Five quick hits for an 0-2 weekend of service academy football:
1. Yes, it’s that bad. Army’s 42-7 loss at San Diego State on Saturday wasn’t the worst in opening-day performance in school history — but it was the Black Knights’ worst start since falling to Boston College 44-7 in 2005. And Navy’s 50-10 demolition at the hands of Notre Dame on Sept. 1 wasn’t the worst opening-day loss in Annapolis history — Navy fell 53-0 to Virginia in 1992. But when it comes to both schools struggling at the same time, this year’s combined minus-75 point differential to start the season is the worst ever, going back to the beginning of the Army football program in 1890.
Runner-up might be 1994, when Army opened the year by demolishing Division I-AA Holy Cross before falling to Duke 43-7. Navy lost 56-14 to San Diego State to open that season. So, the lesson here — don’t play San Diego State.
2. Ellerson’s lament. Army’s Raymond Maples and Terry Badgett each topped 100 yards rushing in Saturday’s loss, giving a small silver lining to an opening-day disaster. How bad? This from head coach Rich Ellerson in The Associated Press’ report: “Yes it was our first game and all that, but there are so many veteran football players that were doing things that we can do in our sleep and we looked like we were trying to do it in our sleep. I’m just stunned.”
“Stunned” is never good. And neither were the passing statistics. In a game where the Black Knights trailed early and needed to score quickly to have any hope of a comeback, they totaled 50 yards in the air. All three came from senior Trent Steelman, one of the key “veteran football players” Ellerson was referring to, who attempted eight passes, completed three of them … and threw two interceptions.
3. Denard’s day. Relatively speaking, Air Force’s 31-25 loss at Michigan counts as good news. But the Falcons (1-1) went into battle with the Wolverines knowing the key would be stopping all-everything quarterback Denard Robinson, and the defense wasn’t quite up to the task. The Michigan quarterback managed more total yards (426) than the Michigan offense (422). Deadspin’s Sam Eifling gives the rundown here as only Deadspin can.
4. PSU problems. Could the academy football turnaround begin this Saturday? Army hosts Northern Illinois (1-1) at noon, while Navy travels to Penn State for a 3:30 p.m. showdown. NIU is coming off a big win over Tennessee-Martin, but most eyes have been on PSU, which is 0-2 after a 17-16 loss to Virginia. Among the many, many problems faced by Penn State this season, the kicking game has suddenly taken center stage. PennLive.com blogger Matthew Pencek explains the curious case of Sam Ficken, who missed four field goals at UVA and may be replaced before Saturday’s showdown with Navy.
5. Rodriguez on the board. We’ve been keeping an eye on former Army Sgt. Daniel Rodriguez since he got the OK to play at Clemson this season. Saturday, the wideout reached another milestone in his football career — a catch in a D-I football game. He hauled in a fourth-quarter reception during Clemson’s 52-27 demolition of Ball State, earning an ovation, according to the AP report. The 4-yard catch puts him into the history books — or at least onto the ESPN.com digital stat sheet, which is the next best thing.