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CIC MVP: Army’s Elijah Riley Leads the Way in Week 5

Army throttled previously unbeaten Buffalo on the road while Air Force continued to struggle on offense in a second straight conference loss to Nevada

NCAA Football: Army at Navy Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Army continues to look better and better each week as they rolled up 42 points on a previously unbeaten Buffalo Bulls team to get back above .500 at 3-2. They got significant contributions on offense, defense, and special teams as they stifled UB nearly all day on defense, the offensive ground game continued to roll while the passing game gained some steam, and Elijah Riley returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown on special teams.

Meanwhile, Air Force continues to look for answers on offense as they kept another game close late, but could find little consistency moving the ball. After switching from Arion Worthman to Donald Hammond III following Worthman’s second lost fumble of the day late in the third quarter they got a spark and saw themselves come back from 18 down to make it a game, but as has been the case each of their last two outings, it was too little too late.

It’s time for us to start the CIC race this week as Air Force hosts Navy in a game both teams need to win to get back on track, but before we shift all our coverage to Chair Force and Sink Navy banter, let’s take a look at who stood out for each team on Saturday and crown a CIC MVP for the week!

Army

Offense: Kelvin Hopkins, Jr., QB

It wasn’t a pretty start for the Army quarterback as he threw a third straight interception on three passes dating back to the Oklahoma game on the Black Knights’ first possession. Buffalo was already leading 7-0 following an easy touchdown drive to start the game and were in good position to go up by two scores early, but the defense held them on downs and Hopkins turned his fortunes around.

After the first drive hiccup, however, Hopkins found his groove as he would complete all four of his passes the rest of the day for 91 yards and a TD pass to Jordan Asberry to go with that INT. He would also pace the Black Knights rushing with 89 yards on 19 carries.

Hopkins confidence clearly continues to grow with each passing week, and as his belief in himself soars, so does the Army offense. One of the greatest assets of a triple option quarterback is the ability to simply run the system, make the right reads, and get your teammates the best chance to succeed. Hopkins is doing that as he directs each sustained drive, and it is evident he will be a force to be reckoned with the remainder of the year.

Defense: Elijah Riley, DB

Elijah Riley continues his impressive play on the season, matching up with some impressive wide receivers in each and every game and finding a way to hold them mostly in check, or at the very least, in check enough for the offense to continue doing what it does best. This week it was K.J. Osborn, who came into the game sixth in the country with 5 TD receptions. Osborn managed 82 yards and another score, but Riley was all over the defensive backfield once again.

The junior from Port Jefferson, NY ended the day with 5 tackles, a TFL, and a pass defended early in the game that kept the Bulls out of the end zone after the Hopkins interception. Riley and Jaylon McClinton are proving a formidable 1-2 punch in the secondary and will be counted on to continue leading the Black Knights defensive backfield in the coming weeks.

Special Teams: Elijah Riley, DB

Riley adds a second player of the week nod from us this week as he was also a key component on special teams. With Army up 14-7 late in the second quarter, the Black Knights were able to block a FG attempt by the Bulls that would have brought them within four points, and Riley nimbly scooped the ball up and sprinted ahead of the field goal unit for an 80 yard return for a touchdown. The ten point swing on the play put Army up by two scores heading into the locker room, and gave them the momentum they would not relinquish the rest of the way as they cruised to victory in the second half!

Air Force

Offense: Donald Hammond III, QB

It was another putrid day for the Falcons offense as they were stifled in the first half with their only points coming off of a defensive touchdown. Isaiah Sanders did not play and Arion Worthman was back under center. He ended up with negative yards rushing on ten carries and two lost fumbles in the game.

Late in the third quarter, following Worthman’s second fumble of the game, Calhoun inserted sophomore Donald Hammond in at quarterback and he provided an immediate spark. He would direct two touchdown drives on his first two possessions, one through the air to Marcus Bennett and the second on a quarterback keeper. Those two drives got Air Force within five points and back in the game, though they were unable to finish it off.

Hammond ended the day 6/15 for 71 yards passing and the lone touchdown and rushing 7 times for 28 yards.

Who ends up taking the first team snaps next week against Navy is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure Falcons fans wouldn’t mind seeing what Hammond can do for a full game.

Defense: Zane Lewis, DB

To say Lewis kept the Falcons in the game early would be an understatement. With the offense unable to move the ball at all and having just turned it over deep in their own territory, the junior from Richmond, VA picked off Wolfpack quarterback Ty Gangi and returned the interception 99 YARDS for the pick six.

That would prove to be the only points scored by Air Force in the first half as they went into the locker room down 21-7.

Special Teams: Jake Koehnke, K

Koehnke did everything that was asked of him as the placekicker on the day, converting both of his extra point attempts and adding a 43 yard field goal on the day as well. The junior from Carlsbad, CA is now 2-3 in FGs and perfect on all 4 of his PATs.

CIC Offensive MVP: Kelvin Hopkins, Jr., QB, Army

CIC Defensive MVP: Zane Lewis, DB, Air Force

CIC Special Teams MVP: Elijah Riley, DB, Army

I’m not going to give you a chance to vote on this week’s MVP, sorry folks! Given the fact that he earned multiple nods as both defensive and special teams performer of the week for Army, I’m going to just go ahead and give Elijah Riley the nod as our CIC MVP for week 5!

Overall CIC MVP: Elijah Riley, DB, Army