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Ball State rally falls short; Army runs for 425 yards and holds on for 33-24 win

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WEST POINT, New York — Ozzie Mann had just guided Ball State to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns against Army and an important victory seemed within grasp.

Army linebacker Jeremy Timpf's third interception of the season, with just over 2 minutes to play, ended thoughts of a comeback victory as Army held on for a 33-24 triumph on Saturday at rainy Michie Stadium.

"We're showing flashes right now of good execution, but too often we're having breakdowns that are critical and negatively impacting our chances to get the results that we want," Ball State coach Pete Lembo said. "We had some turnovers today that are never going to give you a good chance of success against an option team because every possession is so critical."

A.J. Schurr scored twice on short runs, Angel Santiago added a game-saving touchdown run in the waning moments, and Army's potent ground attack was enough for the Black Knights.

The win snapped a three-game slide for Army (2-3), which has won both of its games at home. Ball State (1-4) lost its fourth straight.

"We did some good things offensively, but we didn't move the chains well enough and stay on the field," Lembo said. "When you're playing a team like this, and they're going to limit your possessions, every drive has to end with a kick or a punt. It can't end because you turned it over."

A steady rain fell for most of the game, and that played to the advantage of the Black Knights and their tough triple option. Averaging 316.5 yards rushing per game, Army racked up 236 yards on the ground in the first half alone, setting up Schurr's touchdowns and two field goals by Daniel Grochowski.

Santiago clinched it with an 11-yard run with 3:41 left after Ball State had rallied to within three points after trailing by 17.

Larry Dixon ran for a career-high 188 yards on 28 carries and Army finished with 425 yards rushing, holding the ball for nearly 38 minutes.

"I noticed on Monday. I thought our guys came out and really focused," Army coach Jeff Monken said. "They weren't ready to quit."

Ball State was coming off a bye week.

"We've had two weeks to prepare for these guys," Cardinals linebacker Ben Ingle said. "We beat ourselves out there. We didn't get a stop when we needed to."

PHOTO: Ball State head coach Pete Lembo watches play from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Army on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, in West Point, N.Y. Army won 33-24. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Ball State head coach Pete Lembo watches play from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Army on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, in West Point, N.Y. Army won 33-24. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

The Black Knights haven't learned to finish a game yet, though, and the lessons have been painful. They squandered a 14-point lead in the second half last week in an overtime loss at Yale, an FCS team, and they had to withstand a 22-point rally in the fourth quarter to hold off Buffalo in the season-opener.

It was more of the same against the Cardinals, who made it interesting at the end.

Mann completed six passes for 81 yards in a near-perfect drive, shaking off a sack, and completing it with a 6-yard pass over the middle to tight end Dylan Curry with 8:35 left to pull the Cardinals within 27-24.

Mann, just 6 of 11 for 43 yards in the first half with a slippery ball, finished 18 of 26 for 173 yards. Jahwan Edwards rushed for 142 yards on just 12 carries, scored twice, and caught five passes for 44 yards.

Ball State was ranked 16th in the nation in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score just 68.8 percent on 16 trips inside the 20-yard line. Army scored all three times it made it inside the 20-yard line in the first half in building a 20-10 lead.

In Army's other victory, Dixon ran for 174 yards and two touchdowns against Buffalo, and his performance against Ball State was the ninth 100-yard game of his career, tying him with Charlie Jarvis for seventh all-time at West Point.

Both teams scored off turnovers in the first quarter.

Army capitalized first — on the second play from scrimmage. Edwards caught a pass in the right flat but fumbled when Chris Carnegie hit him, and Carnegie recovered at the Ball State 29.

Schurr's 16-yard run around the right side on third-and-13 kept the Black Knights from squandering the opportunity, and four plays later he scored on a 1-yard keeper for a 7-0 lead.

"The game plan was to come in and win," Edwards said. "I turned it over on the second play of the game. That's unacceptable. We can't have those mistakes."

Edwards then atoned for his miscue after an Army turnover, bursting off right tackle and scoring on a 56-yard run with 6.44 left.

Army gained what appeared to be a daunting 17-point lead with 3:02 to play in the third. Santiago's 37-yard completion to Edgar Poe gave the Black Knights a first down at the Ball State 9 and Aaron Kemper scored on the next play on a run up the middle.

Ball State finally broke through early in the fourth with its first sustained drive of the game, going 74 yards in nine plays. Mann's 5-yard completion to KeVonn Mabon on a fourth-and-3 play set up Edwards' 6-yard run that sliced the lead to 27-17.

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