– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
FORT WORTH, Texas — With a chance to make history over a century in the making, the Army Black Knights football team ended the winningest season in academy history with one of the best bowl game performances in college football history.
Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. operated the triple-option offense to perfection, running for 170 yards and five touchdowns as the Black Knights annihilated the Houston Cougars 70-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl, tying the college football record for points scored in a bowl game in the process. The win also marked Army’s 11th victory of the season, setting a school record.
“Great finish to a terrific season,” Army head coach Jeff Monken said.
To go along with Army’s punishing run game, the defense recorded 10 sacks in the game, including one on a strip-sack of Houston quarterback Clayton Tune that ended up being a 23-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Cameron Jones to open up a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Army already was coming into the game off of a high, defeating Navy two weeks ago in Philadelphia to retain the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time in school history, and the momentum carried over to start the game on Saturday, as Hopkins led the Black Knights on a 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive before scoring on a 1-yard run for a 7-0 advantage.
Hopkins doubled the lead on a 77-yard scoring run on the final play of the first quarter, the longest touchdown run in Army’s bowl history. His rushing total, along with his 70 passing yards on the afternoon, allowed Hopkins to become the first player in school history to run and throw for over 1,000 yards in the same season.
It was no surprise that Houston struggled mightily against Army’s running game, ranking 124th in the country coming into the game in run defense and playing the game without each of its three regular starters on the defensive line, including projected first-round pick Ed Oliver, who sat the game out in preparation for draft workouts.
On offense, Tune started his second game in place of regular starter D’Eriq King, who tore his meniscus in the penultimate regular-season game against Tulane, and threw for 230 yards and a touchdown while running for a score. King was responsible for 50 touchdowns in his 11 games played before undergoing knee surgery.
“That’s the hardest part to swallow, you’re 7-1,” said Houston head coach Major Applewhite, talking about his team losing four of its last five games to end the season. “I’m proud of the way our kids fought. I’m not proud of losing the games at the end of the season the way we lost them.”
Army joined the 2012 West Virginia football team as the only teams to score 70 points in bowl game, as the Mountaineers did so in their Orange Bowl victory over Clemson. Along with posting three straight winning seasons for the first time since 1988-1990, the Black Knights have now won a bowl game in three consecutive seasons for the first time.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday afternoon’s game, with all photos taken by Dallas-area photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 25 pictures in total.