WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — Army snapped its two-game losing streak and coach Jeff Monken was plenty happy — just not ecstatic.
Andy Davidson rushed for 100 yards and one touchdown, Ahmad Bradshaw threw his first scoring pass of the season, and Army beat UTEP 35-21 on Saturday on a windy day at Michie Stadium.
The Black Knights overcame an early running-into-the kicker penalty, missed too many tackles against UTEP running back Quardraig Wadley, and had an interception nullified by a penalty. Against a team struggling to find any sort of identity — UTEP’s first lead of the season came on Wadley’s 1-yard run in the final moments of the first quarter — it didn’t matter.
“I’m happy to win. It certainly beats the failing of last weekend,” Monken said. “What we’ve got to do is play better. There’s a lot to clean up. We had to earn this one. They (UTEP) had themselves right there.”
Army (3-2), coming off road losses to Ohio State and last week to Tulane, broke open a tight game with two touchdowns in the third quarter and another early in the fourth as Bradshaw finally displayed some nice touch throwing the ball. He finished 3 of 5 for 80 yards and rushed for 93 yards on 11 carries.
UTEP (0-5) entered the game allowing an average of nearly 48 points per game but played Army to a 14-14 standoff in the first half, thanks to the solid play of Wadley, who finished with a career-high 156 yards on 28 carries.
“It didn’t reflect in the final score, but I thought in all phases the kids went out and fought,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said. “This was a team last year that came to our place and completely annihilated us. I don’t think they can say the same thing today.”
UTEP gained only 23 yards and failed to notch a first down in the third quarter as the game quickly slipped away. Army drove quickly to the go-ahead score as the Miners’ offense sputtered and their defense had no answer for Army’s triple option.
Bradshaw faked inside and broke a 42-yard run down the left side, Davidson followed with an 18-yard run up the middle and Connor Slomka finished a five-play drive with a 3-yard run.
“That’s where the tide turned,” Kugler said. “Against a team like Army you … have to make every possession count.”
Bradshaw, who last week failed to complete a pass in a game for the second time this season, finally broke out of his slump with a 42-yard scoring pass to Jordan Asberry midway through the third.
Bradshaw’s 24-yard completion to Jeff Ekejam set up Slomka’s 13-yard TD on the third play of the fourth quarter.
Kahani Smith intercepted Army backup quarterback Luke Langdon and returned it 52 yards for a TD late in the quarter for UTEP’s only points in the second half.
Last year Army was reeling from the death of defensive back Brandon Jackson when it went on the road and slammed UTEP 66-14 in the emotional aftermath of the one-car accident that took the rising star’s life. This game was totally different at the outset.
The Miners dominated time of possession and scored the only touchdown of the first quarter. The only downside was that starting quarterback Ryan Metz was hurt late in the drive on a keeper and was replaced by Zack Greenlee.
“They came out a lot harder than us,” Slomka said. “We just needed some time.”
Army scored twice in the second to take the lead as its formidable triple option awoke. The Black Knights repeatedly pounded the inside of the UTEP line, racking up 142 yards on the ground. Kell Walker ripped off a 27-yard run to set up Davidson’s 32-yard touchdown run early in the second.
After forcing a punt, the Black Knights drove 93 yards on 12 plays for a 14-7 lead. Bradshaw’s nifty last-second pitch gave Calen Holt some room to run, and he scored his first career touchdown on a 19-yard scamper down the left side.
The Miners responded with a 73-yard scoring drive to tie the score, capped by Greenlee’s 2-yard pass to tight end David Lucero with 35 seconds left in the half.
UTEP: The Miners have a gamer in Wadley and if Kugler can get more production from the quarterback position he might be able to salvage something from the season. Greenlee finished 7 of 13 for 88 yards.
ARMY: The Black Knights might want to be a little more conservative in the passing game, if that’s possible. Bradshaw threw an incompletion on Army’s first play from scrimmage and the Black Knights went into a funk for entire first period. Before Bradshaw hit Asberry for the third-quarter score, Army had completed only 4 of 24 passes for 36 yards with two interceptions on the season.
HOME SWEET HOME
Army is 3-0 at home to start a season for the first time since 2007.
UTEP: The Miners are home to face Western Kentucky on Saturday night.
ARMY: The Black Knights travel to Rice for a Saturday night game.
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