Navy sails past South Florida late to win, 29-17; Reynolds ties NCAA TD rushing record
Annapolis, MD – The Navy Midshipman (6-1, 4-0) sustained an 80-yard scoring drive in the final period and followed up with a turnover for a second to take the lead and then distance themselves from the South Florida Bulls (4-4, 2-2) to win the American Athletic Conference game, 29-17. Both scores came on one-yard runs by Navy QB Keenan Reynolds ( 26 rushes for 125 yards and two TDs) for his 76th and 77th career rushing TDs tying the NCAA record held by Wisconsin’s Montee Ball established in 2012. For Collegefootballfan.com, we tailgated before the noon kickoff in Annapolis with our good friend and Navy season ticket holder Brian Donnelly who brought along his girlfriend Laurie (his “St. Laurie” he calls her) and some of his other family members for a pre-game tailgate get-together. The noon kickoff at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium offered CFF.com an opportunity to also attend the 8 pm kickoff this evening up at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia between No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 21 Temple. We had a big football Saturday planned. This would be our second Saturday double-header of 2015.
On a beautiful fall, Halloween afternoon in front of an unusually sparse crowd at Navy-Marine Corps (26, 766 announced), the Bulls lit up the scoreboard right away as WR Rodney Adams took the opening kickoff back 97 yards for a TD and a quick lead for the Bulls who came to town riding a three-game winning streak. The Mids came right back to cut the score 7-3 on its initial possession with Austin Grebe’s 30-yard FG. The Bulls came out again on the move getting to the Navy four after starting from its 25. LB D.J. Palmore stopped QB Quinton Flowers (12 for 20 passing, 208 yards) for a three-yard loss before Emili Nadelman’s FG attempt from 25 was good. USF converted three third down situations on the drive until that final looking like they’d be tough for the Mids to stop. Navy started a drive from its 24 heading into the second period.
FB Chris Swain (23 carries, 131 yards, one TD) broke a few tackles and headed up the right side for a 24-yard TD to even the score at 10 for each. The Bulls got into position to attempt a 46-yard FG, but Nadelman’s kick missed. Later in the period, a USF punt sailed out of bounds for a short 15 yards to put Navy at its 49. With 33 seconds left in the second, Grebe booted a 26-yard FG for a USNA lead of 13-10 at halftime.
At the half, the Navy D&B Corps performed as well as did the official Marching Band of the Washington Redskins. Established in 1937, it’s the only marching band of an NFL team, most widely known for its rendition of “Hail to the Redskins.” Brian came down to our seats in section 26 in the lower section to invite his sisters Eileen, Patsy, her husband, Barney, and me to join him in the upper deck during the second half. The stadium was not as crowded as it has been at most games we’ve attended during the past few years, and plenty of seats were available on a beautiful day for an important conference game in Navy’s first season in the AAC. I wondered why Navy fans wouldn’t be there to see the Mids compete in a conference game, something they never had a chance to do in the past. However, Barney pointed out that a lot of fans with young kids were probably out enjoying Trick or Treating with their families this day. He was probably right. We moved up to the upper deck to sit with Brian proudly wearing his yellow foam Navy ship hat. He looked ready to go trick or treating himself.
In the third, a 35-yard USF pass to Chris Barr put the Bulls at the one, and Marlon Mack carried it over from there to give the visitors the lead, 17-13. A 28-yard FG by Grebe pulled the Mids to within one, 17-16, heading into the final 15 minutes of play.
Flowers completed a 40-yard pass to Adams (3 catches for 86 yards) to Navy’s 29. On a third and four, DE Will Anthony caught Flowers from behind for a one-yard gain to cause USF to set up for a field goal attempt, but the Mids jumped offside and the Bulls got a fresh set of downs. A pass to Adams was caught out of bounds for an incompletion on third down. Nadelman’s attempt missed wide left, and Navy took over from its 20. The Mids cruised down field on nine rushes with Reynolds carrying the last six with the final one over left guard from the one to give USNA the lead, 22-17. A failed two-point conversion kept the lead at five, giving USF the opportunity to take the lead with a TD as 6:58 remained. Adams returned the kickoff to about the 40, but Myer Krah caused and recovered a fumble the give the Mids possession again at USF’s s 42. Reynolds carried for three yards, but his head was slammed hard into the turf and he came up woozy. He headed to the sideline. His backup Tago Smith took over and drove Navy to the USF 11 before Reynold’s re-entered the fray. FB Chris Swain carried seven yards to the one, and Reynolds drove it in from the one over left guard again to give the Mids a 29-17 lead with only 1:49 left. With that touchdown, he tied the NCAA record and still has five regular season games remaining for a chance to smash the record, a fine one that he will surely give full credit to his teammates.
USF gave the ball up after four downs on its 18. Their early perceived, offensive domination was adjusted well to by Navy who outgained them on the day, 444 yards to 270 with only 62 of USF’s on the ground. The game was history for both schools and CFF.com. The Mids achieved bowl eligibility with their sixth win, their twelfth in thirteen seasons. They could be playing again in Annapolis on December 28 with a bid to the Military Bowl (we will be there), but if things go better than most expect and they can go on to win the AAC championship on December 5, the bowl bid could be set on a much larger stage with a bid going to the top team among what is called The Group of Five as compared to the Power Five conferences in FBS football.
That opportunity starts next week when the Mids travel to play in the Liberty Bowl to take on the No. 15 Memphis Tigers (4-0, 4-0) with a recent 37-24 win over Ole Miss. A West Division foe with whom the Mids are in a three-way tie with along with Houston, they will have to use their solid running game to score and to keep QB Paxton Lynch and their passing game off the field to get an edge. When was the last time the Tigers faced a triple option? Probably not in a very long time. The game is slated for 7 pm. USF heads out to play East Carolina (4-5, 2-3) for an East Division AAC game with both vying for eventual bowl eligibility. CFF.com headed up I-95 North after this game to Philly to see No. 9 Notre Dame face an unexpectedly ranked No. 21 Temple at Lincoln Financial Field. (Come back after tomorrow night to check out our game report on this one). The Owls could be the team for the winner of the West to contend with for the AAC championship game. After this one, there will be two more games for Collegefootballfan.comto attend before our Tailgate Extravaganza to celebrate Game 500 on November 21!