Navy launches new era without Reynolds in matchup vs Fordham
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) It's time to find out how Navy will fare without record-setting quarterback Keenan Reynolds.
Reynolds rushed for 88 touchdowns as a four-year starter for the Midshipmen, defeating Army four straight times before being selected in the sixth round of the NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens.
After serving for three years as Reynolds' backup, senior Tago Smith takes over Navy's triple-option attack Saturday in the season opener against Fordham.
Smith has appeared in 18 games, starting twice, and knows the offense well.
''We feel good about Tago Smith as our quarterback. He has all the skills you look for in a quarterback for our offense,'' Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. ''It's Tago's time, and I know he's ready.''
Smith, Niumatalolo and offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper have spent the entire offseason answering questions about replacing Reynolds, who rushed for 1,373 yards and 24 touchdowns and passed for another 1,203 yards and eight scores as a senior.
''My goal when Keenan graduated was to let Tago know this is his show,'' Jasper said. ''I try not to mention Keenan's name or anything he did. Keenan was a great player, but he's gone now. Tago is our guy.''
Fordham, meanwhile, will be playing its first game under coach Andrew Breiner, formerly the team's offensive coordinator.
Here are some things to consider about the Navy-Fordham matchup:
ANOTHER NEW OPTION: Smith won't be the only new part in Navy's offense, which graduated 11 starters. Fullback Chris Swain, who is trying to make the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent, was another important weapon in 2015. Senior Shawn White was expected to succeed Swain, but missed two weeks of August camp with an ankle injury. Junior Chris High, who has five career carries, had an impressive preseason and will start Saturday at the position that is option No. 1 in Navy's offense.
PLENTY OF FIREPOWER: Fordham boasts two of the top offensive players in the Football Championship Subdivision: quarterback Kevin Anderson and tailback Chase Edmonds. Edmonds has rushed for 3,486 yards and 43 touchdowns in two seasons. The 5-foot-9, 205-pound junior should set Fordham career records in both categories this season. Anderson led the Patriot League and ranked third in the FCS with 32 passing touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior led the league and was fifth nationally in completion percentage (67.0). ''He's athletic and can move. He can throw every ball with great accuracy,'' Niumatalolo said. The Rams also feature 6-foot-8, 250-pound tight end Phazahn Odom, who caught seven TD passes in 2015.
SERVICE ACADEMY FAMILIARITY: Anderson passed for 322 yards and Edmonds accounted for 250 yards from scrimmage to help Fordham upset Army 37-35 in last year's opener. ''Beating Army was a thrilling experience for our players and it does give us confidence going into this game,'' Breiner said. ''From a defensive perspective, we've seen the triple-option before and that takes the newness away.''
HOME SWEET HOME: The Midshipmen have won 10 straight games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium dating back to the 2014 season. It is the longest home winning streak for Navy since it won 10 in a row between Sept. 20, 1980 and Sept. 11, 1982. Navy has not lost a season opener in Annapolis since 2000.
LONG TIME AGO: This marks just the second meeting between the schools, who last squared off in 1914. Navy won that contest 21-0.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org