Army 24, Ball St. 17
WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP)Donovan Travis came up with two pivotal picks in the fourth quarter to make Army a winning team - something that could rarely be said about the Black Knights in recent seasons.
Travis returned his second interception 18 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter and Army defeated Ball State 24-17 on Saturday.
Travis picked off Cardinals quarterback Kelly Page with 6:41 remaining and sprinted into the end zone to break a 17-all tie for the Black Knights (2-1).
Earlier in the fourth, with the score tied and Ball State in Army territory, Travis picked off Page's pass over the middle on a third-and-30.
"I just read his eyes," Travis said. "It gave us momentum, let us waste some time off the clock and helped secure the win we got today."
Army was outgained 375-265 and fumbled six times, losing only one, but four interceptions and a solid ground game (207 yards rushing) allowed the Black Knights to move above .500 under new coach Rich Ellerson, who is trying to turn around a program that has languished through more than a decade of losing.
"It feels right. It feels like that's the way it should be," Ellerson said. "But we don't want to start the celebration too soon. It absolutely is a process."
Stephen Anderson made 15 tackles for Army.
Page threw for a 154 yards and touchdown, but was intercepted three times for Ball State (0-3) of the Mid-American Conference.
Trent Steelman threw for 58 yards and touchdowns and ran for 38 to lead Army.
Army grabbed the lead with an 80-yard drive on its first possession, capped by Jameson Carter's 1-yard touchdown run. The Black Knights never trailed and survived six fumbles.
Ball State recovered a fumble in the first quarter, setting up Page's 15-yard scoring run. The teams traded field goals including a career-long 45-yarder by Army's Alex Carlton to even the game at 10.
Late in the second quarter, Cardinals backup quarterback Tanner Justice was hit as he threw and his pass was intercepted by a diving Mario Hill. The Black Knights followed with a 53-yard drive, which wide-out Alejandro Villanueva kept alive with a fancy juggling catch on a 3rd-and-20 pass that had been tipped.
Villanueva and Steelman connected two plays later on a wide-open look over the middle for a 24-yard touchdown, Steelman's first career TD pass.
Ball State tied it at 17 on Page's 34-yard pass to Torieal Gibson in the third quarter.
Army retired the No. 61 of former Outland Trophy winner Joe Steffey, who played lineman for the Black Knights from 1945-47, during a halftime ceremony.