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Don’t Forget About Navy in the Access Bowl Conversation

You may not know it yet, but Navy is good. Like, really good.

The Midshipmen have quietly been dominating their competition and stand at 4-0 heading into their annual rivalry game with Notre Dame.

Navy already has its eyes on retaining the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s trophy, which is awarded to the winner of the three-way service academy rivalry series, after handily beating Air Force, 33-11. And make no mistake, Air Force is a good team, as it looked impressive in its first three games and came into the Navy game as the second-best rushing offense in the nation and had held its first three opponents to an average of 19.3 points per game.

Coming into this week, Navy ranked 21st in scoring and third in rushing offense, while also coming in at 49th in total and 22nd in scoring defense. Those defensive numbers will improve with the Midshipmen’s performance against the Falcons, as they held them to 277 yards and 11 points.

But it’s not just the numbers that point to Navy’s success this year. Just watch them play.

The Midshipmen, especially on offense, operate so efficiently and smoothly. Every player on the field knows his role on the team and job on each play. They are a disciplined bunch, for obvious reasons, but it shouldn’t be a secret that head Ken Niumatalolo is outstanding and accepts nothing but success from his team. His career record and the fact that Navy has won at least eight games in seven of his eight years proves that.

Plus, having a guy like Keenan Reynolds at the helm certainly doesn’t hurt.

While guys like Gunner Kiel and Paxton Lynch draw national attention as quarterbacks from the AAC with NFL potential, Reynolds flies under the radar as one of college football’s best purely because he gets it done in a different way.

By now, you know Reynolds already holds the career rushing touchdown record for quarterbacks and is rapidly closing in on Montee Ball’s NCAA record for the stat as well, but have you watched him play?

If you haven’t, you’re missing out. Watching Reynolds run the triple option is like watching a sculptor working with stone. He effortlessly chips away at the rock, bit by bit with a chisel, until a masterpiece is born. It’s not flashy, and not one stroke of the hammer really stands out from another, but the ease in which he operates and shapes the stone is something to behold.

That’s Reynolds’ game.

His comfort in the option attack is most noticed in his split-second decision-making and the accuracy of his pitches. It’s easy to turn the ball over when running the option with all of the moving pieces, but Reynolds’ mastery of the system is the main reason the Midshipmen are one of the best teams in the country in turnover margin. They’ve only given the ball up once this season.

Reynolds was excellent against Air Force, adding 183 rushing yards, 117 passing yards and a touchdown through the air to his 305 rushing yards, 148 passing yards and one other passing touchdown on the season. He’s already scored nine times on the ground through four games.

A lot of the national talk about the Group of Five representative on New Year’s Day has centered on teams like Memphis, Boise State, BYU and Cincinnati. But at 4-0, playing disciplined and efficient football, watch out for Niumatalolo, Reynolds and the rest of the Midshipmen.

Navy should have its eyes on more than the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy this year. An American championship and access bowl bid are well within reach.

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