WEST POINT, N.Y. — When Army walked off the field last December after another loss to archrival Navy, the Black Knights had their fifth double-digit-loss season since the turn of the century. When Amy walked off the field on Saturday, it almost seemed the past was prologue.
Andy Davidson rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns, the Army defense created two more turnovers, and the Black Knights beat Rice 31-14 on Saturday for its second straight win to open the season.
Army already has matched its win total from last year as third-year coach Jeff Monken’s system has begun to show signs of success.
“I am proud of our team. I am proud of our players, our coaching staff and the effort they put in to give ourselves a chance today to win.” Monken said. “I think our guys are playing really hard. They’re playing together and with great effort. You’ve got to execute, and we’ve found a way to do that.”
It had been 70 games since Army (2-0) won two in a row, and it’s the first time the Black Knights have started a season with two straight wins since 1996. Ronnie McAda led that team to nine straight wins and a national ranking to start the season.
“It feels great. I don’t even know how to describe it,” Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw said. “It’s a great feeling to know we’ve done something that hasn’t been done in a while.”
The Army offense finished with 348 yards rushing as its triple option continued to perform at a high level — it has not had a turnover in either game, the first time that’s happened in consecutive outings in three years.
The Black Knights had 329 rushing yards in last week’s season-opening 28-13 win over Temple. That was a breakthrough moment of sorts, and they continued to ride the momentum from that game against these Owls on a sweltering day at Michie Stadium.
Rice (0-2), which opened the season with a 46-14 loss at Western Kentucky, continued to falter offensively. After striking early — Tyler Stehling hit tight end Connor Cella for a 64-yard touchdown on Rice’s third play from scrimmage — the Owls struggled the rest of the game. Subtract that long gain, and Rice managed just 98 yards on 23 plays in the first half and fell behind by two touchdowns.
The Army defense entered the game tied for the national lead in turnover margin and late in the second added another takeaway. Sophomore linebacker James Nachtigal hit Stehling from behind as he was about to throw and Andrew King recovered for the Black Knights at the Rice 35. Linebacker Jeremy Timpf added his sixth career interception late in the third, Army’s fourth of the season.
Rice broke through a second time midway through the third quarter after pinning Army deep in its own territory. A 26-yard punt by Army’s Nick Schrage gave the Owls the ball at the Army 37, and Austin Walter burst up the middle for a touchdown on the next play to narrow the deficit to 21-14.
Unfazed, the Black Knights marched back down the field after the ensuing kickoff and scored again, with the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Davidson bulldozing his way through the defense. He broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage in a bruising 22-yard run and capped an eight-play, 75-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run.
“Army is a good team,” Cella said. “They came to play and we didn’t. Offensively, we did not have a good week of practice and you could see it on the field.”
Rice: The Owls have to find some sort of offensive consistency as Army held the ball for 40:12. Stehling, a senior, is starting for the first time in his career and displayed a nice touch on the TD throw to Cella. But aside from the two touchdowns, Rice did not drive inside the Army 20. Stehling did display a nice kicking touch, squibbing a 41-yard punt to the Army 1 early in the third quarter that led to the Owls’ second TD.
Army: The Army defense shined in the victory over Temple with three interceptions. It was burned for the early score by Rice but settled down and pitched a shutout the rest of the opening half. That’s two straight games the defense has risen to the occasion, and with two quarterbacks capable of running the option and not afraid to pass — Chris Carter also played — and a linebacker-turned-fullback in Davidson able to generate an inside game, Monken has the Black Knights pointed upward.
BY THE NUMBERS: Army outgained Rice 414-289 and had 23 first downs to only 12 for the Owls.
QUOTABLE: “It was an extremely tough loss. We came here and expected to win.” — Rice coach David Bailiff.
FEEL THE HEAT: Temperature on the Michie Stadium turf was 114 degrees at game time and up to 120 in the fourth quarter.
Rice: The Owls host Baylor on Friday night.
Army: The Black Knights begin a three-week road trip with a visit to UTEP next Saturday.
AP College Football Website: www.collegefootball.org
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