Andy Davidson rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns, the Army defense created two more turnovers, and the Black Knights beat Rice 31-14 on Saturday for its second straight win to open the season.
It had been 70 games since Army (2-0) won two in a row and it's the first time the Black Knights have started a season with two straight wins since 1996. Ronnie McAda led that team to nine straight wins and a national ranking to start the season.
Army finished with 348 yards rushing as its triple option continued to perform at a high level. The Black Knights had 329 rushing yards in last week's season-opening 28-13 win over Temple at Lincoln Financial Field. That was a breakthrough moment of sorts for the Black Knights, and they continued to ride the momentum from that game against these Owls on a sweltering day at Michie Stadium.
Rice (0-2), which opened the season with a 46-14 loss at Western Kentucky, continued to falter offensively. After striking early - Tyler Stehling hit tight end Connor Cella for a 64-yard touchdown on Rice's third play from scrimmage - the Owls struggled the rest of the game. Subtract that long gain, and Rice managed just 98 yards on 23 plays in the first half and fell behind by two touchdowns.
The Army option gained 211 yards rushing in the opening half and the Black Knights weren't afraid to pass. AfterDarnell Woolfolk's six-yard scoring run, his first career touchdown, tied the score at 7-7, quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw went to work. He hit Edgar Poe for 15 yards on a second-and-13 play. Poe's 31-yard reception four plays later set up Davidson's 13-yard touchdown and gave Army a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.
The Army defense entered the game tied for the national lead in turnover margin and late in the second added another takeaway. Sophomore linebacker James Nachtigal hit Stehling from behind as he was about to throw andAndrew King recovered for the Black Knights at the Rice 35.
Army quickly converted, keeping it on the ground, and boosted the lead to 21-7 on Davidson's two-yard run with 4:16 left in the half.
Rice broke through midway through the third quarter after pinning Army deep in its own territory. A 26-yard punt by Army's Nick Schrage gave the Owls the ball at the Army 37, and Austin Walter burst up the middle for a touchdown on the next play to narrow the deficit to 21-14.
Unfazed, the Black Knights marched back down the field after the ensuing kickoff and scored again, with the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Davidson bulldozing his way through the defense. He broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage in a bruising 22-yard run and capped an eight-play, 75-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run.
Rice: The Owls have to find some sort of offensive consistency as Army held the ball for 40:12. Stehling, a senior, is starting for the first time in his career and displayed a nice touch on the TD throw to Cella. But aside from the two touchdowns, Rice did not drive inside the Army 20. Stehling did display a nice kicking touch, squibbing a 41-yard punt to the Army 1 early in the third quarter that led to the Owls' second TD.
Army: The Army defense shined in the victory over Temple with three interceptions. It was burned for the early score by Rice but settled down and pitched a shutout the rest of the opening half. That's two straight games the defense has risen to the occasion, and with two quarterbacks capable of running the option and not afraid to pass - Chris Carteralso played - and a linebacker-turned-fullback in Davidson able to generate an inside game, coach Jeff Monken has the Black Knights pointed upward.
Rice: The Owls host Baylor on Friday night.
Army: The Black Knights begin a three-week road trip with a visit to UTEP next Saturday.