HOUSTON, Texas Army closed a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to just one touchdown, but fell short in a 38-31 loss at Rice on Saturday afternoon in front of 19,243 fans at Rice Stadium. Army dropped to 3-7 on the season, while the Owls claimed their fourth straight win to move to 7-3.
Army trailed 38-17 to start the final period, but senior FB Collin Mooney broke off a 61-yard scoring run and senior RB Wesley McMahand followed with a 43-yard score to pull the Black Knights within one score with less than five minutes remaining.
The Army defense held the Owls on a 4th-and-1, to take over at its own 31-yard line with 1:13 to go, but could not reach the end zone and force a tie. The game ended after a sack on third down and an incomplete pass on fourth down. Junior QB Carson Williams lofted a pass down the right sideline for junior WR Damion Hunter, but Hunter’s leaping grab was nullified when his foot came down out of bounds with just under 21 seconds remaining.
Led by Mooney’s 207 yards and two touchdowns, the Black Knights rushed for a season-best 461 yards, the 18th-best single-game total in Academy history.
Mooney pushed his season total to 1,173 rushing yards, the fourth-best rushing season in Academy history. It was his fourth 100-yard game of the season, the most since Carlton Jones reached the century mark four times in 2005. Mooney also became the first Army player since Jones in 2004 to rush for at least 200 yards twice in the same season, and is now the only West Point player ever to reach the 170-yard mark four times in the same campaign.
Army turned the ball over three times, two of which led to Rice touchdowns. The Owls scored touchdowns on four straight possessions during the second and third quarters to seize control of what was a three-point game at the end of the first stanza.
In addition to Mooney, junior FB Bryson Carl ran for 85 yards on only three carries. McMahand chipped in 83 yards on eight attempts, while junior RB Ian Smith gained 40 yards on eight carries and scored one touchdown.
Sophomore DB Donovan Travis led the Black Knights with eight tackles, including six solo stops. Senior LB Frank Scappaticci and sophomore LB Stephen Anderson each chipped in with seven stops. Junior DE Victory Ugenyi had a team-leading 1.5 tackles for loss.
Rice QB Chase completed 21 of 28 passes for 384 yards and three scores. Clement’s three touchdown passes moved him into first place on the Conference USA career list with 87. The senior signal caller also rushed nine times for 87 yards and a score, a career-long 61-yard jaunt. Senior WR Jarett Dillard caught four passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns, while Corbin Smiter registered his first career 100-yard receiving game with 104 yards and a touchdown on four receptions. C.J. Ugokwe rushed 12 times for 63 yards and a score.
The Owls outgained the Black Knights 517-492, the most yards allowed by an Army defense since Tulsa had 622 yards at Michie Stadium last season.
Travis Bradshaw led the Owls with 12 tackles, while Andrew Sendejo contributed 10 stops, including a tackle for loss.
Rice won the toss and elected to receive. The Black Knights pooch kick was fumbled and Joseph Puttmann came away with the loose ball at the Owls’ 36-yard line. The Black Knights needed six plays to reach the end zone with Mooney crossing the goal line from three yards out. The senior ran five times for 32 yards on the drive. Matthew Campbell’s extra point put Army on top 12:36 left in the first quarter.
The Owls posted their first points on their next possession. Rice drove to the Army 29-yard line, but the Black Knights defense held, forcing a field goal attempt. Clark Fangmeier’s 45-yard attempt split the uprights to cut the lead to 7-3 with 10:45 left in the quarter.
Army had its next drive slowed by a holding penalty and was forced to punt. The Owls took over at their own 18-yard line and, aided by a 15-yard facemask penalty, needed only two plays to go 82 yards. Clement did the honors with a 61-yard run on a quarterback draw out of a five-wide receiver formation. The PAT gave Rice its first lead at 10-7 with 5:24 left in the opening quarter.
The Black Knights committed their first turnover of the game on the first play of the ensuing possession when Rice recovered an errant option pitch at the Army 29-yard line. Ugenyi snuffed out a reverse for a 10-yard loss on first down, and the Army defense did not allow the Owls a first down. Famgmeier’s 42-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright to give the ball back to the Black Knights at their own 25-yard line.
