An Eastern Michigan touchdown with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter reduced what had been a 17-point Army lead to six, and given the manner in which the Black Knights had been unable to maintain leads in its first three games, this had disaster tattooed on it. At which time Army did what it does best. Hold onto the ball. Kill the clock. And, on back-to-back possessions, score two touchdowns that put the game away.
A 58-37 Army victory at Rynearson Stadium – its first of the season – was done the way the Black Knights prescribe. An incredible 654 yards of total offense, including 556 on the ground; a possession-time edge of 41:11 to 18:49. And almost all of it done without starting quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw, who was shaken up when he was tackled running the ball early in the second quarter. He left the game and did not return. In his stead, A.J. Schurr led Army to its final 36 points. Whatever the Black Knights needed to do, almost every time they tried, they succeeded.
It began the first time they had the ball, when a Bradshaw pitch to John Trainor ended with a 63-yard touchdown run. Army got clever on the extra point, snapping the ball to Kelvin White, who passed to Connor Farley for a 2-point conversion and an 8-0 Army lead.
Eastern Michigan went three and out in its first two possessions, but finally managed a field goal on a bizarre sequence. Dylan Mulder’s 37-yard field-goal attempt hit the goal post, but an illegal-motion penalty on the Eagles cost them five yards, but gave Mulder another chance. His 42-yard field goal came at the end of a drive on which Eastern Michigan actually lost five yards.
One of Army’s patent-pending drives was a 77-yard effort that ate up 7 minutes, 12 seconds and ended with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Bradshaw to Edgar Poe and a 15-3 lead. The likely turning point of the game came on Eastern Michigan’s subsequent possession. Back-to-back runs of 11 and 52 yards by Darius Jackson gave the Eagles the ball at the Army 3. Jackson got the ball again on the next play and was headed into the end zone when linebacker Scott Washle knocked the ball from Jackson’s arms. Ryhan England recovered it, giving Army the ball back. And once again, the Black Knights struck with a big play, this time a 56-yard TD run by Aaron Kemper, giving them a 22-3 lead. Kemper ended the game with a career-best 147 yards, one of six Black Knights to gain at least 60 yards on the ground.
The others were Matt Giachinta, who ran for 88; Joe Walker, 86 yards and a touchdown; Trainor, 69 yards and a touchdown; Schurr had two touchdowns and 67 yards rushing; and freshman Drue Harris had 60 yards and rushed for two touchdowns.
Eastern Michigan, 1-3, got its first touchdown when an 8-play, 75-yard drive ended with a 23-yard Brogan Roback to Kris Strange scoring pass; Roback completed all six of his passes on the drive, Once again, Army, 1-3, responded. With Schurr in the game, a 75-yard drive was highlighted by a fake punt on which Giachinta ran for 35 yards, giving the Black Knights the ball at the Eastern Michigan 23. Army took a 29-10 lead five plays later when Trainor scored on a 6-yard pitch.
The Eagles got the ball back and responded in kind, another 75-yard drive, this time finished by Jackson, who scored from the 15, making the score 29-17. As the first half ended, it did so with Bradshaw slowly walking off the field.
The Black Knights once again got moving on their first possession of the second half, and were down to the Eastern Michigan 8 when Schurr was intercepted by Jason Beck off the hands of the leaping Army running back Joe Walker. The Eagles were similarly generous on the third play of their drive, when Roback was intercepted by Xavier Moss. A 44-yard pass from Schurr to DeAndre Bell brought the ball to the 7. Schurr took it in three plays later for a 2-yard touchdown run and a 36-17 lead.
On its next possession, Eastern Michigan played hurry-up, and it took them just over a minute to score, the big play a 46-yard touchdown pass from Roback to Eddie Daugherty. Army got the ball back, but didn’t keep it long. On the Black Knights’ second play, Giachinta had the ball punched from his arms by Great Ibe; it was recovered by Ray Tillman. Getting the ball at the Army 27, Jackson took care of it all on one play, reducing the lead to 36-30. At which point Army did what it does best. Twice.
The first was, by comparison, a quickie. Harris ran for his first career touchdown, a 16-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter, ending an 11-play, 86-yard drive that consumed 4:11. Eastern Michigan held onto the ball briefly before punting, at which time Army put the game away. Schurr to Trainor for 8; Schurr, a 10-yard run; Trainor 22 yards on a pitch. And so it went. It lasted 86 yards, took 8 minutes, 44 seconds, and ended with an 8-yard touchdown run by Schurr. That gave Army a 21-point lead.
The Black Knights concluded their scoring when they took over on downs; Harris scored from the 27 on the team’s first play. Eastern Michigan closed out the game with a touchdown on the final play.