Santiago scores late, Army beats Ball State 33-24

WEST POINT, N.Y. -- A week after squandering a lead and suffering an embarrassing loss, the Army Black Knights landed in a similar place. This time, they weren't going to be denied.

A.J. Schurr scored twice on short runs, Angel Santiago added a game-saving touchdown run in the waning moments, and Army's potent ground attack was enough to hold off Ball State 33-24 on Saturday at rainy Michie Stadium.

The Cardinals made the ending tense again for the Black Knights, driving twice for scores in the fourth quarter to pull within three points before finally getting derailed by Jeremy Timpf's third interception of the season. The pick came with under 3 minutes to play, moments after Santiago's key 11-yard scoring run.

"We're 1-3, backs to the wall. Are we going to fight our way out of it, or are we going to be a punching bag?" Army coach Jeff Monken said. "You either throw the towel in or put the gloves up and try to throw a bunch of punches to get out of the fight without getting killed -- or fight back, fight our way out of the corner.

"I think that was the difference in the mind-set. I really like the way our guys responded. That's a real credit to those kids. They weren't going to be denied."

Coming on the heels of an overtime loss last week at Yale seemed to speak volumes. The Bulldogs play in the FCS and hadn't beaten an FBS team since dropping down to Division I's second tier in 1982.

"I noticed on Monday. I thought our guys came out and really focused," Monken said. "They weren't ready to quit."

The win snapped a three-game slide for Army (2-3), which has won both of its games at home. Ball State (1-4) lost its fourth straight.

"We told ourselves we had an opportunity to turn everything around," said Army defensive back Chris Carnegie, who forced an early fumble that Army converted into a touchdown. "We owed it to ourselves."

A steady rain fell for most of the game, and that played to the advantage of the Black Knights and their tough triple option. Averaging 316.5 yards rushing per game, Army racked up 236 yards on the ground in the first half alone, setting up Schurr's touchdowns and two field goals by Daniel Grochowski, his first of the season.

Larry Dixon ran for a career-high 188 yards on 28 carries and Army finished with 425 yards rushing, holding the ball for nearly 38 minutes.

The Black Knights haven't learned to finish a game yet, though, and the lessons have been painful. They squandered a 14-point lead in the second half against Yale and had to withstand a 22-point Buffalo rally in the fourth quarter in the season-opener.

Ball State quarterback Ozzie Mann completed six passes for 81 yards in a near-perfect drive to move Ball State within 27-24 with 8:35 to play. He completed it with a 6-yard pass over the middle to tight end Dylan Curry before throwing the interception that sealed the game for Army.

"We're showing flashes right now of good execution, but too often we're having breakdowns that are critical and negatively impacting our chances to get the results that we want," Ball State coach Pete Lembo said. "We had some turnovers today that are never going to give you a good chance of success against an option team because every possession is so critical."

Mann, just 6 of 11 for 43 yards in the first half with a slippery ball, finished 18 of 26 for 173 yards. Jahwan Edwards rushed for 142 yards on just 12 carries, scored twice, and caught five passes for 44 yards.

Ball State was ranked 16th in the nation in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score just 68.8 percent on 16 trips inside the 20-yard line. Army scored all three times it made it inside the 20-yard line in the first half in building a 20-10 lead.

In Army's lone victory, Dixon ran for 174 yards and two touchdowns against Buffalo, and his performance against Ball State was the ninth 100-yard game of his career, tying him with Charlie Jarvis for seventh all-time at West Point.

Both teams scored off turnovers in the first quarter.

Army's came on the second play from scrimmage. Edwards caught a pass in the right flat but fumbled when Carnegie hit him, and Carnegie recovered at the Ball State 29. Schurr's 16-yard run around the right side on third-and-13 kept the Black Knights from squandering the opportunity, and four plays later he scored on a 1-yard keeper for a 7-0 lead.

Ball State came right back when defensive end Tracy Key forced a fumble by Army tailback Joe Walker and Michael Ayers recovered for the Cardinals at the Ball State 44. Edwards then atoned for his miscue, bursting off right tackle and scoring on a 56-yard run with 6.44 left.

Two turnovers, two scores.

Dixon's 40-yard run helped set up Schurr's 1-yard keeper late in the first quarter. Scott Secor kicked a 22-yard field goal for Ball State late in the second and Grochowski booted a 21-yarder 7 seconds before halftime for a 20-10 lead.

Army gained what appeared to be a daunting 17-point lead with 3:02 to play in the third. Santiago's 37-yard completion to Edgar Poe gave the Black Knights a first down at the Ball State 9 and Aaron Kemper scored on the next play on a run up the middle.

Ball State finally broke through early in the fourth with its first sustained drive of the game, going 74 yards in nine plays. Mann's 5-yard completion to KeVonn Mabon on a fourth-and-3 play set up Edwards' 6-yard run that sliced the lead to 27-17.