WEST POINT – In a thrilling game that came down to the wire, it was the Army West Point football team delivering a huge fourth-quarter stop to take down undefeated Hawai’i, 28-21, here Saturday afternoon at Michie Stadium.
The Black Knights ended the Rainbow Warriors’ unbeaten streak, which stood at three-straight games heading into Saturday’s contest. With the win, Army shifts to 2-1 on the year.
Kelvin Hopkins Jr. led all Army ball carriers with 110 yards and a pair of scores on 20 carries. The Charlotte, N.C., native also added 162 yards in the air on six completions. He was backed by the 70-yard rushing game of Darnell Woolfolk and a 62-yard rushing performance by Connor Slomka. Both rushers found their way into the end zone once opposite the Rainbow Warriors.
Defensively, Kenneth Brinson led the charge with a team-best six tackles and two sacks for a loss of eight yards. James Nachtigal also helped the Black Knights’ defensive corps with five tackles and one sack for a loss of nine yards.
The Rainbow Warriors wasted little time utilizing their run-n-shoot offense as they took the opening drive down the field and into the end zone in just five plays for the early 7-0 edge. Hawai’i completed three passes during that time, including a 50-yard pickup by Cedric Byrd.
After a big fourth down sack by Brinson, the Black Knights knotted things up using a five-play drive of their own to pull even at 7-7. A highlight of that march was a Hopkins-Calen Holt connection for 63 yards that put the Cadets in the red zone at the 1-yard line.
The Army defense forced a 3-and-out, giving the ball back to the Black Knights’ offense with 5:15 remaining in the first quarter. Starting from their own 36, the Cadets marched 64 yards down the field on 14 rushes and scored on a Hopkins 1-yard rush to give the home side the lead at 14-7.
Hawai’i countered quickly and leaned heavily on the hot hand of its quarterback, Cole McDonald. He connected on all six of his pass attempts for 53 yards before John Ursua took the direct snap and found his way into the end zone on a 1-yard rush.
The Black Knights responded with a quick score of their own and needed just 5:32 to regain their one-touchdown advantage. The drive started on Army’s 25 and was capped by a 48-yard touchdown catch and score by Connor Slomka.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Black Knights had possession to begin the fourth period and Hopkins led the charge down the field. The junior quarterback accounted for 61 of the team’s 73 yards on a touchdown drive that ended with a 3-yard rushing score by Woolfolk.
With 8:55 remaining in the game and trailing by two touchdowns, Hawai’i needed just one play to trim the deficit to seven following a 80-yard passing touchdown from McDonald to Ursua.
With the ball back with the Black Knights and 8:42 left to play, Army began to drive down the field. An 11-yard drive that was highlighted by a 29-yard pass from Hopkins to Coates milked 5:42 off the clock, but resulted in a turnover on downs after the Cadets could not convert on a 4th-and-1 on the Hawai’i 28.
The Rainbow Warriors took over possession and McDonald caught fire. He completed four passes for 39 yards and added a 28-yard scamper to put his team at the Army 11. However, the Black Knights’ defense held strong and forced three incompletions to seal the home victory.
Army head coach Jeff Monken said of Kelvin Hopkins Jr.’s performance, “I think he’s really played well this whole year and made good decisions. He ’s playing very much like a veteran. He doesn’t have as much experience as the other guys on the field with him, but he does a great job leading our team.”
The Black Knights head back out on the road to face No. 5 Oklahoma Saturday at 7 p.m.