Santiago shines as Army beats Morgan State 28-12

WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Life without Trent Steelman isn't so bad for Army, at least for one night.

Making just his second career start at quarterback, Angel Santiago rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns and passed for another score, and Army opened its season with a 28-12 victory over Morgan State on Friday night.

Army, 2-10 last year, has to adjust this season to life without the record-setting Steelman, a four-year starter at quarterback. Steelman is the only player in Army history to rush for over 2,000 yards and pass for more than 2,000 yards, and he holds the school record for rushing touchdowns with 45.

His replacement is off to a nice start. Not a single turnover, one of the bane's of Army's triple option attack, and no penalties.

"If you're not penalized and you don't turn the ball over, you're hard to beat," Army coach Rich Ellerson said. "Angel did some good stuff. The ball wasn't on the ground."

With Santiago leading the way, Army scored the first three times it had the ball to gain a 21-0 lead as Morgan State repeatedly self-destructed, getting called for eight penalties for 60 yards in the first half alone.

Santiago, a 5-foot-11, 188-pound junior, scored on a pretty 33-yard run to cap Army's first possession of the game. He burst off left tackle and then cut back toward the middle to score untouched with 6:17 left in the first quarter.

Santiago also scored runs of 3 yards and 1 yard and hit Chevaughn Lawrence for an 18-yard score.

"Trent did some amazing things. They're definitely big shoes to fill," said Santiago, who was 4 of 8 passing for 101 yards. "I want to go out there and give my best each play. When we're all in sync and in tune, we're definitely a force."

Army's Larry Dixon rushed for 107 yards on 12 carries to get off to a nice start in pursuit of his third straight 1,000-yard season.

Robert Council scored on a 1-yard run and hit Chris Flowers with a 22-yard TD pass in the third for Morgan State. Council finished with 47 yards rushing and was 4 of 7 passing for 89 yards, and Lamont Brown III had 75 yards rushing on 19 carries for the Bears, who compete at Division I's second level and were playing Army for the first time.

Santiago served as the primary backup to Steelman for two seasons and had appeared in just six games in his Army career with one start when Steelman was hurt. Entering the game, he had rushed 53 times for 174 yards and a touchdown while completing 7 of 24 passes for 84 yards.

Santiago scored late in the first after a nifty 38-yard run. A horse-collar tackle was called against Morgan State after the play, tacking on another 15 yards. Santiago gained 14 more yards on a keeper and scored from the 1 for a 14-0 lead.

Santiago finished the quarter with 96 yards rushing on just six carries and was 2 for 3 passing for 32 yards as Army coach Rich Ellerson was true to his word, promising more passes from the unit that ranked 120th in the nation last season.

Morgan State was ineffective offensively in the opening half, thanks mainly to mistakes that repeatedly cost the Bears. Penalized seven times for 55 yards in the first 18 minutes of action, the Bears were forced to punt the first three times they had the ball.

"We got a little caught up in the emotions of the game," Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley said. "But we'll take the whole game and learn from it."

Army took advantage of a botched punt to score again when Lawrence Forbes had to sidestep a big rush by Army's Lawrence Scott and was unable to get the kick away.

The Black Knights took over at the Morgan State 23, and after Raymond Maples gained 5 yards on the ground, Santiago hit Lawrence for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead early in the second.

It was the first career scoring pass for Santiago and the first career touchdown catch for Lawrence.

Morgan State finally got untracked and scored just before halftime, methodically driving 82 yards in 18 plays. Council keyed the surge with a 9-yard scramble on a third-and-13 play after yet another penalty and Brown followed with a 5-yard run for a critical first down.

Council's tough 1-yard run off left tackle put the Bears on the board with 2:50 left before halftime, but the extra-point conversion failed when the snap was low.

The Bears regrouped in the second half, getting called for just one penalty. They forced Army to punt on two straight possessions in the third and had a chance to rally and make it close. But Richard Glover nailed Council for a sack with a shoestring tackle on a third-and-6 play from the Army 32 and the Black Knights escaped.

"The way we fought in the second half is the way we're going to fight for the rest of the season," Brown said. "We limited them to one touchdown in the second half. I guarantee you that's the way we are going to come out for the rest of the season."