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Army holds off Eastern Michigan, 28-27

By SAL INTERDONATO | The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. | Published: October 14, 2017

WEST POINT , N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — The game was over, or so Army's defense thought.

Cornerback Mike Reynolds knocked away a go-ahead two-point pass in the end zone with 49 seconds left. The Black Knights were going to hold on for a one-point win at Michie Stadium.

Hold the celebration. Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton called a timeout before the snap.

James Gibson and Army's defense regrouped on the sideline, waited for their play call and promised the coaching staff they would make one more stop.

And, it was Gibson, a junior safety, who made the play of the game. Quarterback Brogan Roback pitched the ball left to running back Ian Eriksen. Gibson reacted from five yards deep in the end zone and launched his body, taking out Eriksen's legs out at his thigh for the game-saving tackle. Eriksen's body and the football landed less than an inch for the goal line.

Replay confirmed the spot and a second celebration started. Army had improved to 4-0 at home with a 28-27 win.

Gibson atoned for an earlier pass-interference penalty that kept Eastern Michigan's drive alive.

"It was just me and him," Gibson said. "We are just playing football at that point. I just have to make the tackle and do my job. We were not worried about the last play. We flushed it. We were ready to play football."

After the coaches' handshake, Jeff Monken rushed to the Corps of Cadets. He held up a cheering sign marked, "Noise" and picked up a folding chair and tossed it down.

"What a win," said Monken, whose team improved to 5-2. "That was a lot of fun. It's fun to win a game like than when your backs are to the wall and you got to make a play to win the game. To see our guys come through and do it, I'm just so proud of our team.

"Gibby just hit that guy right. Had he hit him any higher he probably would have got knocked back. That was a big kid. Had he hit him any lower, he might have dove right over the top of him."

For the third straight game at Michie Stadium, Army rallied for the win in the second half. Darnell Woolfolk, playing in his first game since Sept. 16, bulled his way to 13-yard run, breaking a 21-21 tie with 5:06 remaining.

Eastern Michigan stormed right back. Pressure by Army's multiple defense, Roback, from 17 yards behind the line of scrimmage, completed a 17-yard pass to Jaron Johnson on fourth-and-3 to Army's 41. Seven plays later, Sergio Bailey caught his second touchdown of the game, setting up the two-point play.

Creighton, whose team had lost its last three games by combined 16 points, elected to play for the win over a potential tie and overtime.

"That drive summed up the whole game of a rollercoaster of emotions," said Army sophomore linebacker Cole Christiansen, who had his first career interception in the second quarter. "I thought we won the game when Mike made that play in the end zone. We were ready for a dogfight. We knew every game that they had played so far was close. This team knows how to win a dogfight."

The exhilarating victory was Army's third straight and leaves the Black Knights one win shy of its second straight bowl appearance heading into next week's home game against Temple (3-4).

"Had they (Eastern Michigan) made that play, we would be devastated," Monken said. "The gut punch that you'd feel. My poor family, my wife and my kids and my parents are here every game, they have to endure that when we lose. I am no fun to be around most of the time but I'm really no fun when we lose.

"Thank God, we won. We are going to enjoy some pizza and some good times at home."

sinterdonato@th-record.com

©2017 The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.
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