LYNCHBURG, VA. – Behind a career day from running back Jakobi Buchanan, the Army Black Knights were able to pick up a 31-16 victory over Liberty on Saturday afternoon at Williams Stadium.
The junior paced both sides with 80 rushing yards, an effort that was highlighted by a season-long 19-yard touchdown run, and reached the end zone a career-high three times. Buchanan helped the Black Knights (8-3) outgain Liberty (7-5) on the ground with 220 yards rushing against the 79 rushing yard output by Liberty.
Army got on the board quickly in the second-ever meeting between the two teams, scoring on each of its first four possessions of the day. After kicker Cole Talley started things off with a 26-yard field goal, the Black Knights went on to jump out to a 24-0 lead using a pair of touchdown strikes from Buchanan and a receiving score from running back Braheam Murphy, who caught a 34-yard pass from quarterback Christian Anderson.
The Cadets’ defensive unit also flexed its muscles in the opening half, stifling most of the Flames’ offensive efforts. Liberty turned the ball over on downs at the end of its first drive before its second was ended when a trick play was thwarted by cornerback Bo Nicolas-Paul, who made his first career interception. The struggles followed the Flames into the second quarter, as linebacker Arik Smith ended a possession with a 16-yard sack before the team was unable to convert on fourth-and-five.
Towards the end of the first half, Liberty made it into the red zone for the first time after completing back-to-back passes up the middle. The Black Knights’ defense battled back, with nose tackle Nolan Cockrill contributing a four-yard sack on third down, ultimately forcing the home team to settle for a 36-yard field goal that ended the shutout and sent the teams into the halftime break with Army up 24-3.
Coming out of the locker room, the Black Knights demonstrated their ability to control the clock by putting together a possession that lasted over eight minutes. The 14-play, 75-yard drive ended with Buchanan’s third touchdown plunge of the day and extended the lead to 31-3.
After making some halftime adjustments, Liberty rebounded offensively with back-to-back drives, including a 14-yard touchdown pass and a seven-yard rush that cut the deficit down to 31-16. A failed two-point conversion prevented the team from lowering the advantage even further, though the momentum did carry over to the defense as the Flames forced Army to go three-and-out for the first time all afternoon.
Though the Black Knights’ offense was quiet in the final quarter, recording just 43 total yards, punter Zach Harding provided a bright spot. The senior pinned two punts inside the 10-yard line, with linebacker Fabrice Voyne helping to down a ball on the one. The Flames, who also slowed down in the last 15 minutes, tried to make one last play before the clock ran out but cornerback Jabari Moore picked off their last-ditch pass and returned it for 19 yards to help the score remain in favor of Army at its final margin of 31-16.
With the victory, the Black Knights have finished the regular season 2-2 in road contests, helping the team finish .500-or-better on the road for the second time in four years. Additionally, head coach Jeff Monken (57-42) is now just one win away from tying Charles Daly (1913-1916, 1919-22; 58-13-3) on the program’s all-time coaching wins list.
Army is set to face rival Navy in America’s Game on Saturday, Dec. 11 at MetLife Stadium.