WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) The final game of the season at Michie Stadium is at hand, and Army coach Rich Ellerson marvels at what his 22 seniors have accomplished in the face of so much adversity.
Forget the record for a moment. Focus on the players.
``Throughout the course of this season, we've had some great days and some hard days,'' Ellerson said. ``We've played well and not come away with a `W.' They've kept the faith and picked themselves and their teammates back up. They've made sure that the voice has stayed right. For a group like that, they're not just letting the clock tick.
``They're really looking forward to this.''
The Black Knights (2-8) host Temple (3-6) on Saturday, and though Army can still make this lost year something wonderful with a win over archrival Navy in the season finale next month, beating the Owls could only help the general psyche of a snake-bitten team.
Last week, Army and its prolific option attack dominated the first two quarters at No. 24 Rutgers and yet the Black Knights left the field at halftime tied at 7-7- because it had two field goals blocked, quarterback Trent Steelman lost a fumble in the red zone - one of four turnovers on the day for Army - and wide receiver Chevaughn Lawrence dropped a would-be touchdown pass in the final minute.
The score remained the same until the fourth quarter, when three late Army miscues changed the game and the Scarlet Knights won 28-7.
Army has lost 15 straight against Big East competition. That Temple is struggling, too, with four straight conference losses in its first season back in the Big East since 2004 is not something the Black Knights are even looking at. The Owls defeated Army 42-14 last year at Lincoln Financial Field and have won four straight in the series.
``When you're watching and preparing for your opponent, you're not necessarily looking at the scoreboard that they've had,'' said Ellerson, whose Black Knights lead the nation in rushing at 366 yards per game. ``You're looking at what they're doing and how they're doing it.
``Temple has been playing awfully good people. They don't have a great record either, but we believe what we see on the tape. Our older guys know how it feels to play these guys. Last year, that game was as physical a drubbing as I've ever had. Our guys have all kinds of respect for Temple.''
The Owls are coming off a 34-10 loss at home to Cincinnati and have been outscored 86-27 in the first half the past three weeks. That 2-0 start in the conference seems a distant memory now.
``We're a little physically beaten up right now, a little tired,'' Temple coach Steve Addazio said. ``They know they lost four games. You can't get all tied up in that.''
Leading rusher Montel Harris injured his left knee in the second quarter against the Bearcats and never returned, but Addazio said Harris would be ready for Army.
Both coaches are tinkering with their lineups. Addazio said he wouldn't name a starting quarterback until late in the week and Ellerson is giving Eric Osteen a chance at place-kicker in place of Daniel Grochowski.
The game promises to be special for Steelman. The four-year starter is poised to leave Blaik Field for the final time with more records in tow. His 1,013 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns lead the team, and he needs only 66 yards to break the academy season record for rushing yards by a quarterback held by Tory Crawford. Steelman also has 41 career rushing scores, only two behind the school record of 43 held by the great Glenn Davis, his four-straight 100-yard games are tied for the academy record, and his 11 100-yard games tie him with Crawford for the most by an Army quarterback.
Going out with a loss in their final game at Michie Stadium isn't an option for Steelman and his classmates.
``They are frustrated that they haven't won more, but they love to play,'' Ellerson said. ``They can't visualize not being successful given the next opportunity.''