WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP)Army said goodbye to that losing streak in a big way.
Sandon McCoy scored three touchdowns on short runs, Jabari Laws rushed for a career-high 140 yards and another score, and Army’s triple option overwhelmed UMass 63-7 on Saturday as the Black Knights snapped a five-game skid.
”Gosh, it feels good to be in here after a victory,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. ”We were so desperate to get a win. I’m proud of the guys. They stayed resilient.”
Army (4-6) was coming off a tough 17-13 loss at service academy rival Air Force, unable to score twice within the shadow of the goal line – on the first drive of the game and in the final seconds.
That punctuated a streak in which every game was lost by nine points or fewer.
”We didn’t want to make it five games,” Monken said. ”One was too many. It’s hard when you’re going through something like that, and here we’ve become accustomed to winning a lot, and winning close games, and in that stretch we just lost a lot of close games.
”It’s tough on the confidence of the team. It’s the emotions of losing and losing again and again. It’s been a tough stretch, but our players have continued to work and practice hard.”
In this one, the Black Knights quickly recovered from an early gaffe against UMass (1-9), whose only victory came against winless Akron in late September.
The Minutemen own the worst scoring defense in the nation and Army took advantage, reeling off four straight touchdowns to gain a 35-7 halftime lead. UMass entered the game allowing 52 points per game, 54.9 in their eight losses.
The Black Knights finished with a season-high 498 yards rushing, much of it on pitches to the perimeter, and the Army defense stopped the Minutemen in their tracks. Army limited them to 26 yards rushing on 26 tries, intercepted two passes, and held the ball for over 41 minutes.
”We couldn’t stay on the field offensively,” UMass coach Walt Bell said. ”That kept our defense out on the field knowing that we were trying to control the pace, keep our defense off the field as much as possible.”
Subtract tight end Kyle Horn’s 56-yard touchdown catch for the Minutemen, and they netted just 50 yards offensively on 26 plays in the first two quarters. There were no big plays after the break – UMass netted just 19 yards offensively in the final two quarters and finished with 125 total yards, a record for the Army defense against a Bowl Subdivision team.
McCoy scored twice in the first quarter on a pair of 4-yard runs and added a 5-yard scoring run early in the second to stake Army to a 21-7 lead.
”It feels good.” McCoy said. ”It gets us back on the right page. It builds confidence. It feels good in terms of the team. We still know we can get better.”
Connor Slomka and Artice Hobbs IV each scored from the 3 in the second quarter, Slomka after an interception and Hobbs after a fourth-down pass on a fake punt by the Minutemen failed. Slomka’s tally came after UMass quarterback Andrew Brito was pressured heavily by Army nose tackle Kwabena Bonsu and Ryan Velez intercepted his off-balance pass near the UMass 30 and returned it 16 yards.
UMass executed a flea-flicker to perfection with a pair of laterals in the first quarter that caught the Army defense off-guard, with Andrew Brito hitting the 6-foot-5 Horn in the middle of the field with no defenders even close, and he rumbled in for an easy score that tied the game at 7-all.
”It was a well-designed play,” Monken said. ”We just came out of coverage.”
Trailing 28-7 late in the second quarter, UMass gambled again, this time on fourth down from the UMass 9-yard line, and only a bad pass prevented it from succeeding. Backup quarterback Michael Curtis took the snap and freshman wide receiver Dariyan Wiley was open over the middle, but the throw at the 25-yard line was just off his fingertips. It would have been his first college catch.
UMass senior cornerback Isaiah Rodgers was averaging 27.1 on 36 kickoff returns, the most in the nation, and his 974 yards on kickoff returns were more than any other team in the nation. He finished the game with eight kickoff returns for 159 yards.
”I thought we started off strong,” Rodgers said. ”We were too focused on the dive and we let the ball get outside of us.”
UMass: The Minutemen will be challenged to win again in their final two games. Their offense managed just 125 yards on 48 plays.
Army: Laws got the start because he’s healthier and he played well, scoring on an 83-yard run in the third quarter. It was the second-longest run by an Army QB in the program’s 129-year history, just shy of George Smythe’s 95-yarder against Lebanon Valley in 1923. Laws was relieved by senior Kelvin Hopkins Jr., who scored on a 9-yard run late in the third and gave way to Christian Anderson in the fourth. The Black Knights can still achieve the six victories needed to qualify for the postseason but have obstacles ahead with a road game at Hawaii and the traditional season finale against archrival Navy, which was ranked No. 25 this week.
UMass travels to play Big Ten foe Northwestern next Saturday.
Army hosts Championship Subdivision foe VMI next Saturday, its second game against an FCS team this season.
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