By Jeff Wilson, LMAFB Staff
FORT WORTH, Texas – The most dominating performance in Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl history now belongs to the Army Black Knights.
And that seems fitting.
They didn’t give the Houston Cougars much of a chance Saturday afternoon at Amon G. Carter Stadium, rolling to six first-half touchdowns en route to a 70-14 victory in the 16th edition of the Armed Forces Bowl.
The Black Knights finished their season with a program-record 11 victories, a fourth consecutive bowl victory, a tie for the most points in any bowl game, and a bevy of LMAFB records.
“It’s just a great exclamation point to what I think is a terrific season,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “We weren’t perfect along the way, but what a great finish.”
Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. rushed for 171 yards and five touchdowns to be named the Starr MVP, and the only thing that stopped him was a third-quarter shoulder injury after a 34-yard run that pushed him over 1,000 yards for the season.
His five TDs were an LMAFB record, and so were the Black Knights’ 507 rushing yards and 10 sacks. Their 70 points tied the FBS record for most in a bowl game, and the 56-point win also matched an all-time record for any bowl game.
“I think this is the most complete game we’ve played,” Hopkins said. “It was exciting to be a part of. I don’t think there was any flinch from anybody that somebody’s not going to make a play. Everybody was focused in, and everybody bought in.”
The defense had a stout game, too, against a Houston offense that entered sixth in the nation in total offense. The Cougars (8-5) were playing without quarterback D’Eriq King, who was injured, and Army (11-2) overwhelmed freshman backup Clayton Tune.
Senior linebacker James Nachtigal led the Army defense, registering 3 1/2 of the Black Knights’ 10 sacks and forcing three fumbles. The first led to a 23-yard TD return by safety Cameron Jones for a 21-0 lead.
It was the second consecutive play from scrimmage that resulted in an Army touchdown. The first came to end the first quarter as Hopkins zigged and zagged his way for a 77-yard TD run.
He also scored on runs of 1, 1, 2 and 1 yards. The carry that ended Hopkins’ game is the one that pushed him over 1,000 yards for season. He also completed all three of his passes for 70 more yards.
“He just executed flawlessly,” Houston coach Major Applewhite said.
Nachtigal finished with 16 tackles, 2 ½ for loss, as Army held Houston to only 317 yards.
Tune was able to throw a touchdown pass in the second quarter and run for another in the fourth. Starting for the injured D’Eriq King, Tune threw for 215 yards and rushed for 16.
His TD pass went to tight end Romello Brooker, who was named the Cougars’ MVP.