Middle Tenn. loses 24-6 to Navy in Armed Forces

Middle Tennessee State quickly found out how difficult it would

be trying to stop Navy’s triple-option offense.

The Midshipmen ran 10 consecutive times on the game’s opening

drive, with quarterback Keenan Reynolds going 3 yards for the first

of his two touchdowns to put them ahead to stay in a 24-6 victory

Monday in the Armed Forces Bowl.

”It hurts to lose this game, but I was really proud of how we

played out there,” Blue Raiders coach Rick Stockstill said. ”It’s

hard to simulate on a scout team what Navy does.”

Especially Reynolds, who increased his NCAA record for

touchdowns rushing by a quarterback to 31 while matching Colorado

State running back Kapri Bibbs, another sophomore, for the national

lead this season.

Even though Reynolds lost two fumbles, matching his total during

the regular season, the Blue Raiders (8-5) failed to convert into

points either of the miscues. Both fumbles were recovered by

linebacker T.T. Barber, the game’s defensive MVP after Navy had

driving inside the 20.

”After the first couple drives there we kind of settled in. We

got acclimated to the speed of the game,” Stockstill said. ”After

that, I thought the defense played fast, they played

physical.”

Navy (9-4), which won for only the second time in its last seven

bowl games, still piled up 366 yards rushing.

The Blue Raiders were held to a season low in points. They had

finished the regular season with a five-game winning streak,

averaging nearly 43 points a game in that stretch – since a 34-7

loss on Oct. 12 at North Texas, about 40 miles away from the TCU

campus where the bowl was played.

Logan Kilgore, the quarterback already with an MBA and a

school-record 53 TD passes, was 19-for-33 passing for 218 yards

with two interceptions in his final game for Middle Tennessee.

”I couldn’t be more proud to be the quarterback the past four

years at this university. We’ve been through a lot,” Kilgore said.

”The reason why I think this senior class is so special is because

we came in, we were at the top going to the bowl games, we had a

tough season and nobody pointed fingers. We’ve come back these last

two seasons, back-to-back eight-win seasons, and I just think that

we’re making this a habit.”

Cody Clark had field goals of 43 and 24 yards for Middle

Tennessee. The longer kick came at the end of Middle Tennessee’s

opening drive.

Down 10-6 at halftime, the Blue Raiders drove to the Navy 7 on

the opening drive of the second half. They went for it on fourth

down instead of trying a short field goal. But fullback Corey

Carmichael managed only a yard before getting taken down by Travis

Bridges and George Jamison, who also had an interception.

Middle Tennessee played in a bowl a year after getting snubbed

with the same 8-4 record in the regular season. That was in the Sun

Belt Conference before moving to Conference USA this season.

”Well, last season we didn’t get a bowl game. We had something

to prove,” said Barber, a sophomore. ”Having another eight-win

season this year was a great accomplishment.”

Barber forced the first fumble late in the first half, jumping

over the quarterback to pounce on the ball. The other came late in

the third quarter when the Midshipmen drove from their own 6 to the

MTSU 14 after stopping Middle Tennessee short on a

fourth-and-2.

There was a scary moment in the final minute before halftime

when Middle Tennessee receiver Marcus Henry and Navy cornerback

Lonnie Richardson each crumpled after a hard tackle. Players from

both teams quickly motioned to the sideline, and trainers sprinted

to the players.

Henry and Richardson were side-by-side on the ground surrounded

by their teammates and medical personnel. They eventually sat up,

then got up and walked gingerly off the field with help.