Quick thoughts: Oklahoma

Army came oh so close to shocking college football Saturday.

The Black Knights, a 31-point underdog, seemed destined to pull off the upset of No. 5 Oklahoma.

James Nachtigal and Army’s defense kept the game tied in the fourth quarter, stuffing Trey Sermon on 4th-and-1 from the 1-yard line. The Black Knights headed to overtime when Oklahoma’s reliable kicker Austin Seibert pushed a 33-yard field goal left as time expired.

The Black Knights didn’t flinch in the national spotlight. They thrived in the environment. Army kept 87,111 at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on the edge of their seats for 60-minutes plus.

Oklahoma would strike quickly in the extra session on Kyler Murray’s 10-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb and escape with 28-21 win. Oklahoma fans finally breathed a sigh of relief when Kelvin Hopkins’ fourth-down pass was intercepted on the game’s final play.

Army turned in one of Army’s best efforts, perhaps its best, in my 12 years on the beat. The Black Knights put college football on notice with their effort.

Jeff Monken’s postgame radio comment earned responses and praise from across the country on social media.

“Our guys don’t flinch,” Monken told sideline reporter Tony Morino. “That’s the toughness that is a part of this program and built into the fabric of the culture that is Army football and 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.”

Monken said later in his postgame press conference that there was no solace for playing Oklahoma into overtime. Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins said the loss hurt after the game. Most college football gurus picked Oklahoma in a blowout. The Black Knights expected to win. One play away from knocking off the nation’s No. 5 team isn’t good enough. Army is still fighting for national respect coming off a 10-win season. This could have been the game that cements Army as a top-25 program moving forward.

The Black Knights’ offensive line of Bryce Holland, Jaxton Deaton, Austin Schuffert, JB Hunter and Peyton Reeder consistently moved the line of scrimmage, allowing Army to finish three trademark drives. Army’s three touchdown drives were 16 plays, 16 plays and 19 plays. How many teams go into Norman and do that?

Army’s offense made an effort to get junior slotback Kell Walker, who didn’t have a carry in a win over Hawaii last week, on the edge with pitches or tosses from Hopkins. Walker was effective, rushing for 80 yards on 12 carries and caught Army’s only three completions for 40 yards. Slotbacks had 33 carries in Army’s first three games. Walker and Jordan Asberry combined for 17 carries against Oklahoma.

Army’s time of possession – 44 minutes and 41 seconds – has got to be near an FBS record. The Black Knights ran 87 plays to Oklahoma’s 40.

For the third straight game, Army didn’t fumble. The Black Knights have gone 224 straight carries without putting a ball on the ground.

Army’s defense held Oklahoma, which entered the game averaging 49 points, scoreless in the second half. Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown didn’t have a reception. Brown, the Sooners’ deep threat, was targeted only once.

While Oklahoma kicker Austin Seibert had the misfortune of the short field goal as time expired, Army was also unlucky when Hopkins’ pass hit off a defender’s helmet and landed in the hands of defensive end Kenneth Mann on 3rd-and-14 from the Sooners 34 with 2:17 left in a tied game.

Surprising call on Army’s 2nd-and-12 from Oklahoma 27 in overtime. Fred Cooper’s pass to fellow slotback Kell Walker fell incomplete. Oklahoma safety Kahlil Haughton appeared to make contact with Walker. Maybe, the official ruled the pass wasn’t catchable.

Absolute shame that the Black Knights’ efforts couldn’t be witnessed by a national television audience. Fox Sports and Oklahoma opted for the game to be televised locally on Fox Sports Oklahoma and to be available on pay per view for $49.99 (Directv price) or higher.

Steve Anderson, my podcast co-host, suggested that Oklahoma didn’t want the game on national television because it wouldn’t get a lot of praise for winning and it didn’t want anyone to see if the Sooners lost the game.

After the alma maters, Oklahoma linebackers coach Tim Kish, a former Army assistant, shook the hand of every player that he could. The Black Knights received a standing ovation from Oklahoma fans as they left the field.

Brian Bosworth, one of Oklahoma’s greats, paid Army the ultimate respect on social media. “If anybody thOUght @ArmyWP_Football was going to be intimidated by @OU_Football or OUr atmosphere take solace in the fact our fighting forces are ready to fight to the end w NO thoughts of giving up!! Great game to witness the tough/discipline of those committed to serve US!!”

 

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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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