2011 Northwestern Wildcats Football

 
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Northwestern Wildcats @ Army Black Knights Football Preview

 

 

Northwestern merchandise The old saying tells us that “little things mean a lot.” Well, in the case of the Army Black Knights, the really big things mean a lot, too.

Army played hard and, for the most part, quite well this past weekend against a solid opponent with legitimate skill-position talent a profile worthy of a bowl team. Yet, because of this nagging not-so-little problem called “fumble-itis,” the Black Knights lost a game they very well could have won.

This was definitely not how Rich Ellerson wanted to reprise last year’s bowl winning season. After suffering a bad 49-26 loss at Northern Illinois, Army fought back from an early deficit at home only to lose 23-20 to San Diego State. Army’s focus should be on ball security, having already lost five fumbles this season and putting countless others on the turf. Last week’s loss to San Diego State was a case study in how turnovers control the outcome of a game, especially fumbles that pour out of idle hands in an option attack. Army controlled the ball for nearly 45 minutes of the game, outgained the Aztecs 446 yards to 292, and committed only four penalties (albeit one of them a false start on a last-minute drive when trailing by three points). Yet, for all the good things Army did, a fourth quarter field goal gave San Diego State the win and ripped out the Brave Old Army Team’s guts. If the Black Knights can stop giving the ball away, the wins should come; Army’s option appears to be as potent as ever, and quarterback Trent Steelman is throwing a better ball than in past years. It’s concerning that Steelman got injured twice in the San Diego State game, but if he’s able to take the field this weekend, he’ll be quite capable of hitting a big pass play when needed.

 

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This week the Black Knights welcome Northwestern to West Point. The Wildcats have managed an early 2-0 start without Dan Persa, a Heisman-hopeful quarterback still sidelined from last year’s knee injury. Kain Colter has filled in with relative proficiency, completing 73 percent of his passes while rushing for 90 yards per game and, most importantly, not committing the gobs of turnovers that will put the Wildcats behind the eight ball. Northwestern earned a hard-fought 24-17 win at Boston College in week one before taking care of Eastern Illinois 42-21. This team might be underequipped without Persa, but it is proving to be immensely resourceful, which is and has been the major story of coach Pat Fitzgerald’s immensely successful tenure in Evanston, Illinois.

In this matchup, stopping Northwestern’s 14 th-ranked rushing offense will be paramount for Army. If the Black Knights can load the tackle box with the same success they had the previous week against San Diego State and star tailback Ronnie Hillman, they will push Northwestern to the wire. With fewer fumbles, they might even steal a win.

 

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

 

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