GREENVILLE, N.C. — The Navy football team continued its upswing behind freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who accounted for five touchdowns, including two within two minutes of the third quarter, to help the Midshipmen pull away from East Carolina, 56-28, on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
In directing the Midshipmen (5-3) to their fourth straight win and a perfect record in October, Reynolds ran for a his second touchdown on the opening series of the second half and shortly thereafter completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Casey Bolena following a turnover for a 35-14 Navy lead with 8 minutes 9 seconds to play.
Reynolds finished with 81 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries, and of his three completions, two were for scores. Senior slotback Gee Gee Greene chipped in with a game-high 131 yards on 14 carries for the first 100-yard rushing game of his career, and six players in all scored touchdowns in Navy’s most thorough triumph this season against an Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.
“Every game since he’s been playing he’s always been coming out and executing and doing his job,” Greene said of Reynolds, the first freshman to start at quarterback for Navy since 1991. “It’s showing by getting W’s.”
Reynolds’s two-yard scoring run less than five minutes into the third quarter came at the end of a 10-play drive covering 75 yards in which six Midshipmen had carries. Greene gained 19 yards on the first three runs, and Reynolds went for 20 yards on the next carry to move into Pirates territory before reaching the end zone moments later.
On the ensuing kickoff, Shawn Lynch forced returner Lance Ray to fumble, and Navy’s Geoffrey Whiteside came up with the ball at the bottom of the pile to give the Midshipmen possession at the East Carolina 29. Senior slotback Bo Snelson ran for nine yards on first down, and on third and one, sophomore fullback Noah Copeland burrowed up the middle for five yards to the 15.
From there, Reynolds dropped back and found Bolena in single coverage for a completion at the goal line. The senior wide receiver managed just to break the plane, and the Midshipmen moved comfortably ahead on the way to their third straight road win and second consecutive victory at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
In its last two games at East Carolina’s home field, Navy has amassed 132 points. The Midshipmen won the last game at Dowdy-Ficklen, 76-35, in 2010, and although the margin was not as lopsided this time, Navy’s triple option kept East Carolina off-balance throughout with a season-high 512 rushing yards. The Midshipmen also had almost an 11-minute advantage in time of possession.
“I thought we played extremely well offensively,” Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We were clicking. Just very pleased with the way we operated offensively. I thought Keenan functioned very well.”
The Midshipmen scored a touchdown on eight of their first nine possessions, and even on their failed attempt had moved well inside the 20-yard line when Reynolds underthrew a pass that could have gone for an easy score. Reynolds instead had his first interception this year after taking over as the regular starter by directing a 28-21 come-from-behind win at Air Force on Oct. 6.
The Pirates (5-4) converted Reynolds’s first turnover of the season into a touchdown with a 96-yard drive in 10 plays capped by Reggie Bullock’s two-yard run to tie it at 14 with 6:55 left until intermission. But Navy took the lead for good on its next series courtesy of Reynolds’s one-yard dive to close a 75-yard drive in which all 11 plays were runs.
“I feel like we executed well as a team,” Reynolds said. “Great team win, but it doesn’t negate that we have a game next weekend. We’ve got to come ready to play, get grinding in practice and get ready to go on Monday.”