WEST POINT – The Army West Point football team successfully defended Michie Stadium by putting together a lengthy fourth-quarter scoring drive to ward off Rice, 14-7, in the season opener on Friday night under the lights.
Kelvin Hopkins paced the Black Knights (1-0) on the ground against Rice (0-1) with 80 yards on 21 carries to go along with his first rushing score of the year. The senior also went 3-for-8 in the passing game for 53 yards and a touchdown. Sandon McCoy got the bulk of the duties in the rushing game and he finished with 70 yards on 20 totes.
Defensively, Cole Christiansen led Army with seven tackles, while Arik Smith and Cam Jones came away with six apiece. Jacob Covington and Jaylon McClinton combined for 10 tackles after they each finished with five.
In total, the Black Knights offense amassed 284 yards on 64 plays, while the Owls accumulated 243 yards on 43 plays.
On their opening drive, the Black Knights offense was stopped on 4th-and-1 on their own 15.
However, despite the fortunate field positioning for the Owls, the Army defense held its ground and forced Rice to go for a 26-yard field goal try, which soared wide.
The Cadets struck first and it came in the opening quarter following a 16-play, 95-yard drive that spanned 9:48. The drive started with the Black Knights backed up on their own five-yard line and was finished off by a two-yard Hopkins touchdown run. Christian Hayes was responsible for 52 yards on the drive after breaking free for 35 yards on his first career rushing attempt and reeling in a 17-yard pass from Hopkins.
Rice came right back with an answer and evened the score at seven on the ensuing drive following a 54-yard gallop to the end zone by Nahshon Ellerbe with 6:30 remaining in the second quarter.
The Owls put themselves right back onto the Black Knights’ side of the field on their next drive after a 41-yard connection between Wiley Green and Austin Trammell. With time winding down in the first half, Rice brought out the field goal unit to attempt a 44-yard kick. However, the Owls once again came up short and could not convert.
With 1:01 remaining in the third quarter, Rice started a drive on the Army 35. The Black Knights’ defensive unit, aided by a Rice holding penalty that negated a 24-yard run, held Rice’s offense to a three-and-out.
Army picked up possession deep on its own end of the field and marched all the way down to the end zone by converting five third down attempts, which included the game-winning 17-yard touchdown pass from Hopkins to Walker.
Rice pieced together a late drive and made its way into Army territory, but on an important fourth down play, Jaylon McClinton came up with a crucial pass breakup to seal the win for the Cadets.
Army will travel to the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich., to take on seventh-ranked Michigan. The game will be broadcast on FOX with kickoff slated for noon.