Here’s what I learned Monday from interviews with Army coach Rich Ellerson and players following the Black Knights’ 35-16 win over Louisiana Tech Saturday:
Like most of us, Army coach Rich Ellerson isn’t sure why when a defensive player is reinstated into the game after the review of a targeting penalty, the 15 yards from the violation is still marked off. Ellerson, who the American Football Coaches Association rules committee, which advises the NCAA, jokingly said, “I must have been on a bathroom break when that one came up.”
Ellerson maintained his stance after the game Saturday that cornerback Josh Jenkins, who was flagged for targeting on a shoulder-to-shoulder hit and was ejected in the third quarter, “was not doing what we asked him to do, and that’s attacking the football. You can say it was shoulder to shoulder, but that’s a court of higher opinion.” But, Ellerson said is looking into appealing Jenkins’ first-half suspension against Boston College.
Ellerson went back and forth on the new ejection rule. During his press conference, Ellerson said, “Over the course of the season, there are going to be some calls that you don’t like or you disagree with, but we’re not going to target defenseless players above the shoulder. We’re not going to tolerate it and we’re not going to excuse it. I don’t think it was especially dangerous or vicious, but it had the potential and the officials judged it that way.”
After his press conference, Ellerson said, “You can argue that really didn’t happen. Is he targeting that guy above the shoulders? He is. Now, he didn’t quite make contact but he does hit the guy shoulder to shoulder. To the receiver’s credit, he gets up holding his head. It’s an Emmy or whatever. There is a little soccer thing going on. I don’t know.”
Ellerson said senior rover and captain Thomas Holloway, “was so angry” at Army’s trainers because they wouldn’t let him go back in after experiencing concussion-like symptoms in the second quarter. But, he talked to Holloway about it being the right decision. The coach said on Holloway’s status for Boston College Saturday, “I think he’ll (Holloway) OK. You take it as the week goes along. But, he was not in bad shape at all.”
Ellerson said he has his fingers crossed that junior safety Geoff Bacon can return for Army’s game at Air Force on Nov. 2. Bacon had surgery to repair torn ligaments in his wrist last week.
Elllerson said the offensive line, “was starting to talk to themselves a little bit,” after the Wake Forest. But, the line played well against “a good defensive football team and a good defensive line of La. Tech and it was important that we could go out there and be successful. We have some good football players on our offensive line. Obviously, they don’t weigh 300 pounds or any of that stuff but they are athletic and they know what they are doing and they are tough guys and they are well-coached.”
Ellerson said junior Marques Avery, who replaced Jenkins in the third quarter and played his first snaps on defense this season (he had a back injury), “was fine. He was not a liability. I would argue during those final two quarters he played at least as well if not better than Chris (Carnegie, Army’s cornerback).”
Ellerson said sophomore linebacker Alex Meier is no longer with the team but didn’t elaborate why. Meier was Army’s opening-game starter at middle linebacker and started 10 games as a freshman. A source said Meier is resigning from the academy.
Many have asked where junior defensive end Colin Linkul has been. Linkul, who sacked Louisiana Tech QB Ryan Higgins on his first two plays on defense since Army’s season opener on August 30, was playing special teams the past three games. Ellerson said Linkul, “is a situational guy and that’s a situation.” Linkul has been a pass-rushing specialist since he arrived at West Point. He told me he was a little disappointed after his performance in Army’s first game. Linkul, who weighs 195 pounds, had a few chances at Morgan State quarterbacks but couldn’t record a sack.
Army players, not only had to sit through two lightning delays, but they battled the heat and humidity at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. One player told me the conditions were so bad that it made him nauseous during the first half.
Cotton Bowl Stadium’s drainage system is pretty good. Was told the field could take 43 inches of rain per hour.