From the naked eye, it might’ve seemed like the match-up against Western Kentucky was a no-brainer win for this Army team but the Hilltoppers had some weapons of their own that made the Black Knights almost unrecognizable.
The longest pass attempt of the night happened at the top of the fourth quarter— a 31 yarder from Kelvin Hopkins Jr. to Artice Hobbs, and it was thought to be the turnaround point for the Army but it wasn’t enough to hold Western Kentucky who mustered up a victory Saturday evening, 17-8.
For a team that’s ranked eighth in the country in rushing offense, the Army O-line didn’t totally seem like itself. The opening four drives by the Black Knights resulted in just 64 yards and all ended in punts. While they usually average 273.4 rushing yards, the night ended with the Black Knights totaling just 137. Western Kentucky, who is rather pass-heavy on a typical Saturday, gathered 222 rushing yards on their own.
The Hilltoppers aggressive offense kept Army from making any headway at the start of the game. Though the Black Knights managed to go two for two in 4th down attempts, the team was 0 for 6 in 3rd down conversions by the half.
What kept Army alive was the defensive line. They put up quite a fight against the Hilltoppers QB Ty Storey, whose bread and butter seemed to be making multiple pass attempts at the outside to Gaej Walker, who captured 140 passing yards during the evening. Hopkins was able to gain just 71-yards through the air.
The Black Knights coverage however, was clearly at all the right places, at exactly the right time. Going into the second half, four different DBs notched five tackles each including Ryan Velez, Jaylon McClinton, Elijah Riley, and Malkelm Morrison. Cole Christiansen also gave Storey a run for his money and grabbed 13 tackles to end the night.
Ground game really didn't start gaining speed for the Black Knights until the last drive of the fourth quarter that actually resulted in a Hopkins 8-yard TD pass with Malik Hancock on the receiving end. Hancock was then able to make the 2-point conversion but it would be the only play that prevented a shutout victory for Western Kentucky.
Now, Army must quickly rebound and look towards next week. The Black Knights stay on the road to take on Georgia State on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 7:00 pm. The Panthers are on a two-game winning streak and currently ranked third in the Sun Belt.