WEST POINT – Were he a movie critic, Rich Ellerson would find flaws in Casablanca. What did Rick mean telling Capt. Renault that this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship? You mean they were never going to squabble about double parking outside the club? And surely Ingrid Berman could have worn a little less makeup. So it was that following Terry Baggett’s record-setting performance Saturday against Eastern Michigan the Army head coach still found time to cite that on one play he missed a tackle.
OK, he was sorta kidding.
But two days after Baggett blew apart the Army record book with 304 yards rushing – the highest total in the nation so far this season – Ellerson still felt the need to invoke his team’s all-for-one, one-for-all mindset.
“Terry had a great day and did what was expected of him, but a lot of other people were doing things right to get that day going,” he said.
Fair enough. But when a pitcher throws a no-hitter there’s rarely discussion about the guy who drove in the winning run. And Baggett sure had a lot of winning runs. There was the 4-yard touchdown on Army’s first possession, followed soon thereafter by a career-best 67-yard scoring run. The second half was almost four minutes old when he rushed for a 34-yard TD. Then, the next time Army had the ball, came the new-career-best 96-yard touchdown run. What seemed to impress Ellerson most was not the length of the runs so much as the fact that no one on the Eastern Michigan defense could lay a hand on him. Something like Baggett running at 78 rpms and the Eagles’ defense going at 33 1/3.
But just because Baggett was the star of the show against Eastern Michigan doesn’t mean he’ll pick up where he left off this week against Temple.
“We run our offense,” Ellerson said “Obviously, you can see how productive the other guys were with the football as well. [Quarterback] Angel [Santiago] probably had one of his lowest days in terms of production, and we know there is more there. We are going to run our offense, and we are not going to feature one running back.”
Santiago did rush for only 36 yards in 13 carries, while completing 5 of 7 passes for 38 yards. But not only will Santiago likely see an increase in personal production Saturday, the entire offense may be getting some help. After missing the last four games due to a groin injury, the team’s leading rusher the last two seasons, Raymond Maples, may be returning.
After first believing that Maples may be done for the season, he has improved enough that Ellerson said it’s possible – though unlikely -- he may return this week. However, following this game, the Black Knights have two weeks before their next game, against Air Force.
“I think there’s a good chance for Air Force,” Ellerson said. “Obviously, Ray would love to play in Philadelphia [Maples’ hometown], so he might be pushing it a little bit harder and be a little too rosy about his prospects. Our hope is we are going to have him for a chunk at the end of the season.”
Baggett having established himself as a go-to back joined by Maples would give Army an even more formidable backfield. As it is, the 516 rushing yards gained against Eastern Michigan bumped Army up from fourth to first in the nation in per-game rushing, 352.3 yards per game. However, as is Ellerson’s habit, his team’s 50-25 victory over Eastern Michigan has already taken its place in the team’s history books.
“We accomplished some things and we reflected on that yesterday,” he said. “Now, we’re not talking about Terry’s yardage, we’re talking about Temple.”
Ellerson may be through talking about Baggett’s record-setting performance, but he’s in the minority. Baggett was named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week. Baggett is the first Black Knight to win the award since its inception in 2004. He was also named the Football Bowl Subdivision Independent Offensive Player of the Week, the College Football Performance Awards National Running Back of the Week and the Army Athletic Association Athlete of the Week.
Baggett needed just 18 carries to pick up all those yards, an average of 16.9 yards per carry. His four touchdowns was the 14th time in team history an Army player scored at least four rushing touchdowns in one game.
He is averaging 106.9 rushing yards per game, the 19th-best average in the nation. His 744 rushing yards are the ninth most in the country. Washington’s Bishop Sankey leads with 899. Baggett is averaging 9.66 yards per carry, the ninth highest per-carry average in the Football Bowl Subdivision. He is one of only two players in the nation with at least 75 rushing attempts to average more than 9.0 yards per carry. The other is Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon.