FORT WORTH, TX – In what has become typical Army West Point football games, the Black Knights preserved here Saturday afternoon in thrilling fashion to win the 2017 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, 42-35, over San Diego State.
In a contest that featured four tie scores and four lead changes, a gutsy two-point conversion call by Army head coach Jeff Monken determined the outcome. After a Darnell Woolfolk one-yard rush pulled Army to within 35-34 with 18 seconds left, SDSU called two timeouts which allowed the Black Knights enough time to draw up the perfect two-point attempt call. With team captain Ahmad Bradshaw under center, the senior stepped back and pitched it to sophomore Kell Walker, who dashed home for the score.After San Diego State returned the opening kickoff to the 27-yard line, a holding penalty on first down put the Aztecs behind the chains. Army managed to make stops on the first two downs to set up a 3rd-and-18, but Rashaad Penny broke free for an 81-yard touchdown to open the scoring 1:24 into the game.
Army answered later in the opening frame to pull even with an eight play, 70-yard scoring drive. Davidson and Woolfolk combined for 15 yards on the first two plays to get the Black Knights to midfield. Facing a 3rd-and-2, Bradshaw scampered for 12 yards to become the single-season service academy rushing leader, passing Navy’s Napoleon McCallum’s mark of 1587 from the 1983 season. Davidson followed that up with a 13-yard carry two plays before Bradshaw rushed in from 19-yards out.
SDSU retook the lead on the ensuing drive, capped by a 32-yard rush by Perry for his second score of the game.
Not to be outdone, the Black Knights produced a scoring drive the next time they touched the ball to bring the score to 14-all. After crossing midfield, Davidson carried several Aztec defenders for a 12-yard gain. Bradshaw lost a handle on the ball on the following play, but bounced back with a 13-yard scurry for a first down. Woolfolk then muscled his way into the end zone from seven-yards out to bring the Black Knights even with 7:50 left in the half.
After a SDSU punt, the Black Knights earned their first lead of the game on their next drive.
Army needed 13 plays to travel 53 yards, starting with sequential four-yard carries by Calen Holt, Connor Slomka, Bradshaw and Davidson. The Cadets continued to move the chains the next two times with a pair of critical eight-yard carries on third downs by Bradshaw and Fred Cooper Jr. to keep the drive alive. Davidson came up with the key rush with 18 seconds remaining before the break by diving into the end zone to finish off a four-yard touchdown run.
Army elected to kick it short on the ensuing kickoff to Juwan Washington, who fielded the ball at his own 22-yard line and cut it across the field down the right sideline for the equalizing score right before the teams broke for halftime.
The Black Knights opened the third quarter with an Armed Forces Bowl record 20-play drive that lasted 11:19. Unfortunately, the Cadets were unable to produce any points on the play and turned the ball over following a failed fake field goal play. San Diego State then started its first drive of the second half and needed just four plays to retake the lead, capped by Penny’s third touchdown of the afternoon, this time from 49-yards out.
The two sides traded interceptions with Aukerman contributing his first pick of the year in the red zone after McClinton tipped the ball in the air while falling to the ground. The Black Knights took advantage of that opportunity by marching 79 yards down the field on 10 plays.
Bradshaw found the end zone for the second time in the contest with 9:25 left in the game after breaking off for a 27-yard rush.
Penny added his fourth score of the game on the following drive to put the Aztecs back on top, 35-28, with 5:47 remaining.
The Black Knights capitalized on yet another long drive, closing out the 15-play, 72-yard journey with a one-yard score by Woolfolk to pull Army within one. After back-to-back called timeouts by SDSU, the Black Knights attempted a two-point conversion. On the try, Bradshaw pitched the ball to Walker who scampered in to give the Black Knights a one-point advantage.
With only 12 ticks left on the clock, San Diego State looked to the passing game to get into field goal range. A sack by Aukerman on an intentional grounding penalty left the Aztecs with seven seconds left. SDSU made a last-ditch effort on the final play with multiple laterals, but had the ball taken away by Riley and returned 29 yards for the final score as time expired to ultimately secure the victory for the Black Knights.