Kevlin Hopkins
(Photo: @salinterdonato)

For the first time in program history, the Army Black Knights earned bowl eligibility for the third consecutive season.

Geoff Magliocchetti

In perhaps the most unexpected twist of the college football season thus far, Army West Point may be becoming a quarterback factory.

Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. broke the 100-yard plateau for the third time this season, passing for 126 yards and two scores as the Black Knights defeated the Eastern Michigan University Eagles 37-22 on Saturday afternoon in Ypsilanti. With the victory, the Black Knights now have six tallies in their win column, becoming bowl eligible for the third consecutive season, setting a new program record.

Hopkins returned to the Black Knights’ starting lineup after missing the previous week’s win over Miami (Ohio) with a hip injury. For the second time this season, he broke the century mark in both the passing and rushing yardage categories, earning 105 on the ground and 126 through the air.

Army’s trademark triple-option offense, heavy on clock-eating rushes, rolled in the first half, at least in their treks to the red zone. Army’s first three drives, all but one taking up over six minutes of game time, each ended inside the Eagles 20, but they had to settle for a trio of triple tries, all successfully converted by kicker John Abercrombie. The defense rendered any attempts at an EMU resistance moot, limiting them to three yards and no first downs in the first half hour. Aided by a series of Eagle penalties, the Black Knights (6-2) finally broke into the end zone with a three-yard run by Jordan Asberry, creating a 16-0 halftime lead.

But when EMU (4-5) snuck back into the game, an offensive revolution was necessary.

Before some fans at Rynearson Stadium got back to their seats from an intermission concession run, their hometown Eagles had narrowed the score to 16-14, courtesy of two Tyler Wiegers touchdown passes to Blake Banham. Rushing had apparently run its course, but Hopkins, after overseeing a pair of three-and-outs, went to the air on the next drive, changing the course of the game.

Hopkins would go 3-for-3 for 63 yards on the possession, capping things with a 26-yard score to a wide-open Asbery, his second score of the day. Two plays into the next Eagles drive, linebacker James Nachtigal forced a Wiegers fumble that Chandler Ramirez immediately jumped on. Hopkins then led another lengthy drive, this one going 11 plays, the final of which was a two-yard Hopkins touchdown pass to Kell Walker.

EMU would threaten one last time, cutting the lead to 30-22 on Banham’s third touchdown of the day, this one of a rushing variety, accompanied by a two-point conversion, also tallied by Banham. Army, however, stifled any further attempts at a comeback by running out a majority of the clock on one last scoring drive, capped off by a nine-yard Darnell Woolfolk run.

With six wins under their belt, the Black Knights have accomplished one of their seasonal goals, now eligible to partake in their eighth postseason bowl game in team history. Next weekend, however, present an opportunity to earn another personal landmark, as the Black Knights will partake in a de facto championship game for the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy against their rivals from Colorado Springs.

The winner of next Saturday’s game against Air Force (12:00 p.m. ET, CBSSN) will clinch at least a share of the service academy rivalry prize, which Army currently houses in a building named after West Point graduate and 34th United States President Dwight Eisenhower. Winners of the trophy outright for the first time since 1996, the Black Knights can set another program-first by defeating the Falcons next weekend and Navy on December 8.

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