WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — Raymond Maples had just been stopped on fourth-and-goal from inches with just over 2 minutes left with Boston College clinging to a four-point lead, a rare failure for Army's potent triple option.
Undaunted as they usually are no matter the circumstance, the Black Knights regrouped and finally won a game.
Trent Steelman rushed for 141 yards and scored three times, including a decisive 29-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds left, and Army beat the Eagles 34-31 on Saturday to snap an eight-game losing streak.
"You live for these types of moments. You dream about these types of moments," Steelman said. "To be put in that position and go finish is an unbelievable feeling. It's an unbelievable feeling for this team."
The Black Knights had come oh-so-close, losing consecutive games to Northern Illinois and Wake Forest despite scoring 77 points. A 23-3 loss last week to Football Championship Subdivision foe Stony Brook in the normally friendly confines of Michie Stadium had them reeling. Being the second-best running team in the country meant little with an 0-4 record.
"This team has fought through so much. We could have easily rolled over and we didn't," said Steelman, who passed Tory Crawford for most touchdowns by a quarterback at West Point with 36. "We lost that edge. We lost that ability to have fun. We went out there (today) and played like we were back in sixth grade, running around and having fun. This is exactly what we needed."
Bruising fullback Larry Dixon had 128 yards rushing on just 13 carries and added another touchdown, and Daniel Grochowski kicked two field goals for Army (1-4), which finished with 516 yards rushing and held the ball for more than 37 minutes.
Maples led Army with 184 yards rushing 34 carries. It was the fourth game this season Army's potent triple option has had two or more players go over 100 yards, the first time the Black Knights have accomplished that since 1948.
After Grochowski's 20-yard field goal gave Army a 27-24 lead with 9:04 left, Boston College (1-4) awoke after a listless third quarter. Chase Rettig hit Johnathan Coleman for 30 yards and a 5-yard run by Andre Williams put the Eagles at the Army 24.
On the next play, Alex Amidon, who had five catches for 85 yards, darted around from the left side, took a handoff, and with Rettig leading the way raced untouched along the right side to give the Eagles a 31-27 lead with 6:11 left.
Army drove back to the BC 1 with just over 2 minutes left, but Maples was gang-tackled just shy of the goal line on a fourth-down pitch left.
The much-maligned Army defense then forced a punt after three downs, giving Steelman one last chance with 69 seconds left, and he delivered with a stunning burst left after a poor BC kick had given Army a first down at the 38. It took Army just 18 seconds to score.
"Once again, it's a matter of execution," BC coach Frank Spaziani said. "It was a combination of them executing, us not executing when we had some time to execute, and then just not making enough plays. You still have to make some plays. We're going to have to look ourselves in the mirror and figure out where to go. There's no place to go but up. We need to work through it."
The loss spoiled a stellar day for BC's Andre Williams, who finished with a career-high 191 yards rushing on 17 carries and scored twice.
Boston College had lost to Northwestern, Miami and Clemson, who had a combined 13-2 record entering play Saturday — and the Wildcats and Tigers are currently in the AP Top 25. Although the Eagles had lost two straight, they presented a real challenge for the Army defense, which was allowing nearly 475 yards of total offense and more than 38 points per game.
Rettig was 13 of 24 for 197 yards passing and was sacked five times, never finding any sort of rhythm. Ranked second in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 11th among all FBS quarterbacks in passing yards per game at 323, Rettig couldn't generate any offense in the third quarter as the Eagles netted just 33 yards.
"We could have scored more points, and that's all you can really say," Rettig said. "You can never score enough points. We'll recuperate and we'll get ready for Florida State next week. It could be better. But could-be and should-be are out of the program after the first game."
Trailing by a touchdown, Army opened the third quarter by marching down the field for a touchdown in a 12-play, 75-yard drive, all on the ground. Steelman, who was 5 of 12 passing for 79 yards, reeled off a 27-yard run off left tackle to set up Dixon's 6-yard spurt through a gaping hole in the middle, tying it at 24-all.
Army scored on its first two possessions of the game, marching methodically down the field each time to forge a 14-7 first-quarter lead while the Army defense forced BC to a pair of three-and-outs.
Dixon's 34-yard run keyed Steelman's 1-yard opening touchdown, and after the Eagles tied it on a 1-yard run by Williams, the Black Knights scored again.
Steelman capped a nine-play, 77-yard drive with a 27-yard burst off right tackle late in the first quarter.
Army's young defense has been overwhelmed this season to rank near the bottom of the Football Bowl Subdivision. And the offense, despite an average of 367 yards, had been plagued by turnovers. That's a bad combination, and those weaknesses reappeared after that solid first quarter.
When a punt by Army's Chris Boldt and a penalty against BC pinned the Eagles at their own 1, the Black Knights were poised to pounce. Instead, Williams bolted through a huge hole off right tackle, brushed off a tackle attempt by freshman Chris Carnegie, and sped 99 yards for a touchdown to tie it at 14-all.
It was the longest run in BC history and not bad for a team that was averaging just 84.5 yards rushing per game, 116th in the nation.
A bad pitch by Steelman on a third-and-1 play near midfield led to Army's 14th lost fumble of the season, and the Eagles capitalized on Nate Freese's 25-yard field goal to take a 17-14 lead midway through the second.
Steelman gave the ball right back again on Army's next possession, losing a fumble at his own 38. Rettig made the Black Knights pay again, hitting Amidon for a 20-yard touchdown in the left corner with 2:46 left in the half for a 24-14 lead.
But when BC tried to run out the clock, the Army defense rallied to force a punt and the Black Knights took advantage. Grochowski kicked a career-long 46-yard field goal as time expired to make it a one-possession game and give Army a huge mental boost.
"We knew it was going to be a hard one," Army coach Rich Ellerson said. "Guys kept stepping up and making plays. It never occurred to us that we wouldn't be successful."