CORNELL, N.Y. - Army junior linebacker Matthew Talley returned a fumble 85 yards for a touchdown with 1:40 left in the third quarter of a thrilling 10-9 Army win at Cornell in a CSFL matchup on Friday night. With the win, the Black Knights lifted their record to 6-0, 4-0 while the Big Red fell to 3-3, 3-2 on the season.
In Army's second meeting between unbeaten teams this season, the Black Knights will host arch-rival Navy (6-0, 4-0) next Friday at Shea Stadium for the outright CSFL Championship.
After being gashed for a 30-yard run earlier in Cornell's eight-play 48-yard drive to the Army 17-yard line, the Army defense dug in and came up with the game's only touchdown when Talley stripped Cornell's Elliot Corey of the ball and returned it 85 yards the other way to put Army ahead by the final margin. Holding a 9-3 lead, behind three field goals from Ale Perilstein, the Big Red's threatening drive deep into Army territory could have been the nail in the coffin, but defense prevailed for both teams from start to finish.
Each stop unit rallied to force several punts after Army took the lead, with the Black Knights picking off two passes in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Robby Mandel's interception gave the Army offense the ball at Cornell's 43-yard line, but the Big Red defense answered defensively with a sack and interception on back-to-back plays to get the ball back at its own 21-yard line with just 2:17 remaining.
Although the Cornell offense managed just 146 total yards on the day, the Big Red put together their most sustained drive of the day with the game on the line. Cornell marched 36-yards on 11 plays to get into position for a desperation Hail Mary just across midfield, but Army senior defensive back Taylor Griffin grabbed his fourth pick of the season with seven seconds left to keep the Black Knights quest for a 31st unbeaten season alive.
Army linebacker Brian Girouaud led all tacklers with 13 stops, including 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Carlos Cook registered 10 tackles, two of which were for a loss, while Emerson Follett made six solo hits.
Cornell kicked the first of its three field goals on the day from 30 yards out to take the lead midway through the first quarter.
After Army fumbled the subsequent kickoff, the Black Knights defense was strong on a fourth-and-short attempt from the five, and held the Big Red to just a field goal, 6-3, when Army fumbled the ball its first-down run.
Senior captain Sam Herbert cut the lead in half at the 9:42 mark of the second quarter when he drilled a 42-yard attempt to cap a short Army drive. The two squads battled back and forth until the 6:02 mark of the third quarter when Cornell took a 9-3 lead on Ale Perilstein's third and final field goal of the day.
Senior running back and captain Ricky Lentz led the Army offense with 57 yards on the ground. Freshman quarterback Tim Meier threw for 27 yards on 4-of-15 passing with two interceptions on a windy, wet night at Schoellkopf Field.