Navy runs past Middle Tennessee 24-6 in AF Bowl
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP)
Keenan Reynolds has two more seasons at Navy and a chance to join another select group of players.
A half-century after Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl champion Roger Staubach won the Heisman Trophy playing for the Midshipmen, their current quarterback is now only the fourth player to rush for more than 30 touchdowns in a season.
Reynolds ran for two more TDs, giving the sophomore 31 this year, and Navy ended the season with a 24-6 victory over Middle Tennessee on Monday in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Already with the NCAA record for touchdowns rushing by a quarterback, Reynolds put Navy (9-4) ahead to stay with a 3-yard score to cap the opening drive of the game. He added a 1-yarder in the fourth quarter, his 31st to match Colorado State running back Kapri Bibbs for the national lead.
''It's huge. You just say the name Barry Sanders and you can stop right there,'' Reynolds said. ''He probably was the greatest college player there was. Just to be even in that conversation with guys like that is a humbling experience. I never thought I would be in that category.''
Navy ran on 67 of its 74 plays and piled up 366 yards rushing while winning its fifth consecutive game. Reynolds had 20 carries for 86 yards, and eight other players had multiple carries - half of them gaining at least 37 yards. DeBrandon Sanders ran 41 yards for a score on the second play after an interception in the fourth quarter.
''That's a great testament to who we are. Just we're an unselfish team,'' Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. ''We're going to take what people give us. It's kind of been our thing all year. There are a lot of guys that carry the ball, and we're an unselfish team. Everybody knows if it's their turn to carry the ball, they're going to do the best they can.''
But when asked what makes Navy's triple-option work so well, Niumatalolo pointed at Reynolds.
''It's hard to simulate on a scout team what Navy does,'' Blue Raiders coach Rick Stockstill said.
Middle Tennessee (8-5) was held to a season low in points and without a touchdown for the only time. That was after a five-game winning streak when they averaged nearly 43 points a game- since a 34-7 loss on Oct. 12 at North Texas, about 40 miles away from the TCU campus where the bowl was played.
''This was the first time we kept a team completely out of the end zone. It was huge to finish like this,'' senior linebacker Cody Peterson said.
Reynolds lost two fumbles, matching his total during the regular season, but Middle Tennessee failed to convert either of those miscues into points. Both fumbles were recovered by sophomore linebacker T.T. Barber, the game's defensive MVP, after Navy drove inside the 20.
Down 10-6 at halftime, the Blue Raiders moved to the Navy 7 on the opening drive of the second half. They went for it on fourth down instead of trying a short field goal. But fullback Corey Carmichael managed only a yard before getting taken down by Travis Bridges and George Jamison, who also had an interception.
The Blue Raiders got their only points on a pair of Cody Clark field goals, 43 yards to end their opening drive of the game and later a 24-yarder.
Middle Tennessee played in a bowl one year after getting snubbed with the same 8-4 record in the regular season. That was in the Sun Belt Conference before moving to Conference USA this season.
''Well, last season we didn't get a bowl game. We had something to prove,'' Barber said. ''Having another eight-win season this year was a great accomplishment.''