BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Western Kentucky started preparation in the spring, expecting Army to control the clock and the line of scrimmage.
The game plan: beat the Black Knights at their own.
The Hilltoppers did just that, controlling the pace and holding Army to a season-low in offensive production.
Ty Storey had two quarterback sneaks for touchdowns and Western Kentucky beat Army 17-8 on Saturday night.
"I think we held it for 38 minutes, which was normally what they do," Western Kentucky coach Tyson Helton said. "We knew we were going to have to do that to beat this football team."
Western Kentucky held possession for 38:07 and the Hilltoppers averaged 4.4 yards per rush, totaling a season-best 225 yards rushing while converting 10-of-16 third-down attempts.
The Black Knights (3-3) were shutout until Kelvin Hopkins Jr.'s 8-yard touchdown pass to Malik Hancock with 1:41 left. The Hilltoppers (4-2) recovered the onside kick and improved to 3-0 all-time against Army.
Western Kentucky held Army to a season-low 137 yards rushing and held the Black Knights to 3 of 11 on third-down attempts. Until the Black Knights' late touchdown, the Hilltoppers hadn't allowed a touchdown in nine straight quarters.
Army's back-to-back losses have produced its lowest rushing output for a team that entered the game ranked eighth in the country at 273 yards per game. The Black Knights were limited to 193 yards rushing in a home loss to Tulane last week.
"Really disappointed with the way we played," Army coach Jeff Monken said. "They outplayed us, they out-toughed us. They ran the ball and we didn't run it. They did everything they needed to to win the game and we sure didn't."
Storey completed 21 of 30 passes for 140 yards and finished with 62 yards rushing. Gaej Walker added 132 yards rushing for Western Kentucky.
The Hilltoppers found the end zone on their opening drive on a keeper by Storey and freshman kicker Cory Munson made a 22-yard field goal to extend Western Kentucky's lead to 10-0 midway through the third quarter.
Army's best drive featured its first completion on a 31-yard connection from Hopkins to Artice Hobbs, but three plays inside the WKU 10 and a missed field goal from David Cooper kept the Black Knights scoreless until the late touchdown.
The Hilltoppers put the game out of reach with a 17-play drive that chewed nearly 9 ½ minutes off the clock and ended with Storey's second touchdown with 4:02 left.
"They did a good job with times and they had one long drive with seven points and we were fortunate it was only 7-0 at halftime," Monken said. "They just wore us down."
Helton now has the Hilltoppers within two games of bowl eligibility after the team won just three games last season. The former Tennessee offensive coordinator returned to WKU where he also ran the offense in 2014 and 2015 to lead the program back to its not-so-distant days as a C-USA power.
"It sets us on a path where our team finally realizes that yes we can be a really good football team," Helton said. "It makes a statement about our football team and what they're trying to accomplish."
DEFENSE LEADS THE WAY
Western Kentucky's defense has been the key factor in three straight wins. Army was held to 0-for-6 on third down in the first half to set the tone for the rest of the night.
Western Kentucky has won four of its last five to eclipse its win total from 2018.
Army will regroup after two straight losses with season-low offensive production. The late touchdown prevented a shutout that Army hasn't had since 2014.
Army stays down south with a trip to Atlanta to face Georgia State next Saturday.
Western Kentucky returns to Conference USA play to host Charlotte.