Navy QB Reynolds looks to complete four-game sweep of Army
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) When Keenan Reynolds first faced Army, the Navy quarterback couldn't help getting caught up in the enormity of the historic rivalry.
''That was a pretty nerve-racking game. When I think about it, I get nervous again,'' Reynolds recalled this week. ''I was thinking, one or two plays either way and we lose that game.''
Reynolds ran for an 8-yard touchdown with 4:41 left to give the Midshipmen the lead in a 17-13 victory.
''That's something that will stick with me forever,'' he said.
The 2012 season marked the beginning of Reynolds' sensational, record-setting college career. On Saturday, the talented senior hopes to add another milestone to his impressive list of accomplishments: first quarterback to go 4-0 as a starter in the Army-Navy series.
''That would be pretty awesome,'' Reynolds said. ''But it's not going to happen by just showing up.''
No. 21 Navy (9-2) is an overwhelming favorite to beat Army (2-9) for the 14th consecutive season. A victory would enable the Midshipmen to claim the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, awarded annually to the military academy with the best record in games between Army, Navy and Air Force.
''That's the No. 1 priority,'' Reynolds said.
He intends to play this one with a far more relaxed attitude than in his initial encounter with the Black Knights.
''I'm going to enjoy all the little things about the game – coming out for warmups, going to midfield for the coin toss, that type of stuff,'' Reynolds said.
No matter what happens Saturday, Reynolds will be remembered as one of the finest quarterbacks in Naval Academy history. His 83 rushing touchdowns are the most ever among Football Bowl Subdivision schools, and his 4,279 yards rushing tops the school's career list. He can throw, too – Reynolds needs only 36 yards passing to become the first Navy quarterback to rush and pass for 1,000 yards in two separate seasons.
Reynolds operates coach Ken Niumatalolo's triple-option attack with near-flawless efficiency. When it comes to drawing up a game-plan to beat Navy, nothing is more important than stopping Reynolds.
''Trying to contain him is difficult. Every coach, every defensive staff they face will tell you the same,'' Army coach Jeff Monken said. ''He has a great knack for finding the opening, finding the crease, and then wiggling his way through there and getting a lot of extra yards. That's a unique talent in itself.
''He's as valuable to his team as anybody in the country.''
Especially against Army. In 2013, Reynolds dashed through the snow for 136 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-7 rout. Last year, the 5-foot-11 standout guided the Midshipmen to 17-10 victory.
And now, in his finale against the Black Knights, Reynolds can become the first quarterback to go 4 for 4 in a classic rivalry that began in 1890.
''It's a special opportunity that I've been afforded,'' Reynolds said. ''It's not something I've thought a lot about, but it is pretty cool.''
Reynolds has a 30-13 career record as a starter, and his numbers this year brought his name into the conversation as a potential Heisman Trophy finalist. He didn't make the cut, but no one will argue his stature as the best to play the position at Navy since Heisman winner Roger Staubach in 1963.
''I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed,'' Reynolds said of the Heisman slight. ''But I'm moving on. We've got a big week ahead of us and a lot of play for.''
Pro football isn't in the immediate future for Reynolds, who must serve out his military commitment after Navy faces Pitt on Dec. 28 in the Military Bowl. Staubach, who's gotten to know Reynolds well over the past four years, expects the Tennessee native to be as effective in the service as he is behind center.
''He has that ability, that humility, in addition to that greatness that he has, and I think that balance will make him a great officer,'' Staubach said. ''Whatever he chooses, he's going to be an inspiration to the active service after he graduates.''
AP Sports Writer John Kekis contributed to this story.