Army suffered an embarrassing loss to Stony Brook at home on Saturday. What will the Black Knight do to get back on track as they host Boston College?
Well one thing that is certain come this weekend, Army will go toe to toe with Boston College's defense, where the question is simple ... can the Eagles enter Michie Stadium and slow down the nation's second leading rushing attack?
If they are able to replicate the effort put forth last Saturday by Stony Brook, then it could be a very long day for the Black Knights' coaching staff and those Army faithful who will make up the majority of the expected sold out crowd.
However, sophomore fullback Larry Dixon, who is an integral part of the ensemble of running backs that the Eagles will have to encounter, says that he and his teammates understand the significance of Saturday's upcoming encounter and are up to the task .... despite what the skeptics are saying.
"My mindset pretty much matches the team and we are just hungry for a win," says Dixon, who is 2nd on the team in rushing and touchdown with 332 yards and 3 scores respectively. "I feel that a lot of people doubt our abilities as a team because of the games, but we do a lot of good things in the games and we need to show people that we can do those things for four quarters. If we can play as hard as we can, one snap at a time for four quarters I think we will surprise people."
However, with or without skeptics, Dixon pointed out that there is a sense of urgency within the ranks of the team and something that the squad is transparent about ... which is a much needed victory on Saturday.
"We walked in and talked about how this is the most important game that we are going to play all year because it's the game this week," says the 6-foot-0, 238 pounder. "It about trusting each other and just going out there and play with as much enthusiasm as possible. Forgetting everybody else and just being able to control what we can control. and not worrying so much about what other people think or how others think the game is going to turn out. Just trusting each other and control what aspects of the game that we can control."
And the significance of Saturday's contest was echoed by Army head coach Rich Ellerson at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, where the mentor said that removing the winless title is one of several challenges that this weekend's matchup will bring.
"Boston College ... this is the most important game of the year, first and foremost because it's this week," adds Ellerson. "They are a different challenge. We're watching them play some pretty impressive people on tape. Their record (1-3) is a reflection of their schedule. This will be the most sophisticated passing attack we've seen so far. (Chase) Rettig is a practiced quarterback, who is very confident, has tremendous arm strength and go-to receivers. They are still very balanced and will run the ball and do some things in the run game that have been troublesome for us. Like a lot of people in college football, they're very creative in their sets and motions. They'll look to create match-ups and disadvantages numerically. We're handling that stuff better and started to play a little bit better on defense a week ago (against Stony Brook). We're still a long way from where we need to be, but we got everybody on the same page. Offensively, if we can execute our offense and take care of the football, we'll create problems for them. Boston College will have a plan. Georgia Tech is in their conference (Atlantic Coast Conference). We're just unique enough that if we operate and do all the things good football teams do, we can be competitive."
For Dixon, he realizes that the miscues that destroyed any opportunity of defeating Stony Brook, must now be in their rear view mirror as they look ahead to BC. If Army hopes to make this game competitive, they must play error free football, which is something that the sophomore fullback says comes with being more in-tuned to the ballgame and staying focused.
"You saw me working to hard and playing a little bit outside of myself," acknowledges Dixon, when discussing the fumble exchange between himself and quarterback Trent Steelman last week. "In those kind of situations, we are a lot better when I play within myself. When we do mess up it's a lot of trying to do too much. I got ahead of myself and it's a mistake that I had to learn from, grow from and just move forward. So the coaches pull me aside and educated me on how to play within myself, but also at a dominant level. You know, I was thinking too much ... I was stopping (during potential handoff) and didn't run how I like to run - I was thinking too much, slow and stagnant."
However, when the fullback is playing at his optimum level, as many Army fans witnessed against Wake Forest ... he is a load for any defense.
Against the Demon Deacons two weeks ago, Dixon eclipsed the century mark for the first time in his college career, where he compiled 112 yards on the day.
"It felt great," shared Dixon. "It's something you dream about and to have the ability to play like that, it just makes you very thankful, especially with the people you are sharing it with. You have a very dominant offensive line and wide receivers who block on the first and second levels for you ... just makes you very thankful."
"I trust them a lot and when you run with that kind of trust it kind of allows you not to worry about different things. You not worried about the 1st or 2nd levels and sometimes not even the next level."
Perhaps the most significant aspect of Army's rushing machine is the unselfish attitude that "every" member has on the team relative to their blocking assignment ... irregardless of one's seniority, notoriety or position.
"When my teammates lay a block, like I said there's a lot of pride with that," declares Dixon. "With other teams, it's going to be the linemen doing it, but when it's also the running backs and wide receivers giving blocks like that and even this weekend we saw Trent (Steelman) pitch the ball and get a good block in. It's our pride, it's our mantra where the best player on the team is the team. And when you see people block for you, like Maps (Raymond Maples), who's a 1,000 yard rusher and going out there and blocking a linebacker for me. It's just puts so much pride in your heart that you want to be the best blocker for him so he can go and be successful too."
Kick Return Duties
Although it is apparent that Dixon's kick return duties have been put on the shelf for the time being, his size, coupled with his athletic ability made for a unique special team's moment each time he touched the ball.
"I'm backup on the kick returns right now," chuckles Dixon, who's physicality made him a load for any coverage defender to handle.
While he is now backing up Stephen Fraser, who offers a legitimate kick returner in the Army arsenal ... which is something that has been missing for the past few seasons. "I'm here if he needs me, but the way he is looking .... wow," adds Dixon.
"I returned kicks a lot in high school and it was one my favorite facets of the game," says a laughing Dixon, as he recalls his days back Olympic High School in Bremerton (Wash.). "It's so exciting. It's one play that doesn't come very often, maybe 6 or 7 times a game. It's an opportunity to instantaneously turn the game around and in high school it was one of my favorite things to do. So it was real fun to get back out there to do it."
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