Fans of the Army Black Knights have something they haven't had in years - hope.
Army defeated the Rice Owls 31-14 at Michie Stadium today to move to 2-0 for the first time in 20 years. A combination of a solid running game, a stout defense, and ball management allowed the Black Knights to avenge their last minute loss last season.
"I'm excited for our players." Head coach Jeff Monken said following the win. "I'm proud of them. I'm proud of the win. We didn't play the best our players are capable of playing, which may sound crazy."
Rice came out of the gate and scored the first touchdown of the game on their opening drive - a 64 yard touchdown pass from QB Tyler Stehling to Connor Celia. Army responded, scoring two touchdowns on their first two drives of the game. The game looked to be on track for a high scoring game, but the defenses held their ground. Army would score another touchdown in the second quarter, and enter halftime with a 21-7 lead.
Rice would narrow Army's lead to just seven points as they scored a touchdown at the end of the 3rd, but it was all Army in the fourth quarter. Following an eight play drive, capped off with an Andy Davidson touchdown run for Army, the Black Knights found themselves with a 14 point lead late in the 4th quarter. Stehling would throw an interception on Rice's next possession. The following Rice drive lead to a blocked punt and a field goal by Mitchell Howard to seal the deal.
"I thought our coaches did a great job." Monken said. "I'm a cheerleader most of the time. Those boys make the tough decisions."
Army's offense, which was able to rack up 414 yards of total offense, was lead in output by Andy Davidson, who went over 100 yards for the second week in a row, while also scoring 3 touchdowns. Davidson, who was originally a linebacker, was moved to fullback at the start of the season, and Monken couldn't be happier with that decision.
"He's a tough kid. I think he's a good player. I'm glad he's on our team."
Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw carried the ball 17 times for 71 yards. He did not throw it often, but he was efficient when he did, completing 3 of 5 passes for 55 yards. Senior wide receiver Edgar Poe caught two of those passes for 46 yards, including a diving 33 yard catch on 3rd and long early in the game that set the tone for the Black Knights.
Defense Stands Tall
While Army's offense controlled the ball, shortened the game, and did not commit any turnovers, it was their defense that had to leave Monken with the biggest smile on his face.
The Black Knights forced two turnovers, stopped Rice on fourth down, held the Owls to 289 yards of total offense, and made Rice go 1 for 10 on third down conversions. Rice was only able to possess the ball for 20 minutes of the game, and held the Owls to less than a 100 yards rushing, with Stehling completing only 16 of 30 passes for 197 yards. Captain Andrew King had a huge sack late in the game that killed Rice's momentum.
"We prepared very well this week." King said after the game. "We came back from the game on Friday and got to work on Saturday."
Army goes on the road for three straight games, starting next week against the UTEP Miners. Rice, now 0-2, doesn't catch a break, as they return home next week to face the Baylor Bears.