All Keenan Reynolds wanted was to beat Army. The nimble-footed quarterback got his wish, dashing through the snow and a weary defense all the way into the NCAA record book.
Reynolds ran for 136 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead the Midshipmen to a 34-7 victory Saturday, their 12th straight in the series.
"It’s hard to beat anybody 12 times in a row," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "But to beat your rivals, I’m very proud of them."
Reynolds scored on runs of 47 yards, 11 yards and 1 yard. The sophomore has 29 rushing touchdowns, breaking the single-season mark for a quarterback previously held by Ricky Dobbs (Navy, 2009) and Collin Klein (Kansas State, 2011), both of whom had 27.
"Coming into the game, I wasn’t too concerned about the record. If I broke it, I broke it. If not, oh well," Reynolds said. "My main concern was trying to get the W. If that involved me getting zero touchdowns and everyone else having a field day, I was good with that."
It didn’t work that way at all. Reynolds ran 30 times for on a frozen, snow-covered field. He also caught a 2-point conversion pass on a trick play following his second touchdown.
His third score — with 46 seconds left in a lopsided game — gave him 176 points for the season, breaking the school record of 174 set by Bill Ingram in 1917.
"The thought did come across my mind to take a knee," Niumatalolo said. "But then my thoughts went to, I have a kid that has a chance to break a record that’s hard to come by."
Navy (8-4) won the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy for the second consecutive season and ninth time in 11 years. The trophy is awarded to the service academy with the most victories in games between Navy, Army and Air Force.
The Midshipmen haven’t lost to Army since 2001 and lead the series 58-49-7. Navy’s 12-game run is the longest in the history of the rivalry that began in 1890.
"I’ve got a lot of good friends on that side," Niumatalolo said. "They’ve got great kids over there. They go through what our kids go through. But ultimately, I’ve got to think about our team."
Niumatalolo became the second coach in Navy history to start his coaching career 6-0 against Army, matching Paul Johnson (2002-07).
The Midshipmen will conclude their season in the Armed Forces Bowl against Middle Tennessee State on Dec. 30.
Army (3-9) fumbled five times and was intercepted once in its fifth straight defeat. Embattled coach Rich Ellerson fell to 0-5 against the Midshipmen and 20-41 overall since taking the job in December 2008.
"You turn the ball over against a good football team, you give up big plays on defense, you take some big hits in the penalty game against a good football team, don’t be surprised if the score gets upside down," Ellerson said.
Ellerson’s job could be in jeopardy, and he knows it.
"That’s not my call," Ellerson said. "Obviously, in the body of work, we’ve made some progress. But I wasn’t brought in to make progress. I was brought in to win some football games and beat Navy. I’ve lost to our rival five times."
The snow that was forecast in the morning hours began during the pregame pageantry that makes this game a one-of-a-kind spectacle. The snow, along with the freezing temperatures, created an uncomfortable setting for those in the packed stadium.
Many of them left after the first half, which ended with Navy up 17-0.
Making his first college start, Army quarterback A.J. Schurr lost the handle on the wet football with his arm cocked to throw. Teammate Larry Dixon recovered, but the 20-yard loss doomed the Black Knights to end their first possession with a punt.
Schurr fumbled on the next drive, too, and this time Navy recovered at its own 38. That ended his day.
"If you’re struggling to hold onto the ball, that will get you out of there," Ellerson said.
Following the turnover, Quinton Singleton burst through a hole in the middle and ran 58 yards to the Army 4, setting up a field goal for a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Angel Santiago came in at quarterback for the Black Knights at just about the same time the intensity of the snow increased. On fourth-and-3 at the Navy 33, Terry Baggett lost three yards.
Midway through the second period, Noah Copeland ran 39 yards for a touchdown to make it 10-0.
With 2:38 left in the half, Reynolds gingerly picked his way through the Army defense on his record-tying touchdown run.
In the third quarter, the snow turned to rain and Santiago did his best to make a game of it. After throwing a 29-yard pass to Xavier Moss, the junior quarterback scored on a 4-yard run to get the Black Knights to 17-7.
Reynolds answered with an 11-play drive that produced a field goal. Army then failed to convert a fourth-and-3 from its own 42, a futile gamble that all but assured the Black Knights another frustrating loss against their far more successful service academy rivals.
Reynolds scored his record-breaking touchdown with 6:22 left, and the conversion pass from wide receiver Brendan Dudeck made it 28-7.