Seeking consistency, Army meets Eastern Michigan

Seeking consistency, Army meets Eastern Michigan

Army coach Rich Ellerson is still searching for answers for his struggling team, and finding them on the road won't be so easy with some key players ailing.

Army (1-5) travels to meet Mid-American Conference foe Eastern Michigan (0-6) on Saturday, and senior linebacker and captain Nate Combs won't play. Combs, who leads Army in sacks and forced fumbles, suffered a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter of a 31-17 loss to Kent State last Saturday at Michie Stadium and bruising fullback Larry Dixon has a sore hamstring.

``They're looking at that tape (against Kent State) and thinking they have a great chance this week,'' Ellerson said. ``I would think they are looking at our defense and what we've been doing and are licking their chops a little bit. We've won the last couple of times we've been out there, but they've been hard-fought games that have come down to the final possession.''

Although the Eagles are winless, they have to be encouraged after last week's performance in a 52-47 setback to Toledo. Their 624 yards of total offense was the most in four seasons under coach Ron English.

The Black Knights have been victimized by some big runs this season - Boston College's Andre Williams ripped off a 99-yard scoring run in a 34-31 loss to Army at Michie Stadium two weeks ago - and the Eagles have a sophomore tailback who repeatedly shocked Toledo.

In his first career start, Bronson Hill rushed for 283 yards on 28 carries and matched the school record with four touchdown runs. That's the best single-game rushing performance in the Football Bowl Subdivision this year and was just 8 yards off Larry Radcliff's school record, set in 1971 against Eastern Kentucky.

What's even more eye-opening is that three of Hill's touchdowns came during a chaotic third quarter as he busted runs of 47 yards, 58 yards, and 70 yards in a 3-minute span.

That's reminiscent of what Kent State's Dri Archer did to Army last week. Archer rushed for 222 yards, including an explosive 87-yard run late, and also threw a touchdown pass.

``Son of a gun, he's another guy like we saw last week who can finish a run,'' Ellerson said of Hill. ``Unlike last week, he's 210 pounds and not a little guy. If he hits a crease and gets downhill, you're going to pay heck getting him on the ground.''

A week after a comeback victory over Boston College achieved in the final minute of play, the Black Knights failed to carry any momentum into the game against Kent State. Tailback Raymond Maples was held to a season-low 80 yards and Army's triple option was held to more than 70 yards below its season average.

Still, Maples ranks 10th in the nation with 125 rushing yards per game and the Black Knights still are the top running team at 385 yards per game. That's more than enough to worry the Eagles.

``Defensively, we've struggled with consistency,'' English said. ``We'll play a lot of good snaps in a game, then play some bad snaps. The issue now is that playing this Army team, there are going to be some one-on-ones where guys have to make one-on-one tackles.''

Army's defense is allowing nearly 450 yards of total offense and more than 36 points per game. Eastern Michigan is averaging just over 20 points and less than 325 yards of total offense per contest.

Senior tight end Garrett Hoskins, who caught seven passes for 103 yards against Toledo, paces the EMU receiving corps with 23 receptions for 311 yards and two touchdowns.

Reverting to the form that beat BC is what the Black Knights are striving for.

``What's driving us all crazy here is not the track part of it, or the physical maturity, it's those things that should be fundamental to our style of play that aren't being executed routinely in a competitive environment,'' Ellerson said. ``Yeah, we're young, but I'm sick of saying that.

``We have to get better and get better now.''

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.