Behind offensive balance that included plenty of pitches and inside handoffs sprinkled with quarterback Keenan Reynolds’ precision passing, the Navy football team trampled Delaware, 51-7, on a crisp Saturday afternoon in front of 36,208 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Reynolds finished with a career-high 233 passing yards, the most for a Navy quarterback in 13 years, completing 10 of 13 attempts with a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions. The sophomore added a game-high109 rushing yards on 15 carries for his third career game of at least 100 yards rushing and passing before giving way to backup John Hendrick early in the fourth quarter.
Slotback Geoffrey Whiteside added 30 yards and two touchdowns on three carries to go along with two receptions for 65 yards. Fullback Chris Swain operated mostly between the tackles for 49 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, and Navy (2-0) compiled 352 rushing yards and 31 first downs against its overmatched Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
“Just super proud of the way we played,” Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “That was a complete win for us.”
A record crowd for a Navy home opener also witnessed a defensive gem one week after that unit yielded 481 yards during a 41-35 victory at Indiana. The Midshipmen twice intercepted Blue Hens quarterback Trent Hurley, recovered one fumble and blunted an offense that had amassed 1,067 yards over its first two games.
Leading by 16 at intermission, Navy all but settled the outcome with a pair of touchdown drives to start the second half. The first of those touchdowns came via Reynolds’s 29-yard pass to Shawn Lynch on a throw between a pair of defenders with 10 minutes 43 seconds to go in the third quarter.
The Midshipmen forced a punt on Delaware’s next possession and took over at their 8 with 6:59 to play in the third quarter. Navy ran seven consecutive times to its 45 and gained 12 yards on Reynolds’s strike to freshman DeBrandon Sanders (three catches, 86 yards).
Four plays later, Whiteside handled a pitch to the left and scored from 13 yards for a 37-7 lead, completing Navy’s longest drive in three years.
“We were very efficient, made some big plays” Reynolds said while sitting on the dais between Whiteside and Sanders. “These two guys, just a couple of the [slotbacks] who made spectacular runs, catches. It was just a team effort.”
Navy opened the game much as it did in against Indiana, collecting large gains pitching to the outside. The Midshipmen’s first possession began at their 47 following a shanked punt that went for six yards, and three runs moved the ball to the Delaware 31.
Reynolds carried for five yards on first down, and senior slotback Darius Staten took a pitch around the left side for 16 yards. Sanders sprung Staten with a block, and Navy had first and goal at the 10.
On the ensuing snap, Staten received another pitch around the right side and shuffled into the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 9:02 left in the first quarter.
Delaware responded with a promising drive to the Navy 33, but on fourth and two, senior linebacker D.J. Sargenti surged into the backfield to slow tailback Andrew Pierce. Freshman linebacker William Tuider finished off the tackle, and Navy took over on downs at its 33 with 5:05 to go.
The Midshipmen got Nick Sloan’s 24-yard field goal out of that possession and tacked on Whiteside’s seven-yard scoring run for a 17-0 buffer with 13:12 left until halftime. The lead grew to 23-0 when Sanders caught a pass over the middle at the Delaware 30, turned left and dove near the goal line, reaching the ball across the plane before landing out of bounds.
“If we keep playing like this, then big things are going to happen,” Sanders said.
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