Keenan Reynolds is gone to the NFL. The only Navy starting quarterback with four straight wins over Army was a sixth-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens and has his military commitment on hold.
Does that mean Army finally has a chance to beat Navy? Can sophomore Chris Carter and junior Ahmad Bradshaw, who shared the starting quarterback role last year, snap a streak that has stretched like an elastic band to 14 straight losses?
It’s not necessarily that one-sided of an equation.
Sure, Reynolds set NCAA career rushing and touchdown records the past four seasons. By the end of last year’s 21-17 win over Army, another Reynolds record had been established: the most touchdowns (seven rushing, two passing) in Army-Navy Game history.
Even with Reynolds under center, however, Army nearly pulled off an upset in three of the four years, including a 2015 season in which Reynolds finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
— 2015: Carter led the Black Knights to leads of 10-7 at halftime and 17-14 in the fourth quarter, but Reynolds completed a game-winning 50-yard touchdown pass to Jamir Tillman with 5:51 to play.
— 2014: A blocked punt gave Army a 7-0 lead, but Navy held Army and quarterback Angel Rodriguez without a touchdown to win, 17-10.
— 2013: This was the only rout of the past three years, with Navy winning 34-7.
— 2012: Army quarterback Trent Steelman drove the Black Knights 70 yards into position to score the game-winning TD in the final two minutes, but Larry Dixon fumbled in the red zone to preserve Navy’s 17-13 victory.
Entering 2016, Army arguably has two quarterbacks better than the QBs leading the Black Knights the past four years. Army’s improved quarterback play may prove more important than Reynolds’ graduation.
Carter should be better as a sophomore based on experience alone. He made only his second career start against Navy.
Bradshaw had won the starting job over Carter at the start of 2015, but ankle and shoulder injuries limited him to seven starts.
Fall camp began with the job still open in preparation for the Sept. 2 opener at Temple.
Carter then suffered a hamstring injury on Aug. 1 that slowed him. Bradshaw appears to have moved ahead of Carter based on the past two weeks. He directed the first unit in Saturday’s scrimmage, which included Carter in a backup role.
The Black Knights went against their scout team and won, 38-13. Six quarterbacks played, but Bradshaw was No. 1 with 24 yards rushing and 33 passing.
Earlier in the week there was speculation Bradshaw left West Point when he didn’t practice on Tuesday. Head coach Jeff Monken told the media Bradshaw was taking care of administrative matters. Bradshaw returned to practice on Wednesday.
The speculation was fueled by the timing of his absence. West Point Cadets are committed to five years of military service upon officially beginning their junior year. Monday marked the start of classes.
It’s not unusual for cadets to withdraw before their junior year. Former Army running back Raymond Maples admitted he nearly didn’t return for his junior year in 2012, which turned out to be his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season. Maples is now an Army lieutenant.
Bradshaw, who is from Gwendolyn Brooks Academy in a crime-ridden neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, expressed his commitment to West Point in an interview with me for a Today’s U story earlier this month.
“One of the special things about West Point is you meet people and then you’re put in tough situations together,” Bradshaw said. “You need to depend on those people you’ve never known and they depend on you. When you go through tough times and you see they don’t give up, you know you can’t give up. That carries over to the field.”
After 14 straight losses to Navy, Army hopes that attitude carries over to the 117th Army-Navy Game on Dec. 10 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Follow Tom Shanahan of Today’s U on Twitter: @shanny4055