WEST POINT, N.Y. – Trent Steelman scored three touchdowns for the second straight week, including the game-winner on a 1-yard plunge with 2:49 remaining, and Army beat Northwestern 21-14 on Saturday.
Steelman also scored on runs of 1 and 17 yards, and the swarming Army defense turned up the pressure in the second half.
Malcolm Brown had a 23-yard gain on a pitch right for Army (1-2), Raymond Maples added a 17-yard run off a great fake in the middle of the line, and Scott Williams had a 17-yard run around the left side to key the game-winning drive. Steelman converted a third-and-6 play from the 9 and scored two plays later.
The Wildcats had one last chance to tie, and third-string quarterback Trevor Siemian hit wideout Jeremy Ebert for 18 yards into Army territory. But the Army defense forced an incompletion of fourth down with 66 seconds left.
Ebert also had a 14-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter from quarterback Kain Colter, who started his third straight game in place of injured Dan Persa, and a 62-yarder from Siemian in the fourth quarter.
Persa, recovering from a torn right Achilles tendon suffered last November, warmed up before the game and had a headset on during the action. He's expected to return Oct. 1 when Northwestern (2-1) opens Big Ten action against Illinois.
Army finished with 381 yards rushing on 75 carries to Northwestern's 115 yards on 27 tries. The teams entered the game ranked 1-2 nationally in total number of rushes.
While losing its first two games to Northern Illinois and San Diego State, Army turned the ball over three times in each and was a minus-2 per game in turnover margin. Steelman had two more fumbles against the Wildcats, losing one. But neither cost the Black Knights this time, thanks to a defense that held Northwestern to 10 yards offensively in the third quarter and 117 in the second half — including 62 on the play that tied the game.
Siemian, a redshirt freshman, replaced Colter after Army's Alex Carlton missed a 26-yard field goal just past the midway point of the fourth quarter, and the Wildcats scored in just three plays. The third was a short dump to Ebert, and he outran the only defender that had a chance to knot the score at 14 with 6:03 left.
Steelman lost the handle after a snap early in the second quarter and quickly pounced on it, but he wasn't so lucky midway through the third. He again mishandled a handoff, and linebacker Ben Johnson recovered for Northwestern at the Army 30.
The Army defense forced two incompletions, and a sack by Army linebacker Steven Erzinger allowed the Black Knights to escape.
Army's triple option thrives on ball control — the Black Knights entered the game ranked second nationally in rushing, averaging 353 yards, and second in possession time, averaging 37 minutes, 35 seconds — and it couldn't have operated much better than on their first possession of the game.
After forcing the Wildcats to punt, Army marched 81 yards on 18 plays on a drive that lasted nearly 9 minutes. Steelman had seven carries for 49 yards, including a 6-yard run left on a fourth-and-5 play from the Northwestern 38-yard line and scored on a pretty 17-yard scamper around the left side with 3:39 left in the opening quarter.
It was the first time Army had led this season.
It was short-lived. After a 31-yard punt by Army's Kolin Walk, the Wildcats were in business at midfield and Colter drove them 51 yards on 11 plays to tie it.
Tailback Mike Trumpy had 28 yards rushing, Colter hit Rashad Lawrence for 7 yards and Jacob Smith gained 3 yards on a fourth-and-2 play at the Army 27. Colter never flinched on his first career touchdown pass after a holding call against Northwestern on a first-and-goal from the Army 9. On the next play from the 14, he hit Ebert over the middle as Ebert made a pretty leaping catch at the back of the end zone behind the Army defenders with 5:23 left in the half.
Colter set the Wildcats up for another score just before halftime. After scrambling for 14 and 13 yards, Colter completed a 19-yard pass to Christian Jones to the Army 9, but Jeff Budzien was wide left on a 26-yard field goal as time expired.