Army took a ride on the big shoulders of sophomore slotback Raymond Maples and junior signal caller Trent Steelman along with a stingy defense to route the Green Wave of Tulane, 45-6.
It was too much for Tulane to handle as they tried to defend Army's triple option with eleven Black Knights carrying the ball on 62 carries. Maples led the way with a career high 141 yards rushing capped off with a 23 yard touchdown. While Steelman rushed for 54 yards, some of which comes from his ability to scramble in the pocket and make positive gains - he converted two rushes for touchdowns. Seldom used slotback Kelechi Odocha made the final play with a 14 yard touchdown to close out the game.
We usually think the stat line ends there for Steelman but it doesn't. It would be an understatement to say that each of Army's opponents aren't sold on an attack through the air from the Black Knights. However, today happened to be one of those games that will have defensive coordinators on the look out. Steelman racked up 70 yards on 3 for 3 passing, including a play action bomb to 6-foot-3, 212 pound senior receiver Davyd Brooks on a 40 yard reception for a touchdown - Steelman's first touchdown pass and the longest of the season.
On Tulane's second play of the opening drive, running back Orleans Darkwa attempted to quiet Army's focus as he took off for a 67 yard gain, followed by a quick 3 yard touchdown. In the past four games, opponents outscore Army 121-41 in the first three quarters, and the stadium had a reason to believe that it was going to be the same story. Unfazed and resilient, Army responded right back - driving the football from Army's 30 all the way to a 2 yard touchdown by freshman fullback Larry Dixon which was his first career score, but surely not his last.
We didn't have the ball enough to do anything with it.
- Tulane Head Coach Bob Toledo
No questions remain about the depth of Army's offense after the losses to tackle Derrick Bisgard, Senior right guard Joe Bailey and freshman slot back Trenton Turrentine. Stepping up was freshman center Ryan Powis and senior right guard Robert Kava who exceeded expectations, opening up holes for the slot backs and fullbacks to work.
And when it comes to the slot back positions, it appears that every week Maples finds a way to impress his critics by getting better and better as the season progresses. If the 6-foot-1, 200 pound Maples, along with his fellow teammates can continue his aggressive play by contributing large plays on the ground (5.7 avg. vs. Tulane), opportunities to pass can open up and the Black Knights certainly took advantage of that today.
With freshman Turrentine injured, fellow frosh Terrence Baggett stepped in to receive a few carries on Saturday and we should see more to come from the slotback out of Chicago (IL) to aid Maples in the running scheme.
Fullback Jared Hassin ran for 144 yards with 2 touchdowns last year in Army's victory over Tulane, but logged only 19 yards on 6 carries today. This just shows the depth at the fullback position with Dixon's improved play.
Movement after contact was crucial in Army's success on the ground. Steelman had an incredible play in the backfield where he could have been sacked for a heavy loss, but broke through multiple tackles to go 28 yards. Dixon and Maples kept moving their feet after contact and this was extremely important in gaining first downs that extended their time of possession.
Running the football and running it well is what the Black Knights are known for and that is why the team leads the nation in time of possession with 36:04. Why is this stat significant? Play after play, Army finds a way to convert on third downs and continues to move the ball down the field - this demoralizes the opponent's defense and keeps their offense on the sidelines having absolutely no rhythm going into their offensive series.
"We didn't have the ball enough to do anything with it," said Tulane Head Coach Bob Toledo after Saturday's loss to the Black Knights. "I think we had it less than 50 snaps, and that should be a little over half.... we just didn't have the ball."
Understand this. Last year, Army rushed 312 yards against Tulane for a season high in rushing, earning them a 41-23 victory. The Black Knights finished this afternoon with 353 yards on the ground which is slightly lower than their 372.25 yards per game, which is ranked third in the nation. What we're seeing is consistency from the offense which is essential in winning games on any given Saturday.
The Black Knights seem to play their best ball at home as they are now 2-1, outscoring their opponents 86-43. Last year, games on the road were not an issue for the Black Knights who won all five of their road games. Let's hope Coach Ellerson can use this victory to propel them to a victory on the road as Army faces Miami of Ohio next Saturday.