Army Black Knights
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

With a 70-14 victory over Houston, the Army Black Knights earned the first 11-win season in program history, dominating from start to finish.

Geoff Magliocchetti

The Army Black Knights have ended three consecutive seasons with a win for the first time in program history. The first two victories required a flair of the dramatics, a pair of contests decided by a combined nine points.

Saturday’s win was a comfortable holiday walk in the not-so-wintry wonderland of Fort Worth.

Army scored on each of its first seven possessions en route to a 70-14 victory over the Houston Cougars in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. With the win, the Black Knights (11-2) cap off one of the most prolific seasons in program history. In addition to the trio of postseason victories, the Black Knights (11-2) have won 11 games for the first time in program history.

The victory was spearheaded five touchdowns from quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. The junior would tally all but one of Army’s first six scores. The lone outlier was a defensive touchdown from Cameron Jones, who took back a fumble forced by James Nachtigal. The tallies, as well as his 170 rushing yards, are new career-highs for the first-year starter from Charlotte. Hopkins would leave the game with an injury in the second half, but was in good spirits with his teammates as they celebrated the victory.

Hopkins also became the first Army quarterback since Carson Williams in 2007 to reach 1,000 passing yards in a single season. He broke the mark on a 54-yard hook-up with Kjetil Cline that set the Knights up on the cusp of the Houston goal line. One play later, Hopkins’ one-yard punch-in made it 28-7.

The quarterback created a de facto turning point to end the first quarter. With the Army lead at a mere seven points, Hopkins dodged several tacklers en route to an 80-yard score that informed the Cougars and their faithful it was not to be their day.

Houston (8-5) came into the game with a defense ranked 124th in the nation. In the leadup, they fired defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, while several starters, including lauded defensive lineman Ed Oliver, made the decision to sit out to focus on NFL Draft preparation.

The Cougars were also missing starting quarterback D’Eriq King, who was previously lost to a November knee injury. Freshman quarterback Clayton Tune was forced to start, losing two fumbles that led to Army points. He did wind up earning both Cougar touchdowns, one through the air and another on the ground.

The Black Knights took full advantage, outgaining Houston 592-296. Others to enter the end zone included rushers Artice Hobbs IV and Connor Slomka. Backup quarterback Cam Thomas would cap off the points with both a 15-yard scoring pass to Jordan Asberry and a 20-yard scoring run.

The game served as a final chance for seniors to shine. The group will graduate with 31 victories earned, the most for a graduating class since 1988’s earned 29. Among the senior standouts, fullbacks Darnell Woolfolk and Andy Davidson combined for 129 rushing yards, while Nachtigal had 16 tackles, including 3.5 sacks.

Army’s victory also proved historic on both a personal and national level. In the 70-14 final, the Black Knights tied records for both most points in a bowl game (matching West Virginia’s output in the 2012 Orange Bowl) and largest margin of victory (along with Tulsa’s 63-7 win over Bowling Green in the 2008 GMAC Bowl).

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