NEW YORK – For five weeks in a row, Army fullback Jared Hassin led the Black Knights in rushing, including four games of 100 yards or more. Last night, he was barely visible, rushing only eight times for 23 yards. He didn’t even touch the ball during the Black Knights’ one scoring drive.
“You always love for your fullback to be a factor,” Army coach Rich Ellerson said. “You run the triple [option] and that part and some of the mid-line stuff. It’s on [the defense]. They can take the fullback away because that defender is unblocked, and they did. That was clearly even to the point when we were trying to outside release our tackles to try to influence those guys out of there and get Jared started and they were having none of it.”
Unfortunately for the Black Knights, no one picked up the slack. Their leading rusher, with only 30 yards, was Patrick Mealy.
“We just weren’t precise. We could never get it started,” Mealy said.
For the game, Army was held to a season-low 135 yards rushing. It was the first time Army did not crack the 200-yard mark in a game this season and was its lowest rushing total since gaining 110 yards against Navy last season. The Black Knights are now 1-7 under Ellerson when rushing for less than 200 yards.
Further, Army’s 174 yards of total offense was its lowest since gaining 154 yards versus Navy Dec. 6, 2008. It was also the first time this season the Black Knights were held without a touchdown. Army has lost 13 straight games when failing to score a rushing touchdown. The 24-point loss was its largest of the season.
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Controlling turnovers has been one of the key’s to Army’s success this season, and it was an interception by Donovan Travis that help set up the team’s only score. However, the Black Knights were -1 in turnover margin against the Fighting Irish. QuarterbackTrent Steelman threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown by Darrin Walls, in seven pass attempts. Entering the game, he had thrown one interception in 99 attempts. The game was Steelman’s 23rd consecutive start, the longest streak by an Army quarterback since Leamon Hall started an Army-record 30 straight games from 1975-77.
Travis’ interception was his team-high fifth of the season, giving him sole possession of second place on Army’s all-time interception list with 11. The all-time leader with 14 is 1946 Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis.
Army is now 7-35 since the start of the 2006 season when losing the turnover battle.
The Black Knights have alternated wins and losses in each of the last seven weeks. They have not won back-to-back games since defeating North Texas (Sept. 18) and Duke (Sept. 25).
Army allowed three punt returns for -4 yards. It entered the game ranked 11th in the nation in punt coverage, giving up just 4.2 yards per return.
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The game between Army and Notre Dame was their 50th, and the Irish now lead the series 38-8-4, including 14 straight. Notre Dame also has a 15-5-3 record in games at Yankee Stadium. Irish coach Brian Kelly said he did his best to make his players cognizant of the history of both the game and where it was being played.
“Generally, on Friday, my standard routine is to have a pretty brisk walk through, go through a lot of things. We didn’t do any of that,” he said. “We just stood around with our eyes wide open and took pictures and marvelled at the stadium and walked around here. Then, after they got enough of that, they got a big Jumbotron here, too, which is very cool. There were some videos that were playing. Our guys saw that.”