BELL HELICOPTER ARMED FORCES BOWL: ARMY 16, SMU 14, December 30, 2010
Stephen Anderson, Army linebacker and Rich Ellerson, Army Coach
THE MODERATOR: Coach Ellerson, if you could make an opening statement and talk about Stephen a little bit.
COACH ELLERSON: Well, first, what a hard-fought football game that is and how fortunate we were to win. That’s an awfully good football team we played.
With respect to our guys, this is our football team represented by Stephen Anderson and this senior class. What I want to say to those guys is, you can’t appreciate how much those guys have accomplished in their time here, because some of the big things they did, some of the things that will have the longest impact, longest legs, greatest impact over time, you can’t see except for what happens out there between the white lines.
I’m so happy for them that they had this day, that they got this seventh win. We’ve been saying, Bring winning football back for two years, and they did. So they’ve earned a place. We talk about the pantheon of great Army football teams.
T his senior class and this football team has earned a place with that pantheon of great Army football teams. They’ve brought something back to West Point that has been absent. It will flourish there because of the culture these guys have created for Army football.
My point about Stephen is he’s a great player. He loves to play the game. But the best things about Stephen aren’t going to be left on the football field. The best things about Stephen are going to go with him in life. The best things about Stephen are going to be with him as a lieutenant next year, and it’s going to continue to pay dividends for all of us.
That’s why we play football at West Point, so guys like Stephen have this developmental journey, because they’re going to take it on and take it to another place, to another sphere where they have tremendous influence and responsibility for all of us.
Stephen is one of these guys, but he represents who those guys are. You need to sleep well at night k nowing these guys are out there.
THE MODERATOR: Stephen, make a comment about your play today and the victory.
STEPHEN ANDERSON: That’s the position I’m in. I’m the Mike linebacker in the double eagle flex defense that’s supposed to be a player that can run sideline to sideline and make plays. I don’t try to deviate from the defensive scheme. I just try to do my job.
We had 11 guys doing their job today. That’s the best part about playing the game, you get to play next to your brothers who trust you to do your job, and of course you trust them to do their job. It’s a great feeling.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Coach, you knew they were going to make that comeback in the fourth quarter. After they missed the field goal, you were driving down, it was third down, tell us about the timeout, the play that you called.
COACH ELLERSON: Well, I’m doing a couple things in that moment. First, Ian and I are talking. We’re saying, Okay, we converted the first third down with bootleg, so keep the ball in the quarterback’s hands, stay in bounds. If we could get the first down, great. Well, we did.
We go back to the well. It was the same thing. Okay, we’re going to try this back to the wide side of the field, keep the ball in the quarterback’s hands. If we don’t get it, we’ll keep the clock running. They’re out of timeouts. Gonna take a delay of game. So I say, Okay, I’m going down the defense now. If they’re gonna take a delay of game, we’re gonna punt the ball if we don’t get this.
Sure enough, we come out and he throws it. My first thing was, Oh. So there was another discussion that took place after I switched over to the defensive side of the headset, apparently, or you never know.
Again, we always tell those guys, If somebody is standing wide open, throw it to ‘em. We’ve been known to miss wide-open guys before. We always take a deep breath in that situation.
It’s a combination of Ian and — that play doe sn’t get made just in that moment. That play, we’ve been working on that for two years. We’ve been developing that kind of confidence, that kind of precision, that kind of poise. That’s how things like that happen.
Q. From a former cadet Army officer to a future officer, it seemed like your team responded so well. How proud are you of their performance? In today’s world, a team that plays together as one, what does that mean to you, Stephen?
STEPHEN ANDERSON: That’s what we pride ourselves on. We’re not just teammates. We’re not just casual acquaintances. We’re a brotherhood. When you have a team that believes in one another like we do, it’s just a matter of having fun with our brothers.
We all had fun with our brothers our entire lives, so that’s something that having the opportunity to be in that situation, come out on the victorious end, is something that’s very special to us. I mean, we’re always going to remember it.
Q. Stephen, you wer en’t shy about saying there was a lot on the line for this game. How sweet is it that this ends your career and you brought winning football back to West Point?
STEPHEN ANDERSON: It’s something we said back in prep school. We had a great prep school class. We weren’t going into a very successful program. Guys were taking that opportunity to maybe shop around, maybe go somewhere else.
We sat everybody down and said, Look, we have the team that can bring winning football back to West Point. It’s just a matter of time. When you have a young team like that that buys into something like that and then you have Coach E bringing what we’ve always felt inside but just needed someone to push us a little more for it, it’s just kind of like a dream come true.
It’s a pact we made. It’s a decision. Human will is the strongest thing on this earth. When you make a decision, you have to believe in it. That’s exactly what we did.
Q. Talk about the importance of this win as far as beating a team with a winning record. Had this streak of 22 consecutive games. Now the monkey is off your back.
COACH ELLERSON: Well, it had to happen this way. We talked about bringing winning football back. One of the things we talked about toward the end of the year, we felt like we were the next evolutionary step, the next obstacle, the next thing we had to realize was how to go on to a big stage against a quality team and play like we can, play as poised and precise and determined as we can.
Frankly, there were some times this year when we stepped onto the stage that we didn’t do that. That’s not to say we would have run Notre Dame out of the stadium or anything like that.
My point was, we wouldn’t handle that situation the way we would expect an Army football team, that poised, precise football team to manage it. So that was going to have to happen if we were going to have that winning tradition back.
This senior class can make that pa rt of their legacy because they st