After the teams traded punts, the Black Knights had a chance to tie the game, but Campbell’s 42-yard field goal attempt went wide right to set up the Owls with a first down at their own 25-yard line with 9:10 left in the half. Following a false-start penalty, the Owls found the end zone on their first play when Clement hit Dillard down the left sideline for an 80-yard touchdown. The extra point pushed the Owls’ lead to 17-7 with 8:59 left in the second quarter.
The Owls forced the second Army turnover on the second play of the next drive. Jameson Carter caught Bowden’s bubble screen pass and appeared to have some room to run, but Joseph Leary stripped the ball and recovered it at the Black Knights’ 30-yard line. Ugokwe capped the three-play touchdown drive with a 9-yard run. The extra point pushed the Owls’ advantage to 24-7 with 7:22 left in the half.
Army again penetrated Rice territory and appeared to be going in for a score when Mooney broke through the middle for a 25-yard gain to the 5-yard line, but he fumbled the ball into the end zone where the Owls recovered for a touchback. A defensive holding penalty nullified an Army interception, and Rice was able to take advantage for their fourth touchdown of the half. Clement and Dillard hooked up for the second time in the half, this time on a 10-yard scoring pass. The key play of the drive came when Clement escaped the grasp of an Army defender and found Dillard for a 33-yard connection to the Black Knights’ 11-yard line. Fangmeier’s PAT extended the Owls’ advantage to 31-7 with 1:47 to go in the half.
A 48-yard run by Carl on the first play of Army’s next drive moved the ball to the Rice 28-yard line. After a run by McMahand put the ball inside the 5-yard line, Bowden was brought down on the next play inside the one. The Black Knights failed to reach paydirt, however, when on the second-down play, Bowden tripped while pulling out from under center for a 7-yard loss. A spike stopped the clock and Campbell connected on a 25-yard field goal as the second-quarter clock expired to cut the Rice lead to 31-10 at intermission.
Paced by Carl’s 85 yards on three carries, the Black Knights rushed for 239 yards on 38 carries in the first half. The Owls still held the offensive advantage, however, with 307 yards on only 26 plays thanks to 212 yards through the air. Clement was 13 of 17 for all 212 yards and two touchdowns, while also running for 77 yards and a score in the opening half. Dillard caught four of those balls for 144 yards and both scores.
Army took the second-half kickoff and marched 77 yards in 10 plays for its second touchdown of the game. Smith capped the drive with a 2-yard plunge, and following Campbell’s PAT, the score moved to 31-17 with 10:37 left in the third. Mooney ran six times for 50 yards on the drive.
Rice pushed its lead back to three touchdowns on the next possession when Clement found Corbin Smiter for a 54-yard touchdown. Fangmeier’s fifth PAT of the day made it 38-17 with 9:27 left in the third quarter. The Owls kept the drive alive after a holding penalty to start the possession that made it 1st-and-20 from the Rice 15-yard line.
The Army defense registered its first takeaway of the game on Rice’s first possession in the fourth quarter. Junior CB Mario Hill stripped Casey and recovered the fumble to give Army the ball at its own 30-yard line. Mooney pulled the Black Knights back within two scores when he busted loose for a 61-yard touchdown that propelled him over the 200-yard mark. Campbell’s PAT cut the Rice lead to 38-24 with 13:11 left in the final period.
The Black Knights continued their comeback attempt on its next possession following a Rice punt. The Black Knights marched 89 yards in 13 plays to cut the lead to 38-31 with 4:15 left in the game. McMahand did the honors with a 43-yard touchdown run, his second of the season.
Rice drove inside the 40-yard line, but James Casey was stopped on fourth down to give the Black Knights their final chance.
Army’s 31 points were the most in a defeat since last season’s 49-39 loss to Tulsa. It marked only the third time since 2004 that The Black Knights scored 30 points in a loss.
The Black Knights have a week off before continuing their three-game stretch of games away from West Point on Saturday, Nov. 22 at Rutgers.