Houston failed to get the memo that the government shutdown didn’t apply to the Department of Defense. More specifically, the Army football team.
The Black Knights looked every bit of a top 25 caliber squad on Saturday as they closed out their 2018 season with an 11th win by way of a 70-14 rout of the Cougars in a game that somehow was even more lopsided than the score would have indicated.
Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. was naturally the triggerman making everything happen between the lines and capped off the year with one of his best performances yet. His three passes all wound up as completions (70 yards) and he ran for 170 yards and five touchdowns in the game on just 11 carries. His best run came as he embarrassed a trail of Cougars defenders on a zagging 77-yarder all the way to pay dirt and those final numbers allowed him to become the first player in school history to top the 1,000 yard mark both passing and rushing in a season.
While Hopkins was out of the game by the third quarter, a host of others were able to pick up the slack when he was out of the lineup to keep Army’s offense rolling. A total of eight players had at least one carry and fullback Darnell Woolfolk closed his career in black and gold with 71 yards on the ground. Artice Hobbs and Connor Slomka also found the end zone for the cadets and backup QB Cam Thomas threw a scoring strike and ran for another as the team tied an FBS record for most points in a bowl.
Playing without their starting quarterback and All-American Ed Oliver as well, Houston appeared to give up on the game just as it got going. They allowed quarterback Clayton Tune (230 yards, 1 TD) to take 10 sacks and the Cougars also fumbled twice, one of which was returned the other way for a touchdown. Tailback Patrick Carr ran for 52 yards and Tune added a score off a scramble but the first-team offense mustered just three third down conversions in a fairly lifeless performance that was made worse by their defense giving up a school record 507 yards rushing.
The effort was far from what head coach Major Applewhite likely envisioned and will certainly lead to a ton of questions this offseason over his longterm future with the program given how the team played in 2018.
That won’t be the case for the Black Knights, who secured a school-record for wins in their 11-2 campaign and should likely finish the year ranked for the first time since 1996. Army has put together back-to-back double-digit win seasons but this year’s squad can puff out their chest a bit bigger based on the way they closed things out against the AAC in the Armed Forces Bowl.