Army routs Eastern Michigan, clinches bowl eligibility for third straight season
YPSILANTI, Mich. -- After battling through a 2-10 season as a freshman, Jordan Asberry knows the depth of where the Army football program was when coach Jeff Monken took over in 2014.
Now bowl eligible after Saturday's rainy 37-22 win at Eastern Michigan, the senior running back should close his career in the postseason for a third straight year -- a first for the Black Knights.
"Coach Monken and the staff have turned this program around," said Asberry, who caught a touchdown and ran for another. "We worked real hard, but we didn't really see the fruit of our labor [in 2015].
"That sets the stage for finishing this year strong, but also the next season for the guys that are going to be playing next year."
The streak of three bowl-eligible seasons is the longest in program history for Army, who controlled the clock against Eastern Michigan by outgaining the Eagles 289-34 on the ground, earning its fourth straight win.
Army (6-2), which led the nation averaging 39 minutes of possession per game, had the ball for 45 minutes, 42 seconds on Saturday.
Eastern Michigan (4-5) did not have a first down in the first half of its homecoming game, going three-and-out on its first four possessions and running one play on its fifth before halftime.
"That's definitely our game plan, that's definitely what we do," said quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr., who missed last week's double-overtime win against Miami (Ohio) with a hip injury. "But we couldn't finish drives early, which kind of hurt us."
Army took a 16-0 lead at halftime on three field goals by John Abercrombie and Asberry's first score, a 3-yard touchdown run with 18 seconds left in the half.
Eastern Michigan closed the deficit to 16-14 on touchdown passes from Tyler Wiegers to Mathew Sexton and Blake Banham in the third quarter. Wiegers finished 19-of-29 passing for 201 yards.
Asberry's 26-yard touchdown reception from Hopkins, and a Kell Walker 2-yard touchdown catch put Army up 30-14.
After Army took a 23-14 lead on Asberry's second touchdown, the Black Knights got the only turnover of the game, as Chandler Ramirez recovered a Wiegers fumble that was forced by James Nachtigal.
Hopkins was 7-of-8 passing for 126 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed 23 times for 105 yards.
Banham added a 1-yard touchdown for Eastern Michigan, which was outgained 415-235 in total offense.
Army's Darnell Woolfolk had a 9-yard touchdown run in the game's final minute. He had 89 yards on 24 carries.
Army had 27 first downs compared with 10 for Eastern Michigan.
"We made it a football game, but in the end, just didn't have enough," Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton said. "Offensively we couldn't get a first down."
The win gives Army a 3-0 record against Mid-American Conference teams this season. The Black Knights have won five straight games against MAC teams.
Abercrombie, a senior from Phoenix, is perfect during his career, going 5 for 5 on his field goals and 26 for 26 on extra points.
Army was 4 for 4 on fourth down and are now 26 of 29 (89.7 percent) on the season.
Eastern Michigan has not won on homecoming since 2014.
"In that locker room in there is a bunch of soldiers," Monken said. "Soldiers don't care what the weather is, they don't care what the conditions are, they are trained to fight. And I think that's what our guys do. No matter what, they show up and they fight. They're soldiers. I think it's just one of those things that, maybe other people assume that when it's wet and rainy that somehow our attitude is going to change, our effort is going to change. But that's not going to change for the American soldier."
Army: Army is playing typical Black Knights football headed into Air Force week. The Dec. 8 game against Navy also looms.
Eastern Michigan: Creighton should have his team's attention as three winnable Mid-American Conference games remain. Two wins would make the Eagles eligible for a bowl game. The Eagles have played in two bowls since joining Division I in 1976.
Army: Hosts Air Force next Saturday in the first of a three-game homestand. Army has a 10-game home win streak and will defend the Commander In Chief's trophy.