Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds is on track to start Saturday against Air Force, despite the mild concussion he suffered Saturday in the Midshipmen’s loss at Western Kentucky, Coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed following practice Monday.
However, according to multiple reports, the status of the game itself could be in jeopardy because of the federal government shutdown. Troy Garnhart, associate athletic director for Air Force, told the Annapolis Gazette “it is a possibility” that the game might not be played.
Running on a keeper, Reynolds absorbed a blow to the helmet from Hilltoppers linebacker Andrew Jackson shortly before intermission. The second-year starter lay on the field for some time until he was able to rise to one knee and walk to the bench.
Team doctors prohibited Reynolds from re-entering, and he watched the rest of the 19-7 loss in Bowling Green, Ky., from the sideline wearing sunglasses with a towel wrapped around his neck.
“I think he’s going to be okay,” Niumatalolo said Monday after a light workout in Annapolis. “They kept him out. Today is just a running day. I think he’s going to be okay.”
Reynolds did not participate in sprints with the rest of the team at the conclusion of practice but lined up behind center with the first team in formations that involved no contact.
Niumatalolo said Reynolds would begin running Tuesday, then ideally practice the next two days as Navy prepares to play in the first leg of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy race. The Midshipmen reclaimed the trophy last season after the Falcons had won it the previous two years.
Against Air Force last season, Reynolds came off the bench with 9 minutes 3 seconds left in regulation to rally the Midshipmen to a 28-21 victory in overtime. Reynolds tied the score on a 15-yard run with 6 minutes 35 seconds to play, and guard Jake Zuzek fell on a fumble in the end zone in the extra session that wound up yielding the decisive points.
“I feel good,” said Reynolds, who will undergo concussion testing regularly this week. “Got a lot of rest this weekend, got a lot of rest today, so I’m feeling a lot better than I did on Saturday.”
With Reynolds out of the lineup, the Midshipmen (2-1) finished with season lows in rushing yards (107) and points. Navy had been averaging 398 rushing yards per game, the most in FBS, and 46 points, the ninth most in the country.
Backup quarterback John Hendrick ran 14 times for nine yards and completed 5 of 13 passes for 56 yards with two interceptions. The junior had played in one game in his career before replacing Reynolds against the Hilltoppers, and his arm had been in a sling during last week’s practices.
“John was put in a bad position,” Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper said. “He hadn’t practiced. He was hurt. To throw him out there, man, was throwing him to the wolves, and that’s my fault. Just wasn’t ready to play, but he was the best guy we had at the time.”
Jasper said he is planning for Reynolds and Hendrick to split reps this week, although Niumatalolo added he would be comfortable starting Reynolds even if he did not practice fully.
It’s the second time in four games Reynolds has suffered a blow to the head that’s forced him to exit early. In last year’s 62-28 loss to Arizona State in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, Reynolds also was concussed, finishing with 21 rushing yards on 22 carries and completing 5 of 11 passes for 14 yards.
“I think he’s going to be able to practice, just talking to him,” Niumatalolo said of Reynolds. “I’ve seen guys with concussions before, and they can’t remember things. He’s pretty cognizant right now, but we’re just taking our time.”