Pregame leftovers: Air Force

Here are some notes and quotes, which didn’t make print or online editions during the week.

Army is in must-win mode Saturday. The Black Knights need to beat Air Force, Western Kentucky and Hawaii in their next three games to qualify for the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 26 in San Diego. Is Saturday at Air Force a must-win for coach Rich Ellerson? Ellerson is 1-7 in service-academy games in his 4+ seasons. The lone win was a 41-21 victory over Air Force at Michie Stadium last season. The consensus amongst Army fans is Ellerson must win at least three of Army’s four remaining games and both service-academy games to return next season. Ellerson, who has two years left on his contract, is 0-4 vs. Navy,  Army’s opponent on Dec. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

When asked if winning a Commander in Chief’s trophy (beating both Air Force and Navy in a season) is an accomplishment he’d like to achieve during his Army tenure, Ellerson said, “I’d like to do all that stuff. But what I’d really like to do is be 1-0 this week. If I get caught up in those conversations, I’m the worst coach in the world because I’m telling my guys one thing and then I start doing something else. All I’m trying to do is somehow, some way, win a game on Saturday. I love the service-academy games. You can’t help it. When everything is put in play, it’s the most important game of the year because it’s the one we have this week. I believe that.”

Remember Army’s last trip to Colorado Springs, Colo in 2011. The Black Knights led 14-0 at halftime. But, Army’s lead could have easily been 28-0. Quarterback Max Jenkins was ruled to be stopped at Air Force’s one-inch line on a 4th-and-goal. Replay showed Jenkins with the ball crossing the goal line but the play was reviewed and the call was upheld. Army’s Scott Williams fumbled another would-be touchdown a half-step before the end zone.Air Force scored 24 unanswered points in the second half to win 24-14.

Army junior linebacker James Kelly recalls the game well. It was the first time Kelly, who grew up in Thornton, Colo. about 70 miles from Air Force, traveled with the team. “To see how close we were our freshman year (2011), it put a damper on the rest of our season,” Kelly said. “I can remember the feeling in the locker room afterward. Guys hanging their heads a little bit. It was tough. We have a couple of fumbles and a couple of defensive breakdowns late and it just slipped away at the end.”

Air Force freshman quarterback Nate Romine  didn’t grow up in Southern California, watching service-academy games on television. Romine’s first introduction to the academies was watching “A Game of Honor,” a Showtime documentary on the 2011 Army and Navy seasons.

“My dad (Alton) and I sat down for whole weekend and just watched that and just soaked into that,” Romine said. “Next thing you know Air Force is offering me and we have that on our DVR and we are watching it all the time.”

Army has won seven games away from Michie Stadium in coach Rich Ellerson’s five seasons. Five of the wins came during Army’s 2010 bowl season.

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    Sal Interdonato

    Award-winning writer Sal Interdonato has been on the Army football beat since 2007. He'll take you inside the huddle and into the lives of the Black Knights. Read Full
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