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September 19th, 2012

Northern Illinois holds off the Black Knights

Army FB Larry Dixon (26) rushed 28 times for 136 yards and three touchdowns against NIU, but the Army Black Knights were defeated 41-40 in their season home opener. Hudson Valley Press/CHUCK STEWART, JR.
WEST POINT - Three Army players rushed for 100 yards but Northern Illinois made a key defensive stand late in the game and held on to beat the Black Knights, 41-40, Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 30,176 at Michie Stadium.

Junior running back Raymond Maples ran for 165 yards, sophomore fullback Larry Dixon picked up 136 and senior quarterback Trent Steelman battled for 129 yards on the ground as Army racked up a 486-173 advantage in rushing yards.

Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch though completed 18-of-27 passes for 342 yards and four scores and ran for another to spoil Army’s home-opener.
Army, trailing by just one point, had the ball with less than five minutes left to play but Northern Illinois forced a turnover on downs near midfield to secure the victory.
The Black Knights, who now own a record of 0-2, dominated time of possession, 42:33-17:27.

Maples carried 23 times and scored a touchdown while Dixon found the end zone on three of his 28 rushes. Steelman called his own number 27 times and scored twice. He completed one of his three passes.

Army won the coin toss, elected to receive and quickly led 7-0. Sophomore running back Terry Baggett picked up 28 yards midway through the drive, setting up Maples’ first score, from 22 yards away. Rookie kicker Daniel Grochowski kicked the PAT five minutes into the game.

Northern Illinois answered with a two-yard scoring pass from Lynch to Tim Semisch.

The Huskies took their first lead of the game after an Army punt when Lynch scampered for an 88-yard scoring run and a 14-7 advantage.

Northern Illinois added to its advantage early in the second quarter when Tommylee Lewis rushed for a 21-yard score.

The Black Knights got back in the game on the next possession, going 73 yards in 10 plays, capped by a three-yard scoring run from Dixon. Dixon carried the final three times on the drive for 25 yards. Grochowski missed the PAT and Northern Illinois led 21-13.

Lynch went to the air on the second play of the next drive, connecting with Lewis for a 69-yard scoring strikes and a 28-13 lead.

Army cut the deficit before halftime with a 77-yard, 13-playd drive. Steelman completed an 8-yard pass to junior wide receiver Scott Williams early on the possession, sophomore running back Stephen Fraser rushed for eight yards and Dixon capped the drive with a 13-yard scoring jaunt. Maples’ two-point conversion run failed and it was 28-19 at intermission.

Army’s defense forced a punt to open the second half and the Black Knights got within two points after a 68-yard drive. Maples picked up 13 yards on first down and later ran for nine, leading to Steelman’s 25-yard touchdown. Grochowski’s PAT made it a 28-26 contest.

The Black Knights’ defense came up with a huge stop on the next possession when they forced a touchback on a fumble into the end zone.

Army took its second lead of the game with a 12-play, 80-yard drive. Dixon collected 14 yards on the first three plays, Maples scampered for 13 and then later 16 yards for another first down. Steelman rushed for 11 yards and then Dixon hit paydirt with a four-yard burst. Steelman connected with Patrick Laird for the two-point conversion and a 34-28 Army advantage.

Northern Illinois went back on top, 35-34, in the fourth quarter as Lynch hit Martel Moore with a 31-yard touchdown with 13:25 left to play.

Army punted on its next possession but Nate Combs forced a fumble and Mike Ugenyi recovered the loose ball. On the first play after the turnover, Steelman scooted 15 yards for a 40-35 Black Knights’ lead, after the conversion run failed.

Northern Illinois, which had two scoring drives under a minute, used 4:19 to go 72 yards in 13 plays for the winning score. Lynch connected with Moore for a 27-yard first down and then later hit Jamison Wells for another 10-yard gain. Moore hauled in a 28-yard completion later in the drive and then caught an eight-yard scoring toss with 4:29 left in the game. The conversion run failed.

Army took over at its 25. Dixon ran for four yards, a pass interference penalty moved the chains and Dixon picked up two more. Steelman bruised his way for 10 yards for another first down. A rush for no gain and an illegal shift penalty were followed by a nine-yard run by Maples. Steelman picked up two but was dropped for a loss on fourth-and-four allowing Northern Illinois to run out the clock.

Army will play at Wake Forest on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Winston-Salem, NC.

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