Bowl Season



C-USA vs. Mountain West Dallas
Gerald J. Ford Stadium
Dec. 30

Kevin Gleason, of the Herald Record was nice enough to answer some questions about Army.

BS: The Black Knights are going bowling for the first time in 14 years. How good a job has head coach Rich Ellerson done in only 2 years?

Kevin Gleason: Rich Ellerson hasn’t done a good job at Army. He’s done a GREAT job at Army! He’s everything the Academy could have asked for, most notably a brilliant football mind with a passion for coaching at West Point . His dad and two brothers are West Point graduates, and Ellerson strongly believes in the Academy’s mission. Ellerson is way ahead of schedule in turning around this program, having gone 5-7 in his first season last year. There have been some frustrating moments for Army and its fans this season. The Black Knights could have three additional wins, but they made too many mistakes down the stretch of games against Hawaii , Temple and Rutgers . They were blown out by Air Force and Notre Dame, so Army continues to search for that one program-defining win, that one victory as an underdog. But if they don’t get it against Navy, and even if they fail to beat SMU, it’s safe to say administrators, fans and alumni believe in better days ahead.

BS: The offense has the 9th ranked rushing game in the country. How difficult is it to stop for other teams and who are the weapons including QB Trent Steelman that make it so difficult to stop?

Kevin Gleason: In my experiences around the team, I’ve come upon several facets of the option that make it difficult to stop. One, teams have very little practice time against it. Few teams in the country run it, so opponents almost never face it in live situations and have little time to prepare for it. It’s a very deceptive offense if run properly. Defenses must be intensely disciplined in playing assignment football. One subtle mistake by a single defender can lead to a huge run. Another thing is that opponents have come to despise the blocking schemes of service-academy teams. Opponents hate trying to defend the cut block, which while perfectly legal has earned a reputation for potentially damaging the legs of defenders. Many opponents, most recently Notre Dame in facing Navy, have whined about the cut block, some even referring to it as the ‘’chop block,’’ which of course is illegal. Army’s most lethal weapon is fullback Jared Hassin, an Air Force transfer with plus speed and strength. The fullback is almost always the key to a good option offense, and Hassin’s emergence has helped open up things on the outside for Steelman and halfbacks Patrick Mealy, Malcolm Brown and Brian Cobbs.

BS: The defense was solid. Who are the top players on this side of the ball?

Kevin Gleason: The defense has had its moments, though I’m pretty sure the coaching staff expected this unit to perform better after coming off a spectacular year. Linebacker Stephen Anderson is the heart and soul, the captain, an emotional leader with excellent instincts and big-play ability. Defensive end Josh McNary set Army’s career sacks record. Nose guard Mike Gann, the son of a former NFL player, holds his own inside and defensive end Marcus Hilton can make plays outside. Free safety Donovan Travis has big-play ability, but the secondary has been vulnerable, especially to deep passes.

BS: If you had to choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Kevin Gleason: Sophomore running back Malcolm Brown. He’s missed the past four games with a broken collarbone. He’s one of the team’s rare outside threats, and if he can get going, Brown can make a real difference come Saturday.

Thanks a lot to Kevin Gleason. Check him out .


EJ Holland, the sports editor of SMU Daily Campus was nice enough to answer some questions about SMU.

BS: The Mustangs finished only 7-6, but got to the conference championship. How would you rate this season compared to expectations?

EJ Holland: I would give this season a B. A second straight bowl berth is outstanding, but SMU had very high expectations this season after an 8-5 finish and a Hawaii Bowl win last year. With quite a few starters returning from that team, a conference championship and a top 25 finish was not out of reach. However, the Mustangs suffered losses to UTEP and Houston and somehow still wound up in the C-USA Championship game where they were outplayed and outcoached by UCF. SMU showed great potential against TCU and Texas Tech but failed to live up to the hype. Nevada, the team SMU beat 45-10 in the Hawaii Bowl finished in the top 15 where many fans expected SMU to finish. Once again, the Mustangs will have many starters returning next season and expectations will be even higher.

BS: The offense was very efficient through the air. Talk about Kyle Padron's play and his weapons at wide receiver.

EJ Holland
: Padron played very well in his 1st season as a full time starter. He set SMU records for most passing yards (3,526) and passing touchdowns (29) in a season. There were some growing pains throughout Padron's sophomore season, but overall he has flourished in
June Jones' run and shoot offense. A big part of his succes must be attributed to senior wide reciever Aldrick Robinson. Robinson was SMU's most explosive weapon on offense this season. His 1,225 receiving yards rank 2nd at SMU for most in a season. Robinson is also the only Mustang with two 1000-yard seasons after posting 1,047 yards in 2009. Junior slot receiver Cole Beasley has also done a phenomenal job this year and led the team in receptions with 84. Beasley also racked up 1,036 yards. Robinson and Beasley's combined 153 receptions and 2,261 receiving yards this season, is a record by a tandem at SMU. This marks the first time SMU has had two 1,000 yard receivers in the same season.

BS: The defense improved greatly from last year. Who are the units key players?

EJ Holland: In SMU's 3-4 scheme, the linebacking corps have done a tremendous job this season. The unit consists of seniors Youri Yenga and Pete Fleps and sophomores Taylor Reed and Ja'Gared Davis. Davis was named 1st team All Conference USA after finishing 1st on the team in sacks with 9 and 4th in tackles with 82. He also led SMU with 15 tackles for a loss and returned a fumble for a touchdown. Reed was an Honorable Mention All Conference USA pick which really undermines the great season he's had. Reed led the Mustangs in tackles with 133 tackles including 90 solos. Fleps was also an Honorable Mention All Conference USA pick after finishing the season 116 tackles. Yenga was a 2nd team All Conference USA pick. The senior recorded 81 tackles, 2 sacks, 6 pass break ups, and also blocked a kick.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

EJ Holland: I would have to say running back Zach Line, who has had a big year on the ground for the Mustangs. Line will be going up against Army's 49th ranked run defense which should allow him to have a breakout performance. The sophomore has rushed for 1,391 yards which ranks 3rd all time at SMU and is the most ever by a running back under June Jones. Line is averaging 107 yards per game and 6.1 yards per carry. A lot of people have overlooked this big bruising white power back, but Line who was originally recruited to play linebacker, has proven skeptics wrong all year long.

Thanks a lot to EJ, the SMU Daily Campus Sports Editor.

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