EL PASO, Texas — For the Army football team, the game was for sophomore defensive back Brandon Jackson.
Darnell Woolfolk ran for three touchdowns, Andy Davidson rushed for 106 yards and another score and Army routed UTEP 66-14 on Saturday night, days after Jackson was killed in a car accident.
Jackson was a starting defensive back for the Black Knights, and played in all 14 games since his arrival in 2015 and finished with 68 career tackles and three interceptions, two of which came against Wake Forest in 2015. He was killed Sunday, hours after Army beat Rice in its home opener.
“We made Brandon proud,” said senior linebacker and captain Andrew King. “And we’re going to keep fighting for him. Brandon is going to be on our minds for the whole season, and for as long as we live.”
The battle of the nation’s No. 4 running team against its No. 2 ball carrier never emerged in the Sun Bowl as Army steamrolled its way to a victory in the first meeting between the teams. Army is 3-0 for the first time since the 1996 season, when it started 9-0.
“We prepared like we had a chip on our shoulder,” King said. “We just followed our plan.”
The Black Knights, who average 338 yards per game, conducted a triple-option clinic, rolling up 424 yards rushing on 72 attempts. Woolfolk had 15 carries for 71 yards, with all three scoring runs coming from inside the 10. Davidson had a 33-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to make it 31-0.
“They’ve been a good 1-2 punch the whole year,” Army coach Jeff Monken said about Woolfolk and Davidson.
“It was really good,” Woolfolk said of the way the team’s wishbone attack clicked. “It just boils down to execution. Everyone was locked in and focusing.”
UTEP (1-2) allowed the most points at home since 2003. Aaron Jones, who entered the game as the nation’s second leading rusher, finished with 67 yards on 11 carries and one score.
“My hat’s off to Army,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said. “In every phase, on offense, defense, special teams, they outcoached us, outhustled us, out did us in everything.
“I’d put them in the Top 25. I have a vote. I’ll take care of that tomorrow,” Kugler added.
ARMY: The Black Knights wishbone option rattled off 45 plays to UTEP’s 15 and carried a 22:33 to 7:18 edge in time of possession into the break. They had the ball 10 times and scored on nine of those possessions. Special teams added another score, Max Regan’s 13-yard fumble return for a touchdown off a kickoff.
Eight different players scored for Army. The Black Knights never punted, and did not commit a turnover for the third game in a row. Coming into the game, the Black Knight were one of just five FBS teams without a turnover.
Army ran 80 plays and had a 41:40 to 18:20 edge in time of possession. The Black Knights were 10 of 12 on third-down conversions, five of which were third-and-2 plays.
Three Black Knight quarterbacks combined for 174 yards on 7-for-8 passing. Malik McGue, a freshman, threw just two passes, one for a touchdown. Army had nine pass attempts in its first two games.
UTEP: Playing behind the entire way, the UTEP rushing game never had a chance to get Jones, the nation’s No. 2 runner, on track. He had just five carries for 13 yards in the first half.
FOR THE TROOPS
Saturday’s game was filled with motivation for Army. Not only were the Knights playing with heavy hearts, but they also were playing for teammates of another kind.
El Paso is home to a large Army base at Fort Bliss. For years, UTEP has tried to get the Black Knights on their schedule, but there was a long waiting list. The game finally happened Saturday, and El Paso responded with a crowd of 37,893.
Monken said he and his players were motivated by that fact.
“I know we had a lot of soldiers from Fort Bliss who came out and saw the team in person for the first time in their life, and I’m proud of the way we represented them,” he said.
The game was billed as “One City. One Team,” as many citizens of El Paso and Fort Bliss soldiers are fans of both teams.
Army’s 66 points were the most since they scored 69 points against Pittsburgh in 1944, and 68 points against Colgate in 1958.
UTEP hadn’t allowed this many points at home since San Jose put up 69 in 2003.
Army hadn’t played in El Paso since 1988, when it lost to Alabama in the Sun Bowl.
ARMY: The Black Knights travel to Buffalo on Saturday.
UTEP: The Miners open their Conference USA schedule at home Saturday against Southern Miss.