TROY, N.Y. - Army sprint football kicked off the 2010 season with a victory on the road, topping RPI 34-26 at the East Campus Athletic Village in Troy, N.Y.
Sophomore quarterback Tim Meier led the Black Knights, passing for 307 and three touchdowns, highlighted by a game-securing 95-yard play in the fourth quarter.
RPI opened with a 6-0 lead in the first quarter off a 37-yard pass followed by a missed extra point attempt. The Black Knights responded, marching up the field, setting up senior Eric Kanney for a nine-yard touchdown. Sophomore Kevin Scruggs connected on the extra point to put Army up, 7-6.
A 67-yard touchdown pass put the Engineers up 13-7. Army freshman Tom Jeffers scored his first-career touchdown to even things up, 13-13, scoring on a seven-yard pass from Meier. The ensuing extra point attempt was missed, keeping things knotted at 13 apiece.
With time running down in the second quarter, junior Ben Johnson made the first of two big plays for Army, pulling in the go-ahead touchdown off a 44-yard pass from Meier. With the extra point good, the Black Knights entered the locker room up 20-13 at the half.
RPI couldn't get their passing game on track, completing less than 50-percent (18-of-40) of its passes on the day. The Engineers opened the second half running the ball, including a 35-yard rush that set up the game-tying touchdown early in the third quarter. On the day, RPI ran for 113 yards.
The Black Knights would make a run to the other end of the field, finding themselves with a first-and-goal at the six-yard line after a 21-yard pass play between Meier and sophomore Cody Nyp. At second-and-goal from the five with just under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, Meier threw one of his two interceptions on the day, giving RPI the chance to take the lead.
Army made up for its mistake on the previous possession by forcing a fumble on RPI's ensuing drive. Sophomore Sam Fite recovered for the Black Knights at the RPI 22-yard line. Meier would hand off to older brother junior Mike Meier to run in the go-ahead touchdown for the Black Knights. Scruggs tacked on the extra point, giving Army a 27-20 lead.
RPI opened the fourth quarter threatening with its rushing game once again, running it all the way down to the Army six-yard line with just under seven minutes remaining in the game.
Once again, the Black Knight defense came up big as senior Bryan Girouard forced a fumble on the four-yard line and it was recovered by senior captain Carlos Cook at the five.
From the five, Ben Johnson made his second game-changing play of the day, catching a deep pass from Meier and running it 95-yards in the other direction to give the Black Knights some breathing room in the final minutes of the game. With the extra point by Scruggs, Army went up 34-20.
The Engineers ran Scruggs' kickoff back to their own 47, combined with a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on senior Toby Acosta, giving RPI the chance to get back into the game. The Engineers scored off a 25-yard pass, but once again the Black Knights' defense came up with a big stop as junior JP Cooper blocked the extra point with just under four minutes remaining.
Army ran the clock out, securing the 34-26 victory.
"We definitely have some work to do," said head coach Mike McElrath after the game. "I talked to the guys at the end of the game and I told them what I was most proud of today is, you don't really know how your team is going to do until you go out there and play someone else, and we had some adversity. They scored and went up 6-0, and we fight back and take the lead 7-6. And it was really back-and-forth throughout the course of the game, but our guys kept fighting. When we needed to make a play, we were able to come up with a play.
"Probably one of the turning points of the game was when it looked like they were going to score and tie the game again and we created that fumble inside the five and then three plays later we hit a 90-yard touchdown pass to go up three scores, and that's the kind of thing that makes you learn a lot about the character of your team, when you're put in those situations.
"Tom Jeffers, a freshman, handled all our punts today and he did a real good job at that. He made a couple real nice catches. He also had one catch for a score. I was talking to the coaches before the game and we were saying that during the course of the game there's always a guy you're not really expecting to step up but Tom played a heck of a ball game and was definitely one of those guys."
The Black Knights remain on the road next week when they travel to Mansfield on Saturday, Sept. 25. Kickoff time in Mainesburg, Pa., is set for 1:00 p.m.