Army Football
(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Army Black Knights won their ninth in a row at West Point, stifling a high-octane Hawaii offense in a close win.

Geoff Magliocchetti

WEST POINT, NEW YORK-With a game kicking off at 6:00 a.m. Honolulu time, the Army Black Knights likely caused plenty of Hawaii residents to wake up grumpy on Saturday.

Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins tallied 272 total yards and two touchdowns, while linebacker Cole Christiansen knocked down a potential game-tying score in the final minute, and the Black Knights took home a 28-21 victory from the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.

“That was sure a heck of a game, and they’ve got a terrific football team in Hawaii,” head coach Jeff Monken said. “That was just a fist-fight, bloody knuckle brawl. They were giving it everything they got and so were our guys. We’re very fortunate to win the game. I’m proud of our team to find a way to make enough plays to win.”

With the Rainbow Warriors entering the game averaging 541 yards of offense entering the game, the Black Knights (2-1) limited them to a relatively-pedestrian 362 yards in the win. Hawaii had their way in the early going on offense, but the momentum was perhaps permanently shifted with a crucial Kenneth Brinson sack on fourth down in Army territory. Down 7-0 at the time, Army went down the field, energized by a 63-yard reception by Hawaii native Calen Holt, and punched their scoring ticket with Hopkins’ first score of the day from one-yard out. The Black Knights did not trail for the remainder of the game.

“It was a fun football game to be part of,” Monken admitted. “It was agonizing at times, but it’s fun to see a team victory like that. I think everyone contributed.”

3rd Star: RB Darnell Woolfolk

Woolfolk made some more history on Saturday afternoon, moving into a sixth-place tie with Larry Dixon in Army’s all-time rushing touchdown tally. Woolfolk earned 70 yards on 19 carries, including the three-yard score that capped the Army point tally for the day.

2nd Star: LB Kenneth Brinson

The senior linebacker earned the first multi-sack game of his career, and both quarterback takedowns got Army the ball back. In addition to the fourth down conversion that changed the course of the game, Brinson stopped Hawaii’s fiery passer Cole McDonald for another loss on the ensuing drive, concluding a three-and-out. After the ensuing punt, the Black Knights embarked on a 14-play, 64-yard drive that gave them their first lead of the day.

“(Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman) just told us to pin them back and go,” Brinson said of his fourth-down blitz. “That’s what I did. I was lucky to make it there. That was nice.”

1st Star: QB Kelvin Hopkins

We’ve seen a lot more forward passing from Army thus far this season, and Hopkins helped defeat Hawaii with a taste of their own medicine: the deep ball.

The junior went 6-for-10 for 162 yards and added a career-high 110 yards on the ground as well. With those numbers, Hopkins becomes the first Army quarterback to earn triple digits in both passing and rushing yards since Chris Carter did so against Rutgers in 2015.

“I think it’s important. It definitely gives the offensive line a little bit of help,” Hopkins said of the passing game. “It gets those linebackers a little bit loose, thinking about the pass, and safeties came up to the box as fast as possible. I think that’s what helped our run game a lot, just being able to get that push.”

How It Was Decided

Twenty-eight to fourteen with just under nine minutes to go appeared to a comfortable lead, but the Rainbow Warriors offense suddenly found a spark in the form of an 80-yard McDonald pass to John Ursua. The Knights killed five minutes and two Hawaii timeouts, but their drive stalled 28 yards from the end zone. The Rainbow Warriors responded with a quick entry into Army territory, getting as close as the 11-yard line.

But three subsequent incompletions, the last knocked down by Chirstansen sealed the deal, setting off the West Point celebration.

Game Notes

  • Army has now won nine games in a row at Michie Stadium, matching their longest such streak since 1995-96.
  • This was Army’s first win in four attempts against Hawaii. The most recent three matchups have been decided by a combined 17 points.
  • It was a special game for senior running back and Hawaii native Calen Holt, who had 87 yards on the afternoon, including a 63-yard reception that set up Hawaii’s first score. Holt had numerous family members in the stands, and later proposed to his girlfriend after the game, a moment captured by Army Director of Player Development Lawrence Scott.
  • Army went 11-for-19 on third down on the afternoon and 3-for-4 on fourth. Though they missed a conversion prior to Hawaii’s final drive, two successful tries on their penultimate meaningful possession led to Woolfolk’s key score. In contrast, Hawaii went just 1-for-7 on third down and missed a pair of fourth-down tries, each in Army territory.
  • Hawaii had not trailed or tied in a game (save for 0-0 openings) until they fell behind 14-7 in the second quarter. The third quarter was also just the second time they failed to score in a period this season, the other coming in their visit from Navy two weeks prior.

What’s Next

The Black Knights now embark on a three-game road trip, one that begins with a tall task against Oklahoma on Saturday (7:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Pay-Per-View/SoonerSports.TV). This will be the first meeting between the Black Knights and Sooners, ranked fifth in the latest Associated Press poll, since 1961, a 14-8 Oklahoma win at Yankee Stadium.

“I think (this win) gives a little bit of confidence,” Hopkins said. “We care a lot about winning at home and things like that, but we’re going to go down there to play a great team in Oklahoma. We just got to come ready to practice and to focus, starting with tomorrow, just getting in there early, watching film breaking them down, then go down there ready to compete.”

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