Steelman, fullbacks Jared Hassin and Larry Dixon, who hit paydirt from two yards out and his first career touchdown as a Black Knight.
Army 7 - Tulane 6 (missed PAT)
The 1st quarter ended with Army still holding onto their one point lead and surprisingly, Tulane was attempting to control the pace and the clock. The Black Knights who entered the game leading the nation in Time Of Possession, was falling victim to their own poison ... at least temporarily. Army maintained a slight edge in the category over ... 7:34 compared to the Green Waves' 7:26.
Speaking of "waves", the tide was just about to turn and Army would not look back.
On the first play of the 2nd quarter and Tulane faced with a 3rd & 24 from their own 23 yard line, quarterback Ryan Griffin faced with the oncoming pass pressure from defensive tackle A.J. Mackey made an ill advised pass into double coverage. Cornerback Josh Jackson and safety Hayden Pierce had wide receiver Justyn Shackelford blanketed, as Jackson made an leaping interception of Griffin's duck and returned 36 yards to the Tulane 13. After Maples bulled his way fro 11 yards on first down, scored from 2 yards out on a keeper.
Army 14 - Tulane 6
Even when the Black Knights saw their offense stall, which was rare on Saturday, other phases of the game would prevail.
With 9:23 remaining in the 2nd quarter and faced with a 4th & 10 from their own 14 yard line, while holding onto a eight point lead, punter Chris Bolt blasted a 64 yarder to the Green Wave 25 yard line. That only seem to propel the Army defense, who forces Tulane to a four and out, where on Army's next series, the Maples Show picks up steam.
Army goes on a 10 play, 70 yards march while taking 4:50 off the clock. Mr. Maples was involved in a 5 yard reception, 7 yard gallop, a very impressive 10 yard run that depicted Maples elusiveness as cut in & out, while following the lead of guard Robert Kava for 10 yards to the Tulane 7 and 6 yard rush that was capped off by Steelman's trademark 1 yard keeper for six points.
Army 21 - Tulane 6
Even when Army's offense made a rare mistake, which happen when Steelman fumbled on his own 39 yard line, which was ironically recovered by former Army commit, Julius Warmsley. The 2nd half saw the defense to continue to provide pressure, as Tulane began to move from their ground strategy to their air game. However, with an assortment of blitz and defensive package, it was obvious that Griffin was uncertain with what he was facing and where the pressure was coming.
This included some new names making the best of their reps, as linebacker Kyler Martin dove over the attempted block by the Tulane running back and sacked Griffin and on 4th & 15, freshman defensive end Colin Linkul adds to Army sack total for the day.
At this point, it was all Army on both sides of the ball. Tulane had no answer for the triple option and more specially, Maples. And when the Green Wave defense began to crepe up in the box, the Black Knights pulled off one of the most impressive plays of the season.
With 9:54 remaining in the 3rd quarter and 2nd & 4 at the Tulane 40 yard line .... Steelman executes the play action beautifully as the secondary bites hook line and sinker.
While cornerback Ryan Travis had his eyes in the backfield, senior wide receiver Davyd Brooks sold the run and blew by the Tulane defender, who was at least 5 yards behind Brooks as Steelman floated the 40 yarder into the hands of the striding receiver and six more points for the Black Knights.
Army 28 - Tulane 6
The Black Knight would continue offensive thrust as they would add on another 17 points with a 23 yard field goal from Alex Carlton; 23 yard touchdown blast by Maples and the closing score by seldom used slotback Kelechi Odocha who scooted around right end untouched from 14 yards and six points.
Army 45 - Tulane 6
This was a very impressive win for the Black Knights, who rebounded from their embarrassing performance against Ball State last weekend.
48 Hour Grace Period
However, if Ellerson and the staff learned anything from their win over Northwestern three weeks ago, and that simply put, one game does not a season make. Therefore, the team must embrace the victory over Tulane for that "48 hour grace period, put it in the photo album for future memories and move their focus to their road visit to Miami (Ohio).
"Now we have to prove that we can handle that (winning)," shared Head Coach Rich Ellerson during his post game press conference. "that we can handle success and do something we haven't done' go on the road and play well, go on the road and play well when we have a tough academic week coming up. We know what the challenge is. We've had a chance to experience it and get our nose bloodied and now providence has given us another opportunity to go out and prove we can handle some things that are tough here at West Point. The guys are excited for the chance."
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