YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP)—Jared Hassin’s much-anticipated debut was worth the wait for Army.
Hassin scored three touchdowns, including a 7-yarder with 38 seconds left, to lead Army to a 31-27 win over Eastern Michigan on Saturday night.
The sophomore fullback, who for 68 yards on 12 carries, hadn’t played football in two years. He originally went to the Air Force Academy but left after participating in preseason drills and attending one week of classes in 2008, before deciding to transfer to Army.
The Black Knights tried to get Hassin an exemption from the NCAA transfer rule in order for him to be eligible last season but were denied.
“The greatest part of tonight was it was a win for our team,” said Hassin, who grew up dreaming of attending West Point. His father graduated from there in 1971.
Hassin committed to Army as a high school junior but changed his mind when he visited the Air Force campus.
Army coach Rich Ellerson expects even bigger things from Hassin.
“This was his debut. He’ll be a lot better than however he is now,” Ellerson said.
Alex Gillett’s 11-yard TD pass to Ben Thayer gave Eastern Michigan a 27-24 lead with 2:59 left and it looked as if coach Ron English would get his first win. The Eagles were 0-12 in 2009, English’s first year.
“I was thinking about that coming over here. I like winning, I like winning and this is humbling me,” he said.
But the Black Knights drove 72 yards in eight plays and Hassin went in off left tackle to give Army the lead.
“It was the same counter that I scored on both times before,” Hassin said. “… The offensive line did such a great job, it made it easy. Real easy.”
Gillett’s last ditch pass from Army 32, which was set up by a Black Knight’s interference penalty with 3 seconds left, sailed harmlessly out of the end zone.
Dwayne Priest (26 carries for 142 yards) and Gillett (18 for 126) topped 100 yards rushing for EMU. Priest ran for two touchdowns and Gillett for one score.
It is the second consecutive season that Army has opened with a win over Eastern Michigan at Rynearson Stadium. The Black Knights won 27-14 last year.
Army scored 10 points in a little over two minutes in the third quarter to break a tie and take a 24-14 lead.
Patrick Mealy’s 11-yard TD run with 10:33 left in the quarter put the Black Knights up 21-14. Army took the second-half opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in nine plays.
Eastern Michigan’s Kelip Goodwin fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Black Knights’ Bill Prosko recovered it on the Eagles’ 32. Army turned that into three points on Alex Carlton’s 42-yard field goal with 8:28 remaining in the third quarter.
But the Eagles came right back after the kickoff and drove 74 yards in 11 plays to Gillett’s 1-yard run to close the gap to 24-20, with 2:29 left in the third. The extra point attempt was botched.
The game was delayed for about 12 minutes, with 12:49 left in the second quarter, when a bank of lights on one side of Rynearson Stadium and the scoreboard went out.
The score was tied 7-7 when the lights on the west side of the stadium and the scoreboard, located at the north end of the field, went dark.
Play resumed with only the east side light banks and no scoreboard.
The lights came back on shortly after the contest was restarted. The scoreboard remained inoperable for the rest of the first half as officials kept time on the field.
Priest’s 5-yard TD run with 9:07 left in the first quarter gave Eastern Michigan a 7-0 lead. It capped an 11-play, 66-yard game-opening drive.
Army capitalized on Priest’s fumble at his own 14, which was recovered by Josh Jackson, when Hassin went in from 3 yards out to tie the game at 7, with 2:47 remaining in the opening quarter.
Hassin got his second touchdown on another 3-yard run with 40 seconds left in the first half. But Priest got his second TD, by bulling his way into the end zone from 5 yards out with 15 seconds left in the half to make it 14-all.