What Army fans need to know as the Black Knights dip into the Football Bowl Subdivision in search of their first win.
Who, where, when: Stony Brook (3-1) at Army (0-3), Saturday, noon Eastern.
TV: CBS Sports Network (Ben Holden and Randy Cross have the call).
Trend: Air Force’s first win came against an FCS opponent in the Falcons’ home opener. Navy’s first win came against an FCS opponent in the Mids’ home opener. This will be Army’s second home game of the year — kicking off a three-game homestand — but the first against an FCS school.
Counterpoint: Stony Brook is one of the best in the second tier, ranked 18th in the FCS coaches’ poll. The Seawolves put a scare into Syracuse two weeks ago, leading the Orange 17-14 at the half in the Carrier Dome before falling 28-14.
Steelman update: Army’s senior signal-caller is still nursing a rib injury suffered during Saturday’s loss at Wake Forest. He’ll be a game-time decision Saturday, according to reports, though Rich Ellerson told Army football guru Sal Interdonato that he was “encouraged” by Steelman’s progress and his performance during Thursday-morning drills. If the senior can’t go, look for sophomore Angel Santiago to step in; they share the top spot on Army’s depth chart.
Ground and pound: Steelman takes more than a traditional quarterback’s share of hits because of his role in Army’s option offense, a run-based attack that now leads the Football Bowl Subdivision with 399 yards on the ground per game. But the Seawolves aren’t slouches — ranked fourth in the FCS in rushing with more than 327 yards a game. Stony Brook’s two-man backfield includes senior Miguel Maysonet, who’s on pace to break the school career rushing record and already has 580 yards and six rushing touchdowns this season, and junior Marcus Coker, a transfer from Iowa (leaving amid a sex assault investigation) who was second in the Big Ten in rushing in 2011 behind all-everything running back Montee Ball of Wisconsin.
Stopping power: Look to Army’s linebacking corps to carry the load, tackle-wise. Sophomore middle linebacker Geoffrey Bacon has 29 tackles so far this year, good enough for 30th in the FCS. Freshman Alex Meier had five tackles against Wake Forest in his first career start. Senior Nate Combs continues to lead the Black Knights with three tackles for loss, but it’s an area that needs improvement: Army’s eight tackles for loss over three games ranks the Black Knights next to last in the FCS.
Trouble up front: More from Interdonato, as he reports Army sophomore center Ryan Powis will miss Saturday’s game with a rib injury. Powis — who made the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the nation’s best center — will be replaced by senior Will Wilson for the second time this season. Aside from the center-QB exchange problems that plagued Army in its season-opener against San Diego State (which Wilson started), the center is a critical blocker for the triple-option attack. Defensive pressure up the middle can ruin an option offense’s timing, shut down any chance for a fullback to break free and allow opposing linebackers to focus on the outside gaps.