Reynolds leads Navy to bowl victory

The Sports Xchange

December 30, 2013 at 1:52 pm.

Keenan Reynolds was the MVP the of Armed Forces Bowl. (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

FORT WORTH, Texas – Navy’s Keenan Reynolds became the first quarterback in FBS history to rush for more than 30 touchdowns in a season while leading the Midshipmen to a 24-6 victory over Middle Tennessee State on Monday in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Reynolds, the game’s MVP, rushed for 86 yards and two touchdowns. That pushed his season total to a school-record 31 rushing touchdowns. Only four players in FBS history have rushed for at least 30 touchdowns in a single season. Reynolds is the first quarterback to do so.

“It’s good to be mentioned with Barry Sanders, Montee Ball and Kapri Bibbs,” Reynolds said of the fellow members in the 30-touchdown club. “That is good company, and it was a great win for Navy.”

Navy (9-4) claimed a bowl win for the first time since 2009 and has won at least nine games in five of the last 10 years. The Midshipmen had lost five of their previous six bowls.

“Congratulations to the team and thanks to our seniors,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “It’s good to go out on a winning note and beat a fine Middle Tennessee team. I could not be prouder of these guys. It was a super win and a super year for us.

“We had a good defensive scheme and carried out our assignments. That was the key to stopping them. We really battled the entire game.”

Middle Tennessee (8-5) struggled to move the ball consistently against Navy and managed just 314 yards, with most coming after the outcome had been decided. Blue Raiders quarterback Logan Kilgore (19-of-33 for 218 yards) was forced to settle for short passes and was picked off twice.

“We said it all week, [you] can’t turn the ball over against these guys,” Kilgore said. “We knew possessions were going to be limited.”

Navy broke open a tight game with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Reynolds scored from the 1-yard line and running back DeBrandon Sanders took an option pitch 41 yards for a score that put the contest out of reach.

“Once it got to a two-score game, we knew it was going to be hard,” Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said. “We weren’t going to beat them kicking field goals. That’s why we went down there on fourth down on the first drive in the third quarter. This team gives you everything it’s got. It just plays so hard.

“Give Navy credit. They got it done there in the fourth quarter.”

The Midshipmen’s triple-option attack ground out 366 yards, with 158 coming in the fourth. They also had an Armed Forces Bowl-record 21 rushing first downs.

The Midshipmen drove right down the field on their first possession, keeping the ball on the ground the entire way. Reynolds took it the last 3 yards for his 30th touchdown this season.

The Blue Raiders responded the first time they touched the ball, as kicker Cody Clark drilled a career-long 43-yard field goal.

The Midshipmen tacked on a 32-yard field goal from kicker Nick Sloan early in the second quarter for a 10-3 lead.
Clark added a 24-yard field goal for Middle Tennessee to close the margin to 10-6 at halftime.

Both teams wasted scoring chances in the third quarter deep in opponent territory. Middle Tennessee was stuffed on fourth down at the Navy 6-yard line, while the Midshipmen lost a fumble on the Blue Raiders’ 7.

Notes: Navy and Middle Tennessee met for the first time. … Middle Tennessee has been bowl eligible in four of the last five seasons. The Blue Raiders are 3-5 all-time in bowls. … Navy improved to 8-10-1 in bowl games. … Two players were ejected: Blue Raiders linebacker Roderic Blunt and Navy defensive back Wave Ryder. … Middle Tennessee linebacker T.T. Barber had school bowl-record 14 tackles.