For Northwestern, Saturday's 21-14 loss to Army was ugly. The offense was out of sync, the defense couldn't get off the field and the game turned into a slow, agonizing death march.
And that's just the way the Black Knights like it.
The Wildcats had no answer for Army's precision-based triple-option, which gouged the Wildcats for 381 rushing yards and enabled the Black Knights to hold the ball for more than 40 minutes.
It was fitting that Trent Steelman scored the game-winning touchdown for Army with 2:49 left. Although the quarterback threw for just six yards, he dominated play by running 28 times for 108 yards and all three Army scores.
Northwestern (2-1) had a brief glimmer of hope in the fourth quarter, when coach Pat Fitzgerald pulled quarterback Kain Colter, who was effective running (57 yards on 10 carries) but overthrew several receivers and finished just 12-of-23 passing for 89 yards and one touchdown.
While many expected Fitzgerald to insert senior Dan Persa, who was listed as questionable and had yet to play this season, he instead went with redshirt freshman Trevor Siemian, who saw his first collegiate action last week.
Siemian made Fitzgerald look like a genius initially. He completed his first three throws, the last one a short slant to Jeremy Ebert that the receiver turned into a 62-yard touchdown to tie the score at 14 with 6:03 left.
But, as had been the case all day, Army (1-2) took possession and went on a long, clock-bleeding drive for the winning score. The Black Knights called nine straight runs, with Steelman punching it in on the last one to give them the final margin.
Northwestern had less than three minutes left and no timeouts when they took possession on their own 40, and the situation proved to be a little more than Siemian could handle this time. He completed an 18-yard pass to Ebert for a first down, but he also took a sack, and his final throw, on fourth-and-1 at the Army 33, fell well short of his intended target.
Siemian finished 5-of-7 passing for 105 yards.
Army scored on its first drive of the game to take a 7-0 lead on a 17-yard gallop by Steelman. The 18-play, 81-yard march ate 8:48 off the game clock and seemed to set the tone for the entire game.
Northwestern answered in the second quarter with a 14-yard Colter TD pass to Ebert, who made a leaping grab in the end zone.
Army, though, took control again with its first drive of the second half, seizing a 14-7 lead on a one-yard run by Steelman.
Ebert finished with six catches for 108 yards for the Wildcats.
The loss was just Northwestern's second in its last 16 non-conference games.