Reeling after a late charge by Miami forced overtime, Army regrouped and won again at Michie Stadium.
Darnell Woolfolk scored on a bruising 7-yard run up the middle in the second overtime, sophomore quarterback Cam Thomas rushed for 137 yards and one touchdown in his first career start, and Army survived 31-30 on Saturday to the delight of a sellout homecoming crowd.
Army (5-2) remained unbeaten at home this season and extended its home winning streak to 10 games. Miami (3-5) had won two straight and three of four after beginning the season with three straight losses.
“The support is growing,” Woolfolk said. “It’s unbelievable. It motivates the guys. It’s a great thing we have going.”
The teams each kicked a field goal in the first overtime and the RedHawks scored a touchdown in the second — on Gus Ragland’s 18-yard, fourth-down completion to a diving Luke Mayock on the left side. Trailing by a point, coach Chuck Martin elected to go for the victory and Ragland nearly stunned the Black Knights. Hit and falling to the turf, he somehow completed a sidearmed pass to Kenny Young on the right as Army fired its victory cannon prematurely, but Young was stopped at the 2 by Elijah Riley to end it.
“Holy smokes! I don’t know what to say,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “That was draining. We were fortunate. We had ourselves positioned just the way we wanted. We just didn’t do the things we talk about.”
Army was without starting quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr., who suffered a lower-body injury last week in a win at San Jose State.
“It was a little bit overwhelming,” said Thomas, who ripped off a 52-yard run and scored from the 1 in the third quarter. “They believed in me the entire time.”
Miami had scored 149 points in its previous four games, surpassing 30 in each, but it’s hard to score without the ball. Army limited the RedHawks to just three possessions in the first half, taking a 14-7 lead into the halftime break.
“We knew it was going to be hard at the beginning. We were just hanging on,” Martin said. “We’ve got to try to weather the storm early, hang in there.”
Army entered the game averaging 313.5 yards on the ground and topped the nation in possession time at just under 40 minutes a game behind Hopkins, who leads the team in rushing. Thomas acquitted himself well in his debut, not committing a turnover as the Black Knights gained 347 yards rushing, but Army faltered in the fourth and Miami surged, outgaining Army 215-12 in the quarter.
On its first drive of the quarter, Miami converted twice on fourth down and once on a third-and-8 play to keep the drive alive, but Ragland was stopped on a fourth-and-6 play at the Army 23, a 16-play surge coming to an abrupt halt.
Undaunted, the RedHawks forced a three-and-out and rallied. Ragland completed eight passes for 68 yards, his 3-yard toss to Dominique Robinson cutting the lead to seven with 4:23 left.
Miami tied it after its defense forced another three-and-out, driving 82 yards in 16 plays and converting twice on fourth down. The tying touchdown and extra point came on Ragland’s 5-yard play-action pass to Nate Becker on fourth down with 17 seconds left in the fourth.
Woolfolk also scored on a 2-yard run in the first quarter and Andy Davidson added an 11-yard scoring run in the second.
Miami finally got untracked and scored quickly, with Ragland hitting a wide-open Young on the left side for a 34-yard touchdown midway through the second.
“Our guys hung in there,” Martin said. “It was a crazy football game.”
Miami: The RedHawks are 3-1 in the Mid-American Conference and second in the East Division, just behind Buffalo (4-0), in good position to challenge for a conference title. They play the Bulls on the road next week.
In a game that featured 10 fourth-down conversions in 13 tries by both teams, it was fitting the RedHawks put themselves in position to win in regulation when Ragland hit Becker for the TD with 17 seconds left in regulation. Martin prepared for such a scenario against Army’s ground-gobbling option attack and was ready to go for two points and the victory, but Becker was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after celebrating his diving catch too much and the RedHawks kicked the extra point.
DODGING A BULLET
Monken had the game scripted just as he wanted in the waning seconds of the first half. The Black Knights drove to the Miami 1 and the RedHawks were facing a daunting task as Army was poised to go up 21-7 on fourth down on the final play before halftime. Army entered the game having converted 19 of 21 fourth downs and had converted its first three in the game. Miami linebacker Brad Koenig foiled the attempt, though, stopping the 235-pound Woolfolk in his tracks and shy of the goal line. That kept the RedHawks within a touchdown despite only three possessions in the first half as Army held the ball for 23:22.