Many statistics can be used to describe Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds and the Midshipmen’s 14th straight win over Army, but the mark that establishes Reynolds an immortal in the Army-Navy Game rivalry is 4-0.
He is the first quarterback on either side of the rivalry to go 4-0, leading the No. 21-ranked Midshipmen to a 21-17 victory in the 116th Army-Navy Game before 69,722 fans Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Navy (10-2) also claimed the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy that earns a visit to the White House for the seniors in the spring based on beating Air Force and Army (2-10) in the service academy round-robin series.
Reynolds carried 21 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns and completed 6-of-14 passes for 113 yards and one TD in victory.
“This was the toughest by far,” Reynolds told CBS sideline reporter Allie LaForce. “They played a heck of a game. They were clicking on all cylinders. I think the only reason we were able to stay ahead of them is we didn’t turn the ball over. That was our big deal coming in; no turnovers. That was the reason we were able to come out with the victory.”
Navy was error free while Army turned over the ball three times with one fumble and two interceptions.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo’s eighth straight win for an 8-0 record against Army may have been his final one. He confirmed on ESPN’s College Gameday in the morning that he will meet with BYU officials on Monday about the school’s football vacancy. Bronco Mendenhall recently left that position for the Virginia job.
Niumatalolo, a former Hawaii quarterback, has been at Annapolis the past 14 years and a total of 18 seasons. He added other schools contacted about their openings this year, but he is listening only to BYU because of his Mormon faith.
The Navy coach’s tears after the game as he was interviewed by LaForce may have been an indication he plans to take the BYU job.
“You’ve got to give Army credit,” Niumatoalolo said. “I love the kids I coach. I’m fortunate to coach such great young men that are going to serve their country.”
With or without Niumatalolo, Navy advances with a bowl trip – although the Midshipmen are staying home to play in their own stadium — for the fourth straight year and 12th in the last 13. The Midshipmen play Pitt (8-4) in the Military Bowl at Dec. 28 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.
Army’s second season under head coach Jeff Monken is over without a bowl game for the academy’s fifth straight year and 18th of the last 19. He also has yet to beat Air Force or Navy in four tries.
Monken will need to show more progress next year. His record is similar to former coach Rich Ellerson, who was trying to change the culture by bringing in bigger bodies to compete with Air Force and Navy before being forced to hand over the program to Monken and his staff. But the Army brass soured on Ellerson during his fourth year that ended 1-7 against Air Force and Navy.
Despite the Navy’s winning streak, most years Army has been competitive. A year ago, the Black Knights were leading 7-0 late in the first half before Navy scored a touchdown with 18 seconds to left in the second quarter for a 7-7 tie en route to a 17-10 victory.
But this time the Black Knights held leads of 3-0 and 10-7 in the first quarter and 17-14 at intermission.
The game opened with Army stopping Navy’s first possession after only one first down. On the punt return, Edgar Allan Poe provided Army momentum for a 3-0 first quarter lead. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior wide receiver returned a punt 50 yards to the Navy 40. He also caught a 31-yard pass on third-and-20 for a first down to get into the red zone at the Navy 19.
But the Black Knights had to settle for Daniel Grochowski’s 32-yard field goal when the seven-play, 26-yard drive stalled. Army quarterback Chris Carter, making only his second start, threw incomplete into the end zone. CBS analyst Gary Danielson, a former Purdue and NFL quarterback, noted Carter missed an open receiver in the right flank that would have gained a first down if not a TD.
Army, of course, needed a touchdown to keep up with Navy’s high-scoring offense led by Reynolds.
True to form, Navy responded as Reynolds gained 17 yards on first down and then broke off a 58-yard touchdown run for a 7-3 lead. He cut back inside the right tackle and ran up the middle of the field to the end zone.
Army, which has struggled to score against Navy in recent years, responded with a seven-play, 82-yard drive that finished with Tyler Campbell’s 29-yard touchdown run.
The teams were trading touchdowns at this point, but that’s something Army was unable to do in recent seasons.
Reynolds scored his second touchdown on a one-yard run to take a 14-10 lead with 12:18 left in the second quarter. But Poe was again poetry in motion as he caught 39-yard touchdown pass from Carter for 17-14 intermission advantage with 2:08 left in the half. Poe finished the day catching five passes for 121 yards with his TD.
Navy’s experience in the second half was the difference. Reynolds connected with Jamir Tillman for a 50-yard touchdown pass and 21-17 lead with 5:51 left in the third quarter, although CBS analyst Gary Danielson pointed out the Midshipmen should have been called for a pick on Army safety Xavier Moss to get Tillman open.
Army responded with a drive and first down at the 19, but Carter suffered a four-yard loss to stunt the progress. Two plays later, Grochowski missed a 29-yard field goal to preserve Navy’s 21-17 lead.
Army hit a pass to the Navy 33-yard line on its next possession, but a quarterback-center snap exchange was fumbled and recovered by Navy’s Ted Colburn.
Army threatened again with a 35-yard completion to Campbell to Navy’s 45-yard line. But Army’s trick play on the next snap ended in an interception. Carter passed the ball to the left to wide receiver DeAndre Bell. But his pass was short down the middle into double coverage. Navy’s Daiquan Thomasson intercepted the ball at the four-yard line.
Army got the ball back for two final plays, including a Hail Mary that failed to connect.