Black Knights bowl-el­i­gi­ble again

Army out­gains Ea­gles 289-34 yards on ground, earns fourth straight win

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

YPSILANTI, MICH. — Af­ter bat­tling through a 2-10 sea­son as a fresh­man, Jor­dan As­berry knows the depth of where the Army West Point foot­ball pro­gram was when coach Jeff Monken took over in 2014.

Now bowl-el­i­gi­ble af­ter Sat­ur­day's rainy 37-22 win at Eastern Michi­gan, the se­nior run­ning back should close his ca­reer in the post­sea­son for a third straight year.

“Coach Monken and the staff have turned this pro­gram around,” said As­berry, who caught a touch­down and ran for an­other. “We worked real hard, but we didn't re­ally see the fruit of our la­bor [in 2015].

“That sets the stage for fin­ish­ing this year strong, but also the next sea­son for the guys that are go­ing to be play­ing next year.”

The streak of three bowl-el­i­gi­ble sea­sons is the long­est in pro­gram his­tory for Army, who con­trolled the clock against Eastern Michi­gan by out­gain­ing the Ea­gles 289-34 on the ground, earn­ing its fourth straight win.

Army (6-2), which led the na­tion av­er­ag­ing 39 min­utes of pos­ses­sion per game, had the ball for 45 min­utes, 42 sec­onds on Sat­ur­day.

Eastern Michi­gan (4-5) did not have a first down in the first half of its home­com­ing game, go­ing three-and-out on its first four pos­ses­sions and run­ning one play on its fifth be­fore half­time.

“That's def­i­nitely our game plan, that's def­i­nitely what we do,” said quar­ter­back Kelvin Hop­kins Jr., who missed last week's dou­ble-over­time win against Mi­ami (Ohio) with a hip in­jury. “But we couldn't fin­ish drives early, which kind of hurt us.”

Army took a 16-0 lead at half­time on three field goals by John Aber­crom­bie and As­berry's first score, a 3-yard touch­down run with 18 sec­onds left in the half.

Eastern Michi­gan closed the deficit to 16-14 on touch­down passes from Tyler Wiegers to Mathew Sex­ton and Blake Ban­ham in the third quar­ter. Wiegers fin­ished 19-of-29 pass­ing for 201 yards.

As­berry's 26-yard touch­down re­cep­tion from Hop­kins, and a Kell Walker 2-yard touch­down catch put Army up 30-14.

Af­ter Army took a 23-14 lead on As­berry's se­cond touch­down, the Black Knights got the only turnover of the game, as Chan­dler Ramirez re­cov­ered a Wiegers fum­ble that was forced by James Nachti­gal.

Hop­kins was 7-of-8 pass­ing for 126 yards and two touch­downs, and rushed 23 times for 105 yards.

Ban­ham added a 1-yard touch­down for Eastern Michi­gan, which was out­gained 415-235 in to­tal of­fense.

Army's Dar­nell Wool­folk had a 9-yard touch­down run in the game's fi­nal minute. He had 89 yards on 24 car­ries.

Army had 27 first downs com­pared with 10 for Eastern Michi­gan.

“We made it a foot­ball game, but in the end, just didn't have enough,” Eastern Michi­gan coach Chris Creighton said. “Of­fen­sively we couldn't get a first down.”

Monken wasn’t sur­prised to see his play­ers ex­cel in the dreary con­di­tions.

“In that locker room in there is a bunch of soldiers,” he said. “Soldiers don't care what the weather is, they don't care what the con­di­tions are, they are trained to fight. And I think that's what our guys do. No mat­ter what, they show up and they fight. They're soldiers. I think it's just one of those things that, maybe other peo­ple as­sume that when it's wet and rainy that some­how our at­ti­tude is go­ing to change, our ef­fort is go­ing to change. But that's not go­ing to change for the Amer­i­can sol­dier.”

NOTES: The win gives Army a 3-0 record against Mid-Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence teams this sea­son. The Black Knights have won five straight games against MAC teams . ... Army hosts Air Force next Sat­ur­day in the first of a three-game home­s­tand. Army has a 10-game home win­ning streak and will de­fend the Com­man­der In Chief's tro­phy . ... Aber­crom­bie, a se­nior from Phoenix, is per­fect dur­ing his ca­reer, go­ing 5-for-5 on his field goals and 26 for 26 on ex­tra points . ... Army was 4 for 4 on fourth down and is 26 of 29 (89.7 per­cent) on the sea­son . ... Estern Michi­gan has not won on home­com­ing since 2014.

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