Ellerson has Army on track


POSTED: Monday, December 14, 2009

PHILADELPHIA » The disappointment was evident, but this was a different kind of mind-set for the Army football program.

Though they dropped their eighth straight to rival Navy last Saturday, the Black Knights have developed a changed attitude and different outlook. In past years after losing to Navy, the program saw little hope of recovery, and that loss at the end of the season merely signaled more of the same in the year ahead.

Army head coach Rich Ellerson, the former Hawaii defensive coordinator, took a big step this year in changing that point of view. Under Ellerson, Army managed five victories (5-7 in 2009), which represented the most for the program in 13 years. Had the Black Knights defeated Navy, they would have been bowl eligible, and had a date with Temple in the EagleBank Bowl in Washington.

“;We have chosen a profession where losing is not an option,”; said linebacker Steven Anderson, considered the spiritual and emotional leader of this resurgent Army team. “;Coach (Ellerson) has taken that to a complete level to include losing is not an option on the football field, in the classroom, and to develop a culture of positives and winning.”;

That approach seems to work. Had Army had a few fortunes turn along the way, the Black Knights would have made their first postseason appearance since a 32-29 defeat to Auburn in the 1996 Independence Bowl.

First, the Black Knights had a 16-7 lead over Tulane before the Green Wave scored twice late in the fourth quarter and beat the Black Knights 17-16. Later in the season, Army and Temple were tied at 13 in the fourth quarter, before the Owls won 27-13.

Turn those two games around, and the fate of Army football in 2009 would have been even better.

For his part, Ellerson said there was much to take from the 17-3 loss to Navy on Saturday and the season in general.

“;I know there are some things about where we are as a football team culturally, our vision, and the path we are on, and we are right smack in the middle of this thing,”; Ellerson said. “;We kept reminding the guys that, yeah, these are big shoes to walk in on a day like this, but we've been in those shoes all year long and they fit just fine.”;

While the Army senior class did not beat Navy, Ellerson believes these athletes provided a credible foundation for the future.

“;I'm their third head coach, and they had to come in here and buy into this,”; Ellerson added. “;That was the choice they made. They wanted desperately for this to occur and agreed they would suspend all their emotions. They believed what I was selling.”;