In a day which witnessed Army Quarterback Trent Steelman score three times to break a 66-year-old Academy record for career touchdowns, the story was Temple running back Montel Harris who ran for a school record 351 yards and seven touchdowns as the Owls shelled the Black Knights in what had been expected to be a close game.
Steelman's three touchdowns gave him 44 for his four-year career, one more than famed Army Heisman Trophy Winner Glenn Davis who played during the World War II era from 1943-46. Those were the years when Army was coached by Red Blaik and West Point attracted the best players in the country. Army won three straight national titles from 1944-46. Of course in the 1940s, teams played shorter schedules than today.
Temple will remember this game for the record setting performance of its senior running back Montel Harris who ran time and again through big holes in the Army line for 351 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. That is right; 351 yards and seven touchdowns, both Temple school records.
Temple got ahead early with touchdowns on their first two drives both scored by senior back Matt Harris, the second from 36 yards out. Army came back with drives of its own the first resulting in a Trent Steelman's first scoring run of the day and later a drive resulting in a 37 yard field goal by senior Eric Osteen. The field goal was Osteen's first in his college career, most of his work has been on kickoffs. With 4:57 left in the half it was just a 14-10 Temple lead.
Temple took control of the game late in the second quarter with the first of Montel Harris' two touchdown run, the first for sixty yards, the second from one yard out with just 28 seconds left in the half to give the Owls a 28-10 lead at the half.
After a halftime that honored Korean War veterans and presentation of a large American Flag on Blaik Field, Army came out with a 75 yard drive culminated in Steelman's second touchdown of the day. When Malcolm Brown ran for a two point conversion, it looked like Army had a chance to get back in the game down 28-18.
The Owls answered with a7r yard drive finishing with Harris' third touchdown of the game on a one yard run.
The Black Knights again came back as Trent Steelman saw an opening and ran 56 yards down the sideline for his third touchdown of the game breaking the Glenn Davis' record. Steelman finished the game with 139 yards rushing on the day.
Temple then went on a spree scoring four times in eight minutes all on rushing touchdowns by Harris. In the middle was an Army drive culminated by Malcolm Brown on a three-yard run.
Afterwards, the 22 Army seniors playing in their final home game at Michie Stadium joined their teammates in singing the West Point Alma Mater in front of several thousand members of the Corps of Cadets with the Temple players respectfully standing behind them.
Trent Steelman looked frustrated and disgusted, as in walked off Blaik Field for the last time in his Army football uniform.
Afterwards, Army head Coach Rich Ellerson took responsibility for the loss, saying:
"That's on me. I did not give the guys on defense the tools they needed to have a chance to compete in that game. The good news is we have another opportunity."
The Army defense had played well in recent games against Air Force and Rutgers. I asked defensive captain Nate Combs about the challenges Temple presented in the game:
"They ran all over us, which is kind of an understatement when they have over 500 yards rushing. We just have to come out tomorrow and be ready for Navy."
Senior defensive back Josh Jackson tried to put into perspective the challenge facing the team to put this game aside and get ready for Navy:
"As seniors, this is where your character is tested. We've been tested this whole season, but true character and true leadership is how you overcome both good and bad situations. We'll get our team together and get ready for the showdown with Navy.
We watched senior quarterback Trent Steelman lead the Black Knight offense since the first game of his freshman or plebe year as it is called at West Point. He takes a pounding every week but often is able to find opportunities for breakaway runs such as his 56 yard play today. The coaching staff calls on him to pound the ball into the end zone. On the day he broke the record of a West Point legend, he deserved better, I asked him about breaking the record on such an overall disappointing day:
"A loss is a loss. No matter what happens on the field, you're going to have that same feeling. I would trade (all the records) back for a win, to be honest."
Thanksgiving week will give the Army players a break and the coaches a chance to regroup the defense. The Black Knights have struggled this year with teams that have thrown big lineman at them like Temple and even Stony Brook. But the Black Knights handled the big lines of Boston College and Rutgers. Navy has a couple of big guards but the rest of their team is similar to Army.
The December 8 match-up on national television to be played in front of 65,000 in Philadelphia will be for the coveted Commander-in-Chief Trophy. If the Army defense can reorganize and play like they did against Air Force, the Black knights have a chance to break their ten-year losing streak to Navy.
Ken Kraetzer covers Army football for WVOX 1460 AM in New Rochelle, NY and Sons of the American Legion Radio.
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