Navy runs past Middle Tennessee 24-6 in AF Bowl
Keenan Reynolds has two more seasons at Navy and a chance to
join another select group of players.
A half-century after Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl
champion Roger Staubach won the Heisman Trophy playing for the
Midshipmen, their current quarterback is now only the fourth player
to rush for more than 30 touchdowns in a season.
Reynolds ran for two more TDs, giving the sophomore 31 this
year, and Navy ended the season with a 24-6 victory over Middle
Tennessee on Monday in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Already with the NCAA record for touchdowns rushing by a
quarterback, Reynolds put Navy (9-4) ahead to stay with a 3-yard
score to cap the opening drive of the game. He added a 1-yarder in
the fourth quarter, his 31st to match Colorado State running back
Kapri Bibbs for the national lead.
Only Barry Sanders (37) with Oklahoma State, and Wisconsin’s
Montee Ball (33) have run for more scores in a season.
”It’s huge. You just say the name Barry Sanders and you can
stop right there,” Reynolds said. ”He probably was the greatest
college player there was. Just to be even in that conversation with
guys like that is a humbling experience. I never thought I would be
in that category.”
Navy ran on 67 of its 74 plays and piled up 366 yards rushing
while winning its fifth consecutive game. Reynolds had 20 carries
for 86 yards, and eight other players had multiple carries – half
of them gaining at least 37 yards. DeBrandon Sanders ran 41 yards
for a score on the second play after an interception in the fourth
”That’s a great testament to who we are. Just we’re an
unselfish team,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. ”We’re going to
take what people give us. It’s kind of been our thing all year.
There are a lot of guys that carry the ball, and we’re an unselfish
team. Everybody knows if it’s their turn to carry the ball, they’re
going to do the best they can.”
But when asked what makes Navy’s triple-option work so well,
Niumatalolo pointed at Reynolds.
”It’s hard to simulate on a scout team what Navy does,” Blue
Raiders coach Rick Stockstill said.
Middle Tennessee (8-5) was held to a season low in points and
without a touchdown for the only time. That was after a five-game
winning streak when they averaged nearly 43 points a game- since a
34-7 loss on Oct. 12 at North Texas, about 40 miles away from the
TCU campus where the bowl was played.
”This was the first time we kept a team completely out of the
end zone. It was huge to finish like this,” senior linebacker Cody
Reynolds lost two fumbles, matching his total during the regular
season, but Middle Tennessee failed to convert either of those
miscues into points. Both fumbles were recovered by sophomore
linebacker T.T. Barber, the game’s defensive MVP, after Navy drove
inside the 20.
Down 10-6 at halftime, the Blue Raiders moved 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.
The Blue Raiders got their only points on a pair of Cody Clark
field goals, 43 yards to end their opening drive of the game and
later a 24-yarder.
Middle Tennessee played in a bowl one 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,” Barber said. ”Having another eight-win season this
year was a great accomplishment.”