PHILADELPHIA — The Navy football team got another virtuoso performance from quarterback Keenan Reynolds, and the defense turned in one of its finest outings of the season for a 34-7 victory over Army on a snowy and rainy Saturday afternoon in front of 65,612 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Reynolds was named MVP after carrying 30 times for 136 yards and three touchdowns, the second of which came with 6 minutes 22 seconds left in regulation and set the NCAA single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. The sophomore also caught the two-point conversion following the touchdown to put the Midshipmen comfortably ahead 28-7 as they extended their record series winning streak to 12.
Navy (8-4) won for a fourth consecutive time overall and closed the regular season with victories in five of six. The Midshipmen also claimed the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy outright for a ninth time in 11 years, although they were assured of retaining it regardless of the outcome Saturday after they beat Air Force and the Falcons beat Army.
“Just proud of our guys,” said Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo, who became the second coach in program history to start his career 6-0 against Army. “That’s hard to do. It’s hard to beat anybody 12 times, but to beat your rivals, we just try to stay on the task at hand. It was tough this time around with finals, but our guys, we don’t make excuses.”
In producing the most lopsided victory in the series since 2008, Navy turned a somewhat competitive affair into a runaway with a 53-yard scoring drive on its second possession of the fourth quarter. Reynolds carried six straight times to close the drive, including an 11-yard touchdown that gave him the record of 28 . He also kept the drive going with an eight-yard run on third and seven.
Freshman cornerback Brendon Clements proved Reynolds’s equal on defense, intercepting a pass and helping force two fumbles. The Midshipmen finished ahead 3-0 in forced turnovers and limited Army (3-9) to 157 rushing yards. The Black Knights entered with the country’s No. 2 rushing offense at nearly 324 yards per game.
“I feel we’ve done our job for Navy football and a culture has been created,” senior linebacker and co-captain Cody Peterson said. “That’s the stands, CIC and a bowl game. I feel like as a group, all the seniors have done our job.”
Navy ran for 343 yards, amassed 15 first downs and held the ball for nearly 35 minutes. The Midshipmen were especially punishing in the fourth quarter, when they possessed the ball for nearly 12 minutes. Their final drive of the game lasted 5:15 and resulted in the 29th rushing touchdown for Reynolds, who also established a program record for points in a season with 176.
Over the past two games, Reynolds has rushed for 10 touchdowns. He had seven in a 58-52 triple-overtime win against San Jose State on Nov. 22 and fell one touchdown short of matching the NCAA record for most touchdowns in consecutive games.
“This game makes or breaks your season,” Reynolds said. “You could be 11-0, and if you lose this game, consider your season a failure. This is our number one goal every year, to beat Army, and right behind that to win the Commander-in-Chief’s, so it’s huge.”
Navy opened the scoring in the first quarter on place kicker Nick Sloan’s 20-yard field goal following a turnover by Army quarterback A.J. Schurr, who later was pulled for Angel Santiago. Clements forced the ball loose as Schurr was trying to throw, and linebacker Chris Johnson recovered at the Navy 38. It was the second fumble for Schurr, who also lost the ball on the first series but had teammate Larry Dixon fall on it.
On the Midshipmen’s first snap after the fumble, fullback Quinton Singleton burst through a gaping hole on the left side of the line and rumbled 58 yards to the Army 4. Navy managed just two yards from there, including a Reynolds fumble that guard E.K. Binns recovered to save the possession for the Midshipmen.
“Very happy for our seniors and all our players,” said Niumatalolo, who wore a green lei during the game. “To win the biggest game of the year, our guys worked so hard all year for that. From the summertime, the training, spring ball and fall camp. The only thing that reminded me of Hawaii is this lei, but that definitely wasn’t Hawaii weather out there, but I thought our kids played well.”