- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Army beat SMU 16-14 in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Here is a quick instant analysis:
How the game was won: SMU did itself in with way too many mistakes. Kyle Padron had three first-half turnovers -- two interceptions and a fumble -- that led to 10 points. His first was a fumble that Josh McNary returned 55 yards for a touchdown. Army did an excellent job getting pressure on him all day, forcing him into many of those mistakes. Padron regrouped and played a much better game in the second half, rallying SMU to two touchdowns. But Matt Szymanski missed a 47-yard field goal wide left with 4:05 to play that would have given the Mustangs the win. Couple that with a missed field goal in the first half, and you have a recipe for a loss. Army was unable to do much with the triple option in the second half, which is why the Mustangs had a chance. But give the Black Knights credit for taking advantage of the mistakes and posting the first winning season at the Academy since 1996.
Turning point: Down 16-14, SMU had a third-and-9 at the Army 33 with a little more than four minutes to go. Padron was flushed out of the pocket and nearly sacked, but the pressure only allowed him to throw a dump off pass to Darius Johnson for 3 yards. Rather than go for it, SMU decided to go for the 47-yard field goal attempt into the wind for Szymanski, who missed. That decided the game.
Stat of the game: Zero. Penalties and turnovers for Army in the game.
Player of the game: McNary. In addition to his fumble recovery returned for a touchdown, he led an aggressive defensive effort that continually harassed Padron all day. The Army defense came up big when it needed to to preserve the win.
What SMU learned: Padron has got to work on his consistency for SMU to take the next step. In this game and the Conference USA championship game, he made too many mistakes. The offensive line needs major improvement, too, because he was completely harassed and pressured in both those games. But June Jones had done a great job taking SMU to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1984-85 and he does have a nice nucleus returning next season in Padron, Zach Line and Johnson on offense.
What Army learned: Army (7-6) not only beat a winning team for the first time this season, it won its first bowl game since 1985. Coach Rich Ellerson has done a terrific job turning around a program that had suffered mightily since its last winning season in 1996. The senior class made it a point to bring respectability back to West Point, and they did that and more. It was not good enough to make it to a bowl game for Army. The Black Knights wanted a win, and they deserved it against SMU. Trent Steelman and Jared Hassin return next season, so bigger things could be in store for the cadets.
What it means: All three service academies finish with seven or more wins for just the second time in history. It happened in 1963: Army, 7-3; Navy, 9-2; Air Force, 7-4.
Record performance: Army fullback Jared Hassin went over 1,000 yards on the season, the second Army sophomore to break the mark, joining Mike Mayweather in 1988. It is the 14th 1,000-yard season in Army history.
7hSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information