WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — It's crunch time for Army.
Four games — and four losses — into the season, the Black Knights cannot afford another when they host Boston College (1-3) on Saturday at Michie Stadium. The triple option has to excel and the defense can't have the letdowns it experienced in the first three games, or else Army will have its first 0-5 start since 2005 and a nine-game losing streak.
Army coach Rich Ellerson says his players are not deterred.
"These are not the outcomes they've been visualizing," Ellerson said. "They have to deal with it, put it aside and go forward. If you start worrying about things that happened three weeks ago or what might happen a month from now, there's no chance."
The Eagles' losses came against Northwestern, Miami and Clemson, who have a combined 13-2 record so far this season — and the Wildcats and Tigers are currently in the AP Top 25.
Although the Eagles have lost two straight, they present a real challenge for the Army defense, which is allowing nearly 475 yards of total offense and more than 38 points per game.
BC's Chase Rettig ranks second in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 11th among all FBS quarterbacks in passing yards per game at 323.
"Their record is a reflection of their schedule," Ellerson said of the Eagles. "This will be the most sophisticated passing attack we've seen so far."
Rettig is 97 of 170 for 1,292 yards and nine touchdowns on the season, but even a solid performance last week against Clemson — Rettig had 341 yards passing and three touchdowns and wideout Alex Amidon caught eight passes for a career-high 193 yards and two of those scores — wasn't nearly enough in a 45-31 home loss.
"It's all about execution," Spaziani said. "We haven't been able to make the plays that will turn an 'L' into a 'W.' It's multi-layered. It's just not, 'OK, now we're going to do this.' It's a process that has to be done. We're at a point where we need a victory."
The Black Knights showed signs of improvement defensively last week, holding FCS power Stony Brook to 23 points and registering 11 tackles for loss. That gain was offset by an off day from the high-powered ground attack, which was somewhat stymied after two outstanding outings. Army entered the game as the nation's leading rushing team, averaging 399 yards, and was held to 273 yards on the ground.
The Black Knights also lost four fumbles, giving them 13 in the four losses. Senior quarterback Trent Steelman, the man who makes the option so potent, is still nursing sore ribs and is listed as probable.
"Offensively, if we can execute our offense and take care of the football, we'll create problems for them," Ellerson said. "We're just unique enough that if we operate and do all the things good football teams do, we can be competitive."
The Black Knights need to be. Time is running out.
"We have people trying to leave the system or do something heroic," Ellerson said. "That is never going to work in our system. The precision has to be right on. It's a painful lesson to learn, so let's hope we're paying attention."
NOTES: Saturday's game marks the first meeting between Boston College and Army since 2007 and the first at Michie Stadium since 2000 in a series that dates to 1917. ... BC has won five straight against Army, 14 of the last 15, and is 13-10 at Michie Stadium. The Black Knights last defeated the Eagles in 1995, a 49-7 home victory. ... BC linebacker Nick Clancy ranks second in the country in tackles per game at 13.25, just ahead of teammate Kevin Pierre-Louis, who ranks sixth at 11 per game.
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