WEST POINT, New York — A.J. Schurr scored twice on short runs, Angel Santiago added a game-saving touchdown run in the waning moments, and Army's potent ground attack was enough to hold off Ball State 33-24 on Saturday at rainy Michie Stadium.
The win snapped a three-game slide for Army (2-3), which has won both of its games at home. Ball State (1-4) lost its fourth straight.
A steady rain fell for most of the game, and that played to the advantage of the Black Knights and their tough triple option. Averaging 316.5 yards rushing per game, Army racked up 236 yards on the ground in the first half alone, setting up Schurr's touchdowns and two field goals by Daniel Grochowski.
Santiago clinched it with an 11-yard run with 3:41 left after Ball State had rallied to within three points after trailing by 17.
Larry Dixon ran for a career-high 188 yards on 28 carries and Army finished with 425 yards rushing, holding the ball for nearly 38 minutes.
The Black Knights haven't learned to finish a game yet, though, and the lessons have been painful. They squandered a 14-point lead in the second half last week in an overtime loss at Yale, an FCS team, and they had to withstand a 22-point rally in the fourth quarter to hold off Buffalo in the season-opener.
It was more of the same against the Cardinals, who made it interesting at the end, driving twice for scores in the fourth quarter before finally getting derailed by Jeremy Timpf's third interception of the season. The pick came with under 3 minutes to play.
Mann completed six passes for 81 yards in a near-perfect drive, shaking off a sack, and completing it with a 6-yard pass over the middle to tight end Dylan Curry with 8:35 left to pull the Cardinals within 27-24.
Mann, just 6 of 11 for 43 yards in the first half with a slippery ball, finished 18 of 26 for 173 yards. Jahwan Edwards rushed for 142 yards on just 12 carries, scored twice, and caught five passes for 44 yards.
Ball State was ranked 16th in the nation in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score just 68.8 percent on 16 trips inside the 20-yard line. Army scored all three times it made it inside the 20-yard line in the first half in building a 20-10 lead.
The Black Knights were coming off losses to No. 14 Stanford (35-0), Wake Forest (24-21), and Yale (49-43).
In Army's lone victory, Dixon ran for 174 yards and two touchdowns against Buffalo, and his performance against Ball State was the ninth 100-yard game of his career, tying him with Charlie Jarvis for seventh all-time at West Point.
Both teams scored off turnovers in the first quarter.
Army capitalized first — on the second play from scrimmage. Edwards caught a pass in the right flat but fumbled when Chris Carnegie hit him, and Carnegie recovered at the Ball State 29.
Schurr's 16-yard run around the right side on third-and-13 kept the Black Knights from squandering the opportunity, and four plays later he scored on a 1-yard keeper for a 7-0 lead.
Ball State returned the favor when defensive end Tracy Key forced a fumble by Army tailback Joe Walker and Michael Ayers recovered for the Cardinals at the Ball State 44. Edwards then atoned for his miscue, bursting off right tackle and scoring on a 56-yard run with 6.44 left.
Two turnovers, two scores.
Schurr nearly made it three after a 40-yard run by Dixon when his pitch attempt hit the turf and Noel Ball recovered for Ball State at the Cardinals 15. Army challenged the call on the field and the play was ruled an incomplete pass, giving the Black Knights the ball, and Schurr scored four plays later on a 1-yard keeper.
Scott Secor kicked a 22-yard field goal for Ball State late in the second quarter and Grochowski booted a 21-yarder 7 seconds before halftime for a 20-10 lead.
Army gained what appeared to be a daunting 17-point lead with 3:02 to play in the third. Santiago's 37-yard completion to Edgar Poe gave the Black Knights a first down at the Ball State 9 and Aaron Kemper scored on the next play on a run up the middle.
Ball State finally broke through early in the fourth with its first sustained drive of the game, going 74 yards in nine plays. Mann's 5-yard completion to KeVonn Mabon on a fourth-and-3 play set up Edwards' 6-yard run that sliced the lead to 27-17.