The Army Black Knights thwarted the best efforts of Rashaad Penny to earn a 42-35 victory over the San Diego State Aztecs in the Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas.
Darnell Woolfolk capped off a 15-play, 72-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run with 18 seconds remaining, and Kell Walker converted Army's two-point attempt to put the Black Knights ahead 36-35.
Elijah Riley returned a fumble for a touchdown as San Diego State tried to score on the final play of the game.
Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw only attempted three passes but ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries.
Penny was the standout performer in a losing effort, carrying the ball 14 times for 221 yards and four touchdowns. According to San Diego State, Penny tied an NCAA record:
GoAztecs Stats @GoAztecsStats
Rashaad Penny is over 200 rushing yards for a fifth straight game, which ties an NCAA FBS record. The others are Marcus Allen (USC, 1981), Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State, 1988) and Jamario Thomas (North Texas, 2004).2017-12-23 23:14:11
Philadelphia Eagles running back Donnel Pumphrey, who shared the Aztecs backfield for his final three years at the school, lamented the loss:
Donnel Pumphrey Jr. @Pumphrey6K
Straight blew it smh , all we had to do was give Penny the damn ball . The man averaged damn near 30 Yards per carry .2017-12-23 23:44:36
The San Diego State defense will shoulder the blame for the defeat. The Aztecs allowed Army to possess the ball for 46 minutes, and five of the Black Knights' eight drives ended in touchdowns. Army also registered 31 first downs and didn't punt once.
The Aztecs were basically a one-man show in the first half. They gained 167 yards and scored 21 points despite possessing the ball for just 6:57 through the first two quarters, according to Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com. Penny was responsible for a large chunk of San Diego State's offense. Although he carried the ball just four times, he ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
Penny also had an indirect role in Juwan Washington's 78-yard kickoff return touchdown to help tie the game at 21 with five seconds remaining in the first half. The senior running back threw a pair of downfield blocks that allowed Washington to waltz into the end zone.
San Diego State shared a replay of the score:
SDSU Football @Aztec_Football
We see your touchdown drive, @ArmyWP_Football, and we'll match it. JUWAN WASHINGTON TO THE HOUSE! https://t.co/UgsTHt3v1o2017-12-23 21:58:53
The Aztecs needed Penny to step up because their defense struggled to cope with Army's methodical offensive style. Only one of the Black Knights' four first-half drives took fewer than five minutes.
Army didn't throw a single pass in the first half, either, as the combination of Bradshaw, Woolfolk, Connor Slomka and Andy Davidson wore down the San Diego State defense.
Even the Black Knights' official Twitter account seemed to be surprised in the third quarter when Bradshaw finally threw the ball:
Army WP Football @ArmyWP_Football
WOW. Bradshaw escapes a sack and spots Cam Harrison for a 1st down... Yes we threw the ball.2017-12-23 22:23:15
While Army's game plan wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing to watch for neutral fans, Dallas Mavericks play-by-play announcer Mark Followill thought the level of execution still provided some enjoyment:
Mark Followill @MFollowill
When Army executes their offense, in particular that last touchdown drive, there is a real football beauty in the precision and patience2017-12-23 21:57:12
The second half showed, however, that long, drawn-out drives aren't all that effective if they don't end in points.
Army opened the third quarter with a possession that totaled 20 plays and ate 11:19 off the clock. The Black Knights got zero points from the drive after attempting a fake field goal from the San Diego State 19-yard line. Kicker Blake Wilson was tackled for a loss of nine yards, giving the ball to the Aztecs.
San Diego State took a 28-21 lead four plays later after Penny broke free for a 49-yard touchdown run with 1:49 remaining in the third quarter. Bradshaw answered back with a 27-yard touchdown run before Penny again found the end zone with 5:47 left to help put the Aztecs on top 35-28.
Saturday's win is Army's 10th of the season, which is only the second time in program history the Black Knights have registered double-digit victories.
They certainly displayed a flair for the dramatic over the course of the year. Six of their wins came by single digits, and they needed a last-second field goal by Bennett Moehring to sail wide right to preserve a 14-13 win over the Navy Midshipmen in their final regular-season game.
Woolfolk's touchdown and Walker's two-point conversion were a fitting way to end a historic year for Army.