WEST POINT – In a game in which a team scores six touchdowns one missed extra point wouldn’t normally sway the outcome. But when freshman kicker Daniel Grochowski missed the extra point on Army’s second touchdown, it set up a scenario in which the Black Knights struggled all game to make up that one point. Instead, on their final four touchdowns, they kicked one extra point, converted one 2-point attempt, but failed on two other such attempts.
“Everybody wants to find the one thing, and that’s one of 10,000 things,” Army coach Rich Ellerson said. “That happened early enough that you’re on that two-point chart early on. It gets masked in there. We didn’t go a good enough job on our two-point plays. We have 15 things out there that will get us 12 yards, and we were struggling to get three yards. That was disappointing.”
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For a change it was Army that was on the plus side of turnovers, and it was the first time in Ellerson’s four seasons at Army in which his team had at least a plus three in turnover margin and still lost. The Black Knights are now 5-1 in such games.
The loss was Army’s second straight to Northern Illinois. The Black Knights won the only previous meeting at Michie Stadium in 1992, but have lost the last two. The Black Knights have now lost five straight games versus Mid-American Conference teams.
Saturday’s loss snapped the Black Knights’ three-game home winning streak, but was the fifth straight home opener they lost.
One portion of Army’s 42:33 time of possession was an incredible second-quarter run in which Northern Illinois held the ball for only 1 minute, 48 seconds – but in that period, the Huskies scored two touchdowns on their only two full possessions. They also had the ball for the last play of the first half, but elected to run the clock out.
Army is now 7-8 in its last 15 games decided by seven points or less. The 81 combined points represented the highest scoring Army game since a 59-28 loss at Hawaii on Nov. 22, 2003. It was the first time both Army and its opponent scored 40 points in a game since a 56-42 loss at Houston on Oct 19, 2002. The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak when scoring at least 40 points.
Running back Raymond Maples finished the game with 159 yards rushing; fullback Larry Dixon had 136 and quarterback Trent Steelman had 116, the first time since Oct. 12, 1996 that the Black Knights had three players reach the 100-yard mark in the same game. The trio to do so last time was Demetrius Perry, Adam Thompson and Joe Hewitt.
The game was Maples’ second straight 100-yard rushing game, and seventh overall.
Dixon’s three touchdowns represented the first time an Army player ran for three touchdowns since Steelman did so last season against Northwestern.
For Steelman, his rushing yardage moved him into eighth place on Army’s all-time list, with 2,191 yards. He became the fifth player in Army history to score at least 30 rushing touchdowns. He also moved into third place on the Army career total offense list with 4,305 yards. He passed Mike Mayweather and trails Zac Dahman (4,449) and Leamon Hall (5,524). Army’s fourth-year quarterback moved into a third-place tie on the Army touchdowns-responsible-for list with 43. He is now tied with Tory Crawford.