Postgame Oklahoma: Jeff Monken, Kelvin Hopkins, Kell Walker, Elijah Riley

Army played Oklahoma, the nation’s No. 5 team, to a 60-minute draw.

Oklahoma, a 31-point favorite, needed overtime to outlast the Black Knights 28-21.

Army coach Jeff Monken’s postgame radio comments draw national respect.

“Our guys don’t flinch,” Monken said. “That’s the toughness that is a part of this program and built into the fabric of the culture that is Army football and that’s West Point and that’s the United States Army. I promise you there’s not an American soldier out there that would flinch in the face of adversity either. We have a bunch of soldiers on our team and I’m proud of them.”

Here are Monken’s radio and press conference comments along with the thoughts of junior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins, junior slotback Kell Walker and junior cornerback Elijah Riley:

Jeff Monken
Radio interview
Thoughts on his team’s effort

“I’m incredibly proud of our football team. I thought our guys played really, really hard against a great football team. We had a chance to win. Credit Oklahoma. They made the plays that they needed to win the game. Unfortunately, we had some opportunities and we just didn’t get it done. I thought our kids play their hearts out. What do you say, it’s the No. 5 team in the country and we took them to the wire. There’s no solace in that. I’m disappointed. This wasn’t the last game of the year so will come back and play next week.

“I hope that America saw just what we hope to represent, our great soldiers, those men and women that serve, this great academy and the mental toughness that it takes to be in the United States Army. I thought our guys display that mental toughness all night.”

Press conference
Opening statement
“What a football game and congratulations to Oklahoma what a great football team and an unbelievable football program. I read the press release before the game and I marvel at the success that the Oklahoma program has had over decades. I read where they’ve won 11 Big 12 championships in the last 19 years in that same stretch of only lost 10 home games. That’s an incredible statistic to me. To be a part of a football team to come in here tonight and about pull off victory against a great football program, I’m just incredibly proud to be a part of this team. I’m proud of our players.

“It’s just a privilege to be a part of a group of people like that that care so much about each other and have such a commitment to each other. It’s fun to be part of something like that. That’s what makes it even more disappointing to lose because our guys fought so hard and got it out. I’m sure there are very few people that gave our guys a chance to win and we had a chance to win the football game. I’m disappointed that we didn’t. I think Kelvin said it so well, every loss hurts. Every loss is disappointing. I know what it would’ve meant to these guys and it would  have been an awesome victory. But credit Oklahoma. They made some great plays and they have some unbelievable players. Their quarterback Murray is an amazing player. He made some plays on his feet with his arm. We found ourselves out a position a couple times and let him hit some big plays and the big plays really hurt.

“To have a goal line stop like we did on the 1 yard line I don’t know last time that’s happened to an Oklahoma team. Baby it happens more often than I realize. For our guys to make that stop down there is incredible. I have nothing but respect for our guys and pride for the way we played.”

On if he would have gone for 2-point conversion if Army scored in overtime
“We would’ve gone for two. In this environment and really having to come from behind the whole game, we had to play catch-up I come from behind the entire football game. Even there an overtime and that gets harder and harder to make those plays. So we would’ve given it a whirl.”

On the key to slowing down Oklahoma
“Just hold the ball. That’s our philosophy is to try to maintain possession of the ball. We were able to do that and sustain some drivers. Unfortunately, we had a couple times there we had a chance to get some points and we didn’t. We would have liked to at the end of the first half. We were trying to throw the heater out and then step of the balance and get a man’s ball field goal and try to make it 21-17…Unfortunately, we ran out of time. Unfortunately, the second half on the last drive, we held it for about 10 minutes. The first time, we tossed it out there and we got knocked back at guard trying to pull around to get at the second level. We didn’t do a great job on the perimeter and we took a tackle for a loss. We were in a different play to the left on second down and took another tackle for loss and then on third down, we had a timeout and we talked about the protection. They played a defense that they hadn’t played all year and that was really not what we practiced against all week and so we were surprised they came out and that defense. but that’s the defense that our defense runs so we got a lot of reps banked against the 3-4 defense and I think that’s why our guys were able to execute and do that effectively enough, But, they made a couple plays there and we frankly messed up the protection a little bit on the third down where the ball got intercepted. He got hit as he was throwing it should’ve been a lot more solid there.

“I felt like we needed to try to get yardage, we’re at the 35-yard line and that would’ve been a 52 yard field goal. We needed to gain 5 yards. We would have liked to gain 10 yards and have the ball with a shorter field goal. Unfortunately, it got picked off. Our defense the good job stopping them to force overtime and the overtime we just weren’t able to finish.”

