South Florida-Navy Preview
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) Keenan Reynolds and Quinton Flowers are at their best when running the football.
Reynolds, a senior quarterback, has been the primary running threat in Navy’s triple-option offense since taking over as the starter midway through his freshman season. Over his career, he’s amassed 3,822 yards rushing yards and 75 rushing touchdowns.
He ranks third in the American Athletic Conference this season with 636 rushing yards. On Reynolds’ heels is Flowers, who has gained 563 yards on the ground for South Florida.
Both their talents will be on display Saturday when the Midshipmen (5-1, 3-0) host the Bulls (4-3, 2-1).
Reynolds needs three more rushing touchdowns to break the NCAA record held by former Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball (2009-2012). Reynolds is 358 yards shy of surpassing Napoleon McCallum as Navy’s all-time leading rusher.
”We know this offense is hard to stop, especially with Navy because of talent they have on that side of the ball,” South Florida safety Tajee Fullwood said. ”Their quarterback is really what makes it happen. I give him a lot of credit. He’s a very good player.”
Flowers set a single-game school record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 201 in last weekend’s 38-14 win over SMU. He leads the Bulls with seven rushing touchdowns.
”You have to watch him carefully on every play. He’s a bit like our quarterback in that he has the ball in his hands on every play and is not afraid to take advantage it,” Navy interim defensive coordinator Dale Pehrson said. ”He’s very physical and breaks a lot of tackle. He runs hard and is very fast.”
Although Flowers and Reynolds present challenges with their running ability, both are effective passers as well.
Flowers has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns. Reynolds showed last week that he can make opponents pay for selling out to stop the triple-option, completing 7 of 11 passes for 134 yards in a 31-14 victory over Tulane.
Some things to know about the first-ever matchup between Navy and South Florida:
OTHER WEAPONS: The Midshipmen and Bulls have other offensive threats beyond their quarterbacks. South Florida tailback Marlon Mack is the second-leading rusher in the AAC with 689 yards despite sitting out a game vs. SMU with a hamstring injury. The 2014 AAC Rookie of the Year is expected to play against the Midshipmen. Navy, meanwhile, has gotten a combined 666 yards and nine touchdowns from bruising fullbacks Chris Swain (245 pounds) and Quentin Ezell (253 pounds).
STREAKS AND MILESTONES: South Florida is riding a three-game winning streak, its longest in five seasons. The Bulls are seeking their third consecutive conference victory. If South Florida can knock off Navy, it would set a single-season record for wins under third-year coach Willie Taggart. The Bulls haven’t been bowl eligible since 2010, which is also the last time they won three conference games in a row Navy has won seven straight games at home and 11 of 13 overall dating back to last season. The Midshipmen would become bowl eligible with a win. The Midshipmen also could possibly earn the Group of Five berth on New Year’s by winning the AAC .
DON’T OVERLOOK DEFENSES: Navy ranks second in the AAC in scoring defense (19.3 points per game) and third in total defense (362.8 yards). South Florida stands fourth in the conference in both categories, holding opponents to an average of 22 points and 379.6 yards.
FUMBLE COMPARISON: Navy has 13 fumble recoveries through six games, eight more than it did all of last season. Outside linebacker Kevin McCoy has three forced fumbles while defensive end Will Anthony has caused two and recovered two. South Florida ranks sixth out of 127 Football Bowl Subdivision schools with just two lost fumbles this season.