Since coming off the bench to direct an overtime victory at Air Force on Oct. 6, Reynolds has gone 5-1 as a starter and been the central figure in Navy’s revival after a 1-3 beginning. He has accounted for a team-high 17 touchdowns, using his strong and accurate arm to make the Midshipmen’s triple-option offense that much more of a headache for defensive coordinators.
“The kid’s special, but we’ve seen a lot of guys get there and can’t remember their name,” Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo said of the pressure created by the Army-Navy game. “We just hope that he just keeps doing what he’s done this whole season. That’s all you can hope.”
While Reynolds is a newcomer to one of college football’s most storied rivalries, Army quarterback Trent Steelman will be playing Navy for the fourth and final time. Steelman is the only player in Black Knights history who has run and passed for 2,000 yards each, and his 44 rushing touchdowns are the most all-time at West Point.
Steelman is tops or is the runner-up in just about every meaningful offensive category at Army, but despite prolific statistics that include 16 wins as a starter, the second most in program history, the senior is 0-3 against the Midshipmen. Last season’s 27-21 loss at FedEx Field was especially disheartening given the Black Knights had advanced to the Navy 28-yard line in the closing minutes only to turn over the ball on downs before the Midshipmen ran out the clock.
Navy thus celebrated its 10th consecutive win against Army, the longest streak by either side in series history. This year’s installment is all the more consequential because for the first time since 2005, the winner will be able to hoist the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.
Navy relinquished the trophy to Air Force in 2010 after keeping it in Annapolis a CIC-record seven straight years. Army has not won it since 1996.
“I can only imagine what he’s going to go through just because going out there and playing in a game like this, there’s so much riding on the line,” Steelman said of Reynolds. “It’s hard to stay calm. It’s hard to go out there and perform the way you can just because of all the emotions.”
The closest Reynolds has come to such an environment was against Air Force, when the Midshipmen trailed by eight with nine minutes to play. Reynolds was in the game at the time in part because then-starter Trey Miller hurt his ankle after rushing for 110 yards on 18 carries.
Reynolds began the series by completing consecutive passes to wide receiver Brandon Turner and slotback Gee Gee Greene. On the sixth play, Reynolds scored on a 15-yard run, and fullback Noah Copeland’s two-point conversion run tied the game with 6 minutes 35 seconds left in regulation.