Western Kentucky edges Army in 21-17 comeback win
WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP)
Army had hoped to be nearing a bowl game by this point in the season. Instead, the Black Knights bid farewell to Michie Stadium with more questions than answers after a last-minute loss Saturday.
Antonio Andrews, the nation's top rusher who was recruited by Army but ended up at Western Kentucky, had 117 yards and scored the game-winning TD with 32 seconds left as the Hilltoppers came back to beat Army 21-17 in the teams' first meeting.
''Give them credit,'' Army coach Rich Ellerson said. ''They made one more play than we did.''
Army had led 17-14 behind Baggett's 20-yard rush with 7:03 to go, but couldn't stop Andrews as the Hilltoppers marched against the clock in the final minutes. Andrews ran in virtually unscathed for the go-ahead score.
''We just got down the field quick and got a scoring opportunity,'' Andrews said. ''It just all happened fast, so it's all exciting.''
''A devastating loss is not new,'' Ellerson said. ''Unfortunately, we're practiced at that.''
Brandon Doughty was 16 for 24 for 199 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Hilltoppers (6-4, 2-3 Sun Belt), who clinched bowl eligibility for the third straight season.
''It's a great way to win a game,'' Hilltoppers coach Bobby Petrino said. ''I'm excited about the way we won the game.''
Held scoreless in the first half, Western Kentucky went up ahead on Doughty's second touchdown pass to Willie McNeal (101 yards receiving), which made it 14-10 early in the fourth.
''Once we started running the ball with power, it opened up our passing game,'' Petrino said.
The Hilltoppers, held to a season-low 334 yards of total offense, played in New York for the first time in their 94-year history. Western Kentucky had faced another triple-option academy, Navy, in a 19-7 win earlier this season, giving up just 107 yards.
Army, the nation's top rushing team, had more success, going for 277 yards.
Army was poised to get on the board first after Giovannelli's 68-yard scurry up the left sideline set the Black Knights up with first-and-goal.
Western Kentucky saw its own scoring opportunity wasted early in the second when a touchdown pass to McNeal was called back on a penalty. On the next play, third-and-11 from the Army 19, Thomas Holloway intercepted Doughty's pass in the end zone.
Still scoreless, the teams traded possession throughout the second quarter until, facing third-and-16 from the Hilltoppers' 37, Army's fortunes turned.
Santiago found Giovannelli over the middle for a 16-yard completion, and a targeting penalty against Robinson - who came in head-first - tacked on another 10 yards. Daniel Grochowski's 25-yard field goal eventually capped the drive and made it 3-0 Army.
Army's series to open the second half was going nowhere fast until punter Alex Tardieu ran 20 yards on a fourth down fake, giving the Black Knights new life at midfield. Then, Baggett took a pitch up the right sideline 28 yards, setting up Santiago's one-yard touchdown keeper. The Black Knights led 10-0 with 10:33 remaining in the third.
The Hilltoppers finally scored with 5:35 to go in the third when Doughty found McNeal on a slant for an 11-yard touchdown, cutting it to 10-7. Western Kentucky would go up 14-0 six seconds into the fourth when Doughty side-armed another touchdown pass through traffic to McNeal.
''They did a good job of protecting their quarterback,'' Ellerson said.
But Army wasn't done yet.
On third-and-4 from the 20, Baggett took Santiago's pitch right, broke through traffic and skipped up the sideline for the score, capping a 15-play, 75-yard drive and giving Army a 17-14 lead with 7:03 to go.
The Black Knights, however, couldn't put Western Kentucky away - not even after Andrews, at the end of a 16-yard run, fumbled two plays into a crucial drive with 6:35 left.
As it turned out, Western Kentucky still had a 10-play, 87-yard drive in store when it needed it most.
''It was fun to watch our players make the plays to win the game,'' Petrino said.