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September 25, 2013

Ellerson & Holtz sound and feel alike

They say misery loves company. Well, introductions are in order: Army coach Rich Ellerson, meet Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz.

Both men and their teams are frustrated by 1-3 records to start the 2013 season. Both coaches have seen improvement in some areas with mistakes in others that they considered uncharacteristic.

Both clubs are desperate for a win this week when Army plays Louisiana Tech in the Heart of Dallas Kickoff Classic at 4 pm ET Saturday at the historic Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

In last weekend's games, Louisiana Tech led Kansas (2-1) throughout the contest until the Jayhawks scored a fourth-quarter touchdown and booted a 52-yard field goal as time expired for a 13-10 victory over the visiting Bulldogs.

Army led Wake Forest (2-2) at Michie Stadium with improved defensive play contributing safety en route to an 11-10 lead late in the third quarter. But Wake Forest responded with two touchdowns in the fourth period.

So, with the two teams sharing so much similar in frustration, Ellerson and Holtz, the son of College Football Hall of Famer Lou Holtz, sounded eerily alike in their press conferences this week.

With that in mind, try matching the quotes below with the coach who said it -- Ellerson or Holtz.

Obviously, coaches mentioning statistics and schools are a dead giveaway, but this isn't an exam with a pass/fail goal. It's an exercise in comparing two teams desperate for a victory for similar reasons. Substitute the stats and school names and Ellerson and Holtz could have handled each other's press conference with aplomb.

Quote 1: "Looking at the review of last week, it is hard enough to lose it on Saturday but then having to come in and relive it and watch every play on Sunday is tough. To have to watch it all and grade it all, then watch it with your staff, and then with your team, I have now seen the game about five times. The more you see it, the more frustrating it becomes. It is frustrating in so many areas, but one of the things that makes it hard, is that it is hard to lose because we have made so many strides and we improved in so many areas as a football team from last week to this week."

Quote 2: "We're hurting. Boy, are we frustrated. The good news is that we get to play this week, and we're excited to play. We're anxious to get started with our preparation tomorrow."

Quote 3: I thought our defensive line played very well. We talked about one of those keys to giving ourselves a chance to win was controlling the line of scrimmage. ... When you look at it defensively, you give up 13 points, 117 yards rushing, you created two turnovers, you had two positive field positions, you had two fourth down stops, there were so many positive things that happened in this game on offense and defense that is frustrating to lose it."

Quote 4: "It's hard to win a football game no matter where you are. What makes it hard to win are those things that we talk about all the time. And we're playing good teams. We respect the game, and we know how hard it is to win. We're doing the hard things, but not all the hard things. We can eliminate some of those penalties. We can eliminate some the challenges on defense. The guys certainly know it's hard to win a football game, but they are willing to do just that."

Quote 5: There is not a moral victory, and we certainly were not going up there to just try and play it close. I was proud of the improvements we have made as a football team. We talk about a work in progress, but I was encouraged by the things I saw. Obviously, the elephant in the room is the loss. Three turnovers were our downfall, one down inside the five and then one of them going into the end zone. Things like that cost us 14 points. All of a sudden without changing anything else and it is 24-10, if you can just hold on to the football."

Quote 6: "It's not complicated. We have it written all over the wall. The things that correlate with success on the football field don't change, but they have to experience that and recognize that the scoreboard is lying to you regardless of what its saying. All that matters is the next snap and all that matters is the next opportunity. Those things that we put on the wall on the next snap, in the next game, are all that stands between you and success at the end of the day. It's not a mystery at all when you slow it down. Basically, there is a feeling missing and there is an experience missing. There is no substitute for habit. Winning is a habit, and we're battling like crazy to make that happen."

And finally, there is this: Both teams are unsettled at quarterback.

Louisiana Tech started the season with Scotty Young under center, but Holtz gave redshirt freshman Ryan Higgins (6-1, 206) the start at Kansas. Higgins was 35 of 55 for 289 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also lost a fumble on a 27-yard run in the fourth quarter that Kansas recovered in the end zone.

"For a freshman to get his first start at Kansas, I thought he showed poise and I thought he made good decisions," Holtz said. "He threw the ball well and did a lot of good things. He added some plays with his feet. It is the same things. It is unfortunate but you have got to hold on to the football. There is nothing more important than that ball. In a situation like that, we have got to put two hands on it. With time running down and with Ryan Higgins, put that ball in the outside arm and it is still our ball."

Army was splitting junior starter Angel Santiago and sophomore backup A.J. Schurr, but Schurr injured his ankle early in the game. Sophomore Kelvin White, the third quarterback on the depth chart, ended up getting playing time late in the game.

"A.J. isn't going to be available for a lot of reps during the week," Ellerson said. "At least that's what we anticipate, but there are some reps to be had and Kelvin will take advantage of that. He can really throw the ball. He's growing as an option quarterback, but that part of the game doesn't come quite as easily to him. He's a different quarterback than the other guys.

"A.J. and Angel are very similar in terms of their profiles. They both play the game with the same positive attributes. Kelvin's a little bit different. He's a good runner. He doesn't have lightning-quick feet, but he can see and he can sling it."

Quiz answers: Odd-numbered quotes, Holtz; even-numbered quotes, Ellerson.

** To chat with other Army fans about this article and more, please visit The 12th Knight message board.**



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