With a pair of FCS opponents to face before an epic showdown in Philadelphia, the Army Black Knights handled the first half in style on Saturday.
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA—There was no trophy to protect, no bragging rights on the line. But that didn’t stop the Army Black Knights from taking care of business on Saturday afternoon.
Running back Darnell Woolfolk scored two touchdowns, while quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. tallied 117 yards of offense and another score, as the Black Knights rolled to a 31-13 victory at Michie Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Prior to the annual rivalry showdown against Navy on December 8, the Knights (8-2) completed the first half of a Football Championship Subdivision home duo, one that will close out their Michie Stadium slate for 2018. The win in the penultimate game against the Leopards (3-7) was punctuated by a 28-3 run in the middle frames that effectively put the game out of reach.
Prior to that, Lafayette was able to keep things interesting in the early stanzas, taking advantage of unforced Army errors. The Knights’ opening drive, which took the first 16 plays and 10:19 of the game, ended in the red zone, but the yield was a short John Abercrombie field goal after two false start penalties inside the opponent’s 10. The Leopards even managed to emerge from the first quarter in a 3-3 tie, set up deep in Army territory after a muffed punt.
A 10-play, 75-yard drive, however, signaled a turning of the tide. Headlined by a 35-yard forward pass from Hopkins to junior receiver Glen Coates, the drive concluded with a one-yard plunge from Woolfolk to make it 10-3. Lafayette pinned the Knights at their own 6-yard-line after a fruitless seven-play stretch, but the Knights marched 94 yards to seven points. Another Hopkins deep ball once again set things up, this time finding Callen Holt for 32. Holt wound up concluding the drive with a score, an eight-yard rush making it 17-3.
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While Lafayette earned another field goal at the end of the first half, Army put any hopes of a comeback out of reach by literally using their head. Andy Davidson blocked a punt with his helmet, with Mike Reynolds taking the ball back to the cusp of the goal line. Woolfolk punched it in one play later, going back in the box score and further up the Army record books, as he now ranks fifth in Black Knights history in rushing touchdowns, breaking a tie with 2005 graduate Carlton Jones (34).
Hopkins would complete the scoring with a two-yard punch late in the third, while Lafayette scored on a three-yard Will Eisler touchdown pass to create the final margin on a drive that spanned the third and fourth frames. Army would go on to run the rest of the clock out to finish the win.
“It all comes down to execution. In order for us to be the team we want to be, we have to be perfect and cap every drive off with a touchdown and our team is capable of that,” Woolfolk said. “I think we need to improve our standard.”
Though an eighth victory is secured, there were hints of dissatisfaction in the air, alongside a late snowfall.
“I don’t feel like we played up to the standard that we set for our team, but I’m glad we won the game,” head coach Jeff Monken said. “We had some things that we did or didn’t do during the game that at this point in the season shouldn’t be taking place. Like jumping offsides, lining up in the wrong formation, miscommunication on calls and stuff like that. We have to get that corrected. It wasn’t so bad that we lost the game, but I felt there were things we could do collectively.”
In the end, the victory does mark the 12th consecutive win at Michie Stadium, the longest active streak in the nation behind Alabama’s mastery at Bryant-Denny Stadium (23 games entering Saturday’s action). The team, as well as a historic senior class that oversaw the program’s return to glory, will get one more shot to keep the perfect home mark alive next Saturday, welcoming in an undefeated Colgate squad (12:00 p.m. ET, CBSSN).
“(Our play) was good enough to win and we made some plays,” Monken said. “Hopefully, it is something we can get corrected and play better next week and we certainly will have to. We have an outstanding undefeated team coming here next week in Colgate.”