Steelman paces Army over Air Force 41-21


Steelman paces Army over Air Force 41-21

WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) Trent Steelman rushed for 101 yards and scored twice, the Army defense held Air Force's high-powered offense in check for three quarters, and the Black Knights beat the Falcons 41-21 on Saturday to snap a six-game losing streak in the series.

Army (2-7) also stopped a 13-game skid in service academy games and stayed in the hunt for its first Commander-in-Chief's Trophy since 1996. The coveted hardware goes to the academy with the best record in the annual round-robin competition. Air Force (5-4) has won it outright the past two seasons. Navy beat the Falcons 28-21 in overtime a month ago.

Steelman was injured and did not play against Air Force last season in a 24-14 road loss. He more than made up for that absence on this day in a contest featuring the top two rushing teams in the nation. Steelman, who moved past Glenn Davis into third place all-time in rushing at West Point with 2,983 yards, passed for 100 yards and guided a ground attack that netted 314.

Army entered the game leading the nation in rushing at 383 yards per game, just 17 more than the second-place Falcons.

The Army defense intercepted three passes, stopped a fourth-down run from its own 1, forced Air Force to punt four times, and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Air Force, which had only punted 15 times in its first eight games, finished with 103 yards rushing on 43 carries after averaging 5.8 yards per carry in its first eight games.

With the help of a successful onside kick, Air Force scored twice in the fourth quarter to throw a scare into the home crowd. Jon Lee scored on a 4-yard run and Connor Dietz ran in from the 11, but Army linebacker Nate Combs recovered a bad snap in the end zone that had gone through Dietz's hands to stop the rally with 2:50 left. Combs also intercepted Dietz at the goal line in the final seconds.

Cody Getz, who did not play in last week's win over Nevada because of an injured ankle, finished with 23 yards rushing on 14 carries. He entered the game averaging 132.6, fourth best in the nation. Dietz was 10 of 17 passing for 185 yards and rushed for 37 yards on 10 carries.

The Army defense played its best game of the season and began to turn the tide in the second quarter. The Black Knights stopped Air Force on fourth down from the 1 and intercepted two passes that the offense turned into 13 points as Army gained a 20-7 halftime lead.

The Falcons entered the game ranked near last nationally in passing but first in pass efficiency, and the Black Knights became victims on Air Force's first two drives.

After taking a 7-0 lead to start the game, Army, desperate for a victory, used two timeouts on the Falcons' first possession, the second coming before the snap on a third-and-goal play from the 13. Whatever strategy the Black Knights devised went for naught when Josh Jackson was called for pass interference at the goal line. Wes Cobb scored on a 1-yard run two plays later to tie it.

Fourth-down gambles are the norm for both teams with their high-powered run games, and when Air Force forced Army to punt after three downs and drove to the Army 1 there was no hesitation with so much at stake. But the Black Knights stuffed Dietz for no gain on fourth down. The Falcons asked for a review of the play, but the power was out at Michie Stadium and the officials were unable to do it.

Steelman then stunned the Falcons with just his 26th completion of the year, a pass in the right flat to a wide-open Raymond Maples, who turned it into a 53-yard gain up the right side. The Air Force defense stiffened, and Army had to settle for Daniel Grochowski's 20-yard and a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.

Dietz completed his first three passes to run his season total to 79 attempts without an interception, a big part of why Air Force has been so successful with its limited passing attack. That streak ended when freshman defensive back Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires picked off a Dietz pass in the left flat near midfield.

Army capitalized again with the pass as Steelman rolled out and hit Chevaughn Lawrence for 17 yards on a third-and-7 play to set up a first-and-goal at the 7. Two timeouts by the Falcons didn't help them as Steelman scored from the 1 for a 17-7 lead with 1:39 left in the second quarter.

Unfazed, Dietz hit Marcus Hendricks with a 28-yard pass to get the Falcons moving after the ensuing kickoff, and a 19-yard completion to Ty MacArthur gave Air Force a first down at the Army 28. But when Dietz tried to strike again with a pass down the middle, linebacker Geoffery Bacon intercepted and returned it 31 yards.

With the clock winding down, Army settled for Grochowski's 36-yard field goal with 3 seconds remaining.

Air Force trailed Army 14-0 at the half last year and rallied for a 24-14 victory at Falcon Stadium. The Black Knights didn't let that happen this time, forcing Air Force to punt on its first three possessions of the second half and scoring two straight touchdowns to take a commanding 35-7 lead.

After converting its third straight fourth-down gamble - Steelman rushed for 4 yards on fourth-and-1 - fullback Larry Dixon bulled his way for a 6-yard touchdown.

Maples scored on a pitch right and Steelman's two-point conversion made it 35-7 late in the third.

Beating the Falcons was a tall task. Army had lost 14 of 15 in the series and hadn't beaten the Falcons at Michie Stadium since star quarterback Ronnie McAda led them to a 23-7 triumph in 1996, when Army finished at 10-2 and Bob Sutton was named national coach of the year.

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

John Wall crossed one of the biggest hurdles of his months-long recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery on Saturday by participating in his first full practice.

That means Wall went through 5-on-5 scrimmages with teammates that included contact. He is free of restrictions.

Now it is only a matter of days before Wall is ready to return to game action.

"John did everything, he did an entire practice which was great," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he did a great job offensively and defensively."


Wall, who last played on Jan. 25 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, has missed the Wizards' last 24 games. He has been absent for 35 of their 72 total games this season.

In the months he has been out, Wall has slowly worked his way to this point. He still has to get a few more practices under his belt before the Wizards can outline a target date for his return.

Wall was aggressive in testing his knee by attacking the basket, according to Brooks. Wall was moving around well and even lost a few pounds during his time off.

"He looks great and that's not easy with time off," Brooks said. "He will be back in no time."


The Wizards have gone 14-10 since Wall went down, an impressive mark especially considering how tough their schedule shook out. Most of those games came against teams with winning records either holding playoff spots or fighting for them.

The shine, though, is wearing off. They have lost two straight games and seven of their last 11. Their offense has stalled in recent defeats and it's become more and more clear they could use Wall's presence.

"He gives us that edge," Wall said. "When you have him on the floor, you get a lot of easy shots. John creates a lot of attention when he drives to the basket... I think [his teammates] have always appreciated it, but when you don't have him around you definitely miss it."

While the Wizards continue to wait for Wall to return to games, just having him in practices helps. Brooks explained how guarding a player of Wall's caliber, a five-time All-Star, raises the intensity level of their scrimmages. If his teammates do not bring their best effort, Wall can very easily expose them.


There is also something intangible about Wall's presence. The media sees it once the doors open at practice. He is talkative and energetic on the court.

Some of his teammates even described him as "loud."

"Sometimes I tell him that he's a little too loud," guard Bradley Beal said. "But that's the energy that we've missed."

"He brings the juice. He brings the energy level up," Brooks said. "You miss his spirit. You miss the way he interacts with guys. He's fiery and competitive. He gets after guys. He cheers guys on. I like that. I like guys that show emotion and passion on the court."

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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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