Arkansas State will return to the DI-A semifinal for the second-straight year after beating Army 36-20 at West Point Saturday.
The Red Wolves jumped on the board in the second minute when center Zac Mizell froze the defense with a step and then forced his way into pay dirt. Pat Sullivan hit the conversion to put ASU up 7-0.
Army fly half Will Holder then slotted a penalty to keep the Black Knights within a score from the lead, but they wouldn’t remain there for long.
The Red Wolves reeled off back-to-back tries to extend their lead to 19-3. Freshman wing Josh Chomieszewski scored the first by finishing off a backline move from a five-meter scrum, and center Dean Gericke the second after fielding a kicked ball charged down by Sullivan.
Army roared back, though, with Holder slotting his second penalty, scoring a try and converting it.
“He’s a stud,” said Arkansas State coach Matt Huckaby of Holder, who quarterbacks the relatively straight forward Army attack. “They play a perfect style for their personnel, and especially the fact that they’ve got a good kicker.”
The run pulled Army again with a converted try from the lead (19-13) going into halftime.
The Red Wolves scored first to open the second stanza, as Harry Higgins dotted down, extending their lead, after a Sullivan conversion, to 26-13 near the 50th minute.
Army tightened up again the next 20 minutes.
“I think the trip caught up to us a little bit. Our guys were just gassed. Army’s fitness and their hardness and their mental composure really showed,” said Huckaby of the Black Knights’ resilience in the middle third of the game.
“And we were being dumb with the ball. We’d make a beautiful break and then try and force a pass at the end and that would just give Army the ball back.”
Arkansas State got back to converting their breaks when scrumhalf Abe Yoshiyasu scored a try around the 68th minute. The former fullback, who had been serving straight to the backline all day, dummied a pass and ran it himself to extend Arkansas State’s lead to 31-13.
Army managed another try, and Chomieszewski responded with his second in the game, which happened to be his first collegiate start.
“It was really chancy starting a freshman, and he made some freshman mistakes, but the kid really knows how to get under the posts, and we needed that, and the freshman scored two tries in a very, very intense game,” said Huckaby.
“I don’t like to do it, and I probably need to do it more, but sometimes you roll the dice. When a kid’s on, you play him, and that’s all I could describe. He’s got a lot of developing to do, but the upside on Josh is really strong.”
For the third year in a row, Arkansas State will meet St. Mary’s in the postseason. This time it’s in the semis in Moraga, Calif. on May 12.