Week 3 football preview: Northern Illinois at Army

Steelman Wilson Army

Army quarterback Trent Steelman and center Will Wilson had some snap-related struggles during Saturday’s loss at San Diego State. (US Presswire photo by Jake Roth)

Three weeks into the college football season, a service academy finally will play a home game against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent. Here’s what Army fans need to know:

Who, where, when: Northern Illinois (1-1) at Army (0-1), Saturday, noon Eastern. Army fell 49-26 at NIU last year.

TV: CBS Sports Network (Ben Holden and Randy Cross have the call).

Gambling is illegal in most states: Northern Illinois is a three-point favorite.

Headline only a Navy fan can appreciate: Courtesy of NIU Today.

At least he’s gone: Last year, NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish accounted for six of NIU’s seven touchdowns — five TD passes, one 1-yard TD run. He’s now on the sidelines with the Indianapolis Colts after becoming 2012’s “Mr. Irrelevant” — the final player taken in the NFL draft. His NFL.com draft profile compares him to Tim Tebow — a good threat for an opponent to be without. Replacing him under center will be junior Jordan Lynch, who ran for three scores in NIU’s 35-7 destruction of Tennessee-Martin last weekend.

Will Steelman be back?: Yes, Army senior signal-caller Trent Steelman was on the field for Saturday’s loss at San Diego State, but his play wasn’t what Army fans or coaches expected from a fourth-year starter — eight pass attempts, three completions, two interceptions, plus three botched center-QB exchanges. Army head coach Rich Ellerson had a simple explanation for Steelman’s struggles: He’s trying too hard. “When he tries to have an out-of-body experience and do something heroic, it doesn’t work in his favor,” Ellerson said at his Tuesday news conference. “Everything we do requires a real level of precision, and when somebody starts doing something just a little bit different to try to make something happen, all of the sudden you see something like what you saw on Saturday.”

About those snaps …: Army football guru Sal Interdonato blogged that sophomore Ryan Powis worked out with the first team during Tuesday’s practice after missing Saturday’s opener with a hand injury, but Powis isn’t listed on Army’s official depth chart.

Sharing the load: Part of Steelman’s progression from failed superhero to stellar option quarterback will require his running backs to break through an NIU defense that allowed 63 rushing yards to Tennessee-Martin. Junior Raymond Maples and sophomore Terry Baggett each had more than 100 yards on the ground against San Diego State, but much of that yardage came with the Aztecs up big and willing to allow the Army ground game to chew up clock. A big, early, breakout day for either Army rusher could set the offensive tone at Michie Stadium.


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