On 16-play or longer drives by offense
“I think that’s a byproduct of the offense. People don’t faces offense very often you can prepare for it but but frankly it’s just a bugger sometimes to try to defend. It’s not easy for us and we run the offense all spring and throughout fall camp. It’s not easy for our defense to transition and play when the option teams that is on our schedule. I think our guys were doing a really good job of blocking them upfront and moving their team, which isn’t easy to do they are big inside. We have some good B-backs that run really hard…I thought Brent (Davis) called a great game I thought he had a terrific game plan going in there and then we have to change on the run with the change in the defense. Again it speaks to the resiliency of this group they didn’t flinch. They just went out there and execute against a different defense that we practiced against all week and I thought execute it fairly well against a really good team.”

On what it took for Army’s stand at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter
“A lot will a lot of heart a lot of toughness I am playing really well fundamentally keeping your pads down in your hands where their supposed to be and be in the gap where you’re supposed to be. I was proud of our guys for that goal line stand. It was a great effort.”

On quarterback Kelvin Hopkins play
“The kid just played the fourth college football game in his career against the No. 5  team in the country and he didn’t back down. He played with a lot of poise and a lot of confidence I’m really proud of them. We saw that in the Temple game stepping in there, again he didn’t flinch. I’m really proud of him. He made some really good plays tonight.”

On Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray
“I thought he played a really good game. He didn’t get as many cracks at it as he normally does. I didn’t see the number of players they had, 40 plays on offense. That’s probably way below their average. Seven carries at 71 yards, average 10 yards. That’s pretty good for a running back right there. He’s incredibly skilled. The run that he had down our sideline for a touchdown, that was a great run. The kid is a terrific player and unbelievable athlete. I don’t know if we contained him. We made some plays and he made a bunch of plays.”

On if physical game lead to any injuries
“We probably have some guys nicked up or banged up. It’s a physical football game. When you’re playing a team like that, there’s a lot of conclusions. There’s going to be some bumps and bruises. I don’t know any that were real serious. Our trainers didn’t come to me during the game with anything. But we will see how they’re feeling after the game especially when we get back tomorrow and we really have a chance to assess that. Hopefully, we’re in pretty good shape are going to need to be. We are playing another undefeated team. This will be our fifth game of the year and every team that we played so far has been undefeated. I include Duke in that because they were 0-0 coming in. But, every team was undefeated. Liberty was 1-0. Hawaii was 3-0. Oklahoma was 3-0 and Buffalo is 4-0. We’ve had our challenges against get some really good teams and this is going to be a challenge again. They (Buffalo) beat the stuffings on the Rutgers today. I know they have a good football team and we’re going to have to recover for a great game next week if we’re going to have a chance to win.”

If this is a game that team can build on
“Sure, when you can play toe to toe with the No. 5 team in the country, it tells you if you play as well as you’re capable of playing,  you probably have a chance to beat just about anybody.”

Kelvin Hopkins

On the chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter

“We were just trying to execute. Oklahoma had a great team, a great game plan and was really aggressive. They are the No. 5 team in the country and really good, they just got the best of us. That play we just couldn’t make it happen, so credit to them they executed perfectly on that play. It was the right call against the right play, so there was not really much we could do about it.”
On the loss 
“Every loss is tough. It hurts right now, but our job is to comeback in here tomorrow and find out what we can do better to get another win next and that is what we are going to do. Like I said it hurts but we can’t dwell on it too long. We have a great team in Buffalo next week and we just have to be ready to come back tomorrow, focused and ready to get after it.”
On the play of the offensive line
“The offensive line was great tonight. They were moving the line of scrimmage. They were aggressive. They were flying off the ball. That’s an awesome group of guys. They want the game to be on their shoulders.We would come to the sideline and they were like, ‘What do we want to run.’ They want the ball going right up behind them. They were up for the challenge all week. They knew that Oklahoma was going to be a great team; we all knew that. They really pride themselves on going out there and being tough, coming off fast, and being aggressive and I think that is exactly what they did. Bryce (Holland) is a great leader for that group, Jaxson Deaton, and JB Hunter (IV) they are great guys and were really up for the challenge and accepted it tonight.”
Kell Walker 
On running ball effectively against Oklahoma:
“We had a game plan coming into this game. Oklahoma came out with a 50 defense, which we run a lot in practice. It is our run defense. Our O-Line did a great job blocking up front and our slots, wideout did a good job blocking out on the perimeter. That is how we were able to get outside, and I am just glad that the coaches trust.”
Elijah Riley
On his thought on the game
“Mike Reynolds’ interception coming out in the second half, it was a big momentum turner. Early on we struggled a little bit, but we had a great game plan. The D-line did a great job getting to the quarterback and the secondary did a good job getting in the right spots at the right time. At Oklahoma, they have some good wideouts, they have a great quarterback. They just executed better than we did in some instances. We had some simple errors in coverage, but we just have to correct that going forward.”

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    Sal Interdonato

    Award-winning writer Sal Interdonato has been on the Army football beat since 2007. He'll take you inside the huddle and into the lives of the Black Knights. Read Full
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