The Armed Forces Bowl lived up to all the hype. Army and San Diego State combined for 19 wins prior to the game and each had a senior star suiting up for the final time. Rashaad Penny is one of the best running backs in the country and broke a few more records with an MVP-worthy performance in this game for SDSU, but it wasn't quite enough as Army knocked off the Aztecs with a successful two-point conversion try to break a back-and-forth game with 18 seconds left to play.
The Black Knights entered the game as the nation's No. 1 rushing offense, and their leader in quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (32 carries, 180 yards, two touchdowns) matched Penny with a career-defining performance of his own to wrap up only the second 10-win season in Army history.
"I think [the Aztecs] were going to set a world record for yards per play," Army coach Jeff Monken told ESPN after the game. "That Penny kid, what a player. I felt like we needed to win it in regulation and not give it back to him. He's an incredible player, but our kids kept believing and we came out with a win. So proud of our team."
Penny, a consensus All-American who received a first team nod at running back on the CBS Sports team, rushed for 221 yards and four touchdowns on just 14 carries. This was the fifth straight game that Penny topped 200 yards, tying an FBS record that currently shared with Marcus Allen (USC, 1981), Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State, 1988) and Jamario Thomas (North Texas, 2004)
The production also positions the nation's leading rusher to finish the postseason still in that top spot. Penny also broke a single-season rushing record held by former Aztec star Donnel Pumphrey, the NCAA's all-time leading rusher.
While Pumphrey shattered records across his career, Penny has been right there in the same running back room and putting up equally impressive numbers in the offense, totaling 1,018 rushing yards in 2016 while Penny broke the NCAA record with 2,133 in his senior season. Now in the spotlight, Penny has delivered on the ground and maintained his role as one of the most dangerous return specialists in all of college football.
Penny got things started early with an 81-yard touchdown scamper on the first drive of the game.
Army did a great job of possessing the ball and going blow-for-blow with San Diego State right down to the final minute of the game. Like Monken mentioned, San Diego State averaged 12.1 yards per play, but the Black Knights ran 91 plays to the Aztecs' 31. By the end of the game, there was a fatigue factor for that defense that Army could milk with long, plodding, run-heavy drives. They ate up clock, and every time Penny marched down the field and got back to the end zone there was a response drive.
The Black Knights' offense took the field with 5:42 to play trailing 35-28, and Bradshaw calmly led a 15-play, 72-yard drive that consumed nearly all of the time remaining on the clock. After punching in the potential game-tying score, Monken and the Army staff called for a sweep on the two point conversion.
The offensive line, which has been dominant all year, got out and sealed the edge for Kell Walker to trot into the end zone untouched and give Army a 36-35 lead.
So the final score? Well, that comes as a result of a zany end to San Diego State's lateral-filled final play. After throwing the ball across the field several times, Army's Elijah Riley intercepted it in mid-air and ran it all the way back for a score.