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11/03/2012 5:11 PM EDT
Steelman paces Army over Air Force 41-21
ARMY 41, AIR FORCE 21

By JOHN KEKIS
AP Sports Writer

WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) -- Army coach Rich Ellerson has been
searching for that elusive signature victory. He might just have
it now.



Trent Steelman rushed for 101 yards and scored twice, the Army
defense held Air Force's high-powered offense in check, and the
Black Knights beat the Falcons 41-21 on Saturday.



How big was that?



Army (2-7) stopped a 13-game skid in service academy games and
beat an archrival it had defeated just once in the previous 15
games.



"That was fun, huh?" Ellerson said afterward with a big smile.
"This is a milestone for us. I'm really proud of how the guys
prepared. This is a good football team. It doesn't have a good
record."



Most importantly, Army stayed in the hunt for its first
Commander-in-Chief's Trophy since 1996. The coveted hardware
goes to the service academy with the best record in the annual
round-robin competition between the schools. Air Force (5-4) has
won it outright the past two seasons, but Navy beat the Falcons
28-21 in overtime a month ago and plays Army in the season
finale next month.



"When you get here on day one, it's beat Navy, beat Air Force,"
Ellerson said. "We've got half of the equation right."



Steelman was injured and did not play against Air Force last
season in a 24-14 road loss. He more than made up for that
absence on this day in a contest featuring the top two rushing
teams in the nation.



"It's a feeling I had never experienced before," the senior
quarterback said after his first career victory over the
Falcons. "It's a feeling I wouldn't change for the world. It's a
big win for our program, but we have to turn around and go right
back to work."



Steelman, who moved past the great Glenn Davis into third place
all-time in rushing at West Point with 2,983 yards, passed for
100 yards and guided an attack that netted 314 yards rushing and
held the ball for 36 minutes.



"We ran the ball up and down the field," Ellerson said. "That's
what we do. I don't think there was any lack of confidence.
That's frankly what we expect."



Army entered the game leading the nation in rushing at 383 yards
per game and the Falcons were second at 366.



The Black Knights also did not commit a turnover, a big deal for
a team that had committed 14 and gained only seven in the
previous eight games.



In playing its best game of the season, the much-maligned Army
defense intercepted three passes, stopped a fourth-down run from
its own 1, forced Air Force to punt four times, and recovered a
fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.



Air Force, which had only punted 15 times in its first eight
games, finished with 103 yards rushing on 43 attempts.



"The entire defense played with amazing energy," Army defensive
tackle Robert Kough said. "I think it was the energy coming out.
We were just working hard."



With the help of a successful onside kick, Air Force scored
twice in the fourth quarter to throw a brief scare into the
Michie Stadium crowd. Jon Lee scored on a 4-yard run and Connor
Dietz ran in from the 13, but Army linebacker Nate Combs
recovered a bad snap in the end zone that had gone through
Dietz's hands to stop the rally with 2:50 left and then
intercepted backup Kale Pearson at the goal line in the final
seconds.



"It's not that we let our guard down or anything," Air Force
senior offensive lineman Jason Kons said. "They were prepared
for our attack and handled us well."



Cody Getz, who did not play in last week's win over Nevada
because of an injured ankle, finished with 23 yards rushing on
14 carries. He entered the game averaging 132.6, fourth best in
the nation. Dietz was 17 of 29 passing for a career-high 185
yards and rushed for 37 yards on 10 carries.



"They played a great game offensively, defensively," Dietz said.
"They did everything we didn't. They smacked us in the mouth all
game."



The Army defense began to turn the tide in the second quarter.
The Black Knights stopped Air Force on fourth down from the 1
and snared two interceptions that the offense turned into 13
points and a 20-7 halftime lead.



The Falcons entered the game ranked near last nationally in
passing but first in pass efficiency, and the Black Knights
became victims on Air Force's first two drives.



After taking a 7-0 lead to start the game, Army, desperate for a
victory, used two timeouts on the Falcons' first possession, the
second coming before the snap on a third-and-goal play from the
13. Whatever strategy the Black Knights devised went for naught
when Josh Jackson was called for pass interference at the goal
line. Wes Cobb scored on a 1-yard run two plays later to tie it.



Fourth-down gambles are the norm for both teams with their
high-powered run games, and when Air Force forced Army to punt
after three downs and drove to the Army 1 there was no
hesitation with so much at stake. But the Black Knights stuffed
Dietz for no gain on fourth down. The Falcons asked for a review
of the play, but the power was out at Michie Stadium and the
officials were unable to review it.



"It's one play," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "That was an
important stretch, but it wasn't the only stretch, not at all.
Today was convincing. That's a credit to Army, big-time credit
to Army."



Pinned at his own goal line, Steelman then stunned the Falcons
with just his 26th completion of the year, a pass in the right
flat to a wide-open Raymond Maples, who turned it into a 53-yard
gain up the right side. The Air Force defense stiffened, and
Army had to settle for Daniel Grochowski's 20-yard and a 10-7
lead early in the second quarter.



Dietz completed his first three passes to run his season total
to 79 attempts without an interception, a big part of why Air
Force has been so successful with its limited passing attack.
That streak ended when freshman defensive back Brandon
Fusilier-Jeffires picked off a Dietz pass in the left flat near
midfield.



Army capitalized again with the pass as Steelman rolled out and
hit Chevaughn Lawrence for 17 yards on a third-and-7 play to set
up a first-and-goal at the 7. Two timeouts by the Falcons didn't
help as Steelman scored from the 1 for a 17-7 lead with 1:39
left in the second quarter.



Unfazed, Dietz hit Marcus Hendricks with a 28-yard pass to get
the Falcons moving after the ensuing kickoff and a 19-yard
completion to Ty MacArthur gave Air Force a first down at the
Army 28. But when Dietz tried to strike again with a pass down
the middle, linebacker Geoffery Bacon intercepted and returned
it 31 yards to set up Grochowski's 36-yard field goal with 3
seconds remaining.



Air Force trailed Army 14-0 at the half last year and rallied
for a 24-14 victory at Falcon Stadium. The Black Knights didn't
let that happen this time, forcing Air Force to punt on its
first three possessions of the second half and scoring two
straight touchdowns to take a commanding 35-7 lead.

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