While the other service academies started last weekend, Army fans had to wait for the 2012 season to begin.
Tomorrow, that wait ends. The storied tradition (trust us, it’s storied) of West Point football returns for a 123rd season, kicking off on the West Coast. Here are the basics:
Who, where, when: Army at San Diego State (0-1), Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
TV: NBC Sports Network (Paul Burmeister and Rod Woodson on the call).
Gambling is illegal in most states: San Diego State is a 6.5-point favorite.
Senior leaders: Army quarterback Trent Steelman enters his fourth season as a starter, but he’s not the only experienced Black Knight as the season begins. That veteran edge may be most obvious early in the season, when other teams without returning starters work out the kinks. Army returns its top seven rushers from last season, and they can run behind an offensive line boasting three seniors and four returning letter-winners. San Diego State’s three-man front has two sophomores and a junior, and all of its defensive tackles except for sophomore starter Sam Meredith are new to the active roster this season, according to the team’s depth chart.
Ball control: SDSU kept pace on the stat sheet in its 21-12 loss to Washington last week, but turnovers proved to be the Aztecs’s killer. Senior quarterback Ryan Katz threw an interception, and the team as a whole fumbled three times — losing two, including one returned 44 yards for a score. As the very end of the Times Herald-Record’s game preview points out, Army fumbled 22 times last season. The Black Knight backfield of Steelman, running backs Raymond Maples and Terry Baggett, and fullback Larry Dixon must protect the ball or risk giving away any advantage SDSU miscues could create.
Punting prowess: Aztec head coach Rocky Long probably hates turnovers. He definitely hates punts. Long’s squad went for it on fourth down three times against Washington, converting twice. It’ll be up to Army’s defense to rise to the occasion on fourth-and-short conversions, which could give Steelman and company a short field.
Getting social: Just in time for kickoff, Army has created a Twitter account for football fans, promising in-game updates and other game-day information. Add it to your must-follow list, right behind this one.