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Army overwhelms Houston in most lopsided Armed Forces Bowl

By JEFF WILSON | Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TNS) | Published: December 23, 2018

The first Army drive Saturday in the 16th annual Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

The Black Knights methodically went down the field in 14 plays, only one of them a pass, and covered 81 yards in 7:47 for the game’s first touchdown.

What followed, though, was a performance against the Houston Cougars that Army didn’t even pull off against the likes of Lafayette and Colgate.

It was quite a way for Army to cap the winningest season in program history.

Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. rushed for five touchdowns, four in the first half, and linebacker James Nachtigal registered 31/2 sacks and forced three fumbles as the Black Knights rolled past Houston, 70-14, at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Army finished its season with 11 victories and a nine-game winning streak after its overtime loss Sept. 22 at Oklahoma. Army became the first three-time champion of the Armed Forces Bowl and stretched its bowl-winning streak to four. Three have been in the Armed Forces Bowl, including two in a row.

Hopkins’ five touchdowns were an Armed Forces Bowl record. He rushed for 171 yards to give him a 1,000-yard season and threw for another 70, completing all three of his passes, to be selected as the game’s MVP.

Hopkins capped Army’s opening drive with a 1-yard sneak and ended the first quarter with the game’s highlight play. He made several moves, including a nifty cut early on in a 77-yard run for a 14-0 lead.

After the ensuing kickoff to start the second quarter, Nachtigal stripped Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune as he tried to throw, and safety Cameron Jones scooped it up and ran 23 yards to give Army (11-2) touchdowns on consecutive plays from scrimmage spanning only 14 seconds.

Houston (8-6) finally scored a few minutes later to make it 21-7, but a 62-yard Hopkins pass helped set up another 1-yard TD run. Following another Nachtigal sack, a 39-yard punt return by Akyah Miranda led to a 2-yard TD run by Hopkins and a 42-7 halftime lead.

“He just executed flawlessly,” Houston coach Major Applewhite said.

The 42 points matched the Black Knights’ season-high and their most points in a bowl game, set last year against San Diego State, and they still had a half to play.

Army started the second half with a 47-yard TD drive that Hopkins again capped from a yard out. He was injured on the next drive after a 34-yard run, and it led to Army’s first drive of the game without points.

He and the Black Knights had already done enough scoring, and Nachtigal and the defense had more than done their job.

Tune, playing for injured starter D’Eriq King, was under pressure all game, and Army sacked him 10 times. The Cougars were only 3 for 11 on third downs, while Army was 7 for 7, and managed only 317 yards.

Nachtigal finished with 16 tackles, 21/2 for loss in addition to his sack total.

“Give credit to them for being aggressive like that,” Applewhite said. “They won 11 games. That wasn’t luck.”

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