Navy freshman QB Reynolds sparks turnaround

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Reynolds leads Mids to four straight wins

Like many in Annapolis, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo lost electricity at his home as Hurricane Sandy arrived on Monday. But there's been no power outage this month with his triple-option offense.

Saturday in a 56-28 victory at East Carolina, Navy rushed for 512 yards, its most in a game since visiting the same Pirates two years ago. It was the fourth straight win for Navy (5-3), completing a perfect month in which the Mids rediscovered their mistake-free, milk-clocking formula.

"One of our best weapons is the fact that we can hold the ball," slot back Bo Snelson said. "If our defense can make a couple stops, we can turn those into big chunks of possessions that burn the clock out. That's the way we really win football games."

Up Next
Florida Atlantic at Navy
When » Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Where » Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis
TV » CBS Sports Network

The agent for change has been freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who has started the last three games after rallying Navy to a 28-21 overtime win at Air Force.

In four games in September, the Mids rushed for an average of 217 yards and committed 12 turnovers. In four games this month, they rushed for an average of 323 yards and had only one turnover.

After playing in the Delaware Wing-T offense in high school, Reynolds came straight to Annapolis from Goodpasture Christian (Tenn.). His quick grasp of the offense has been a revelation.

"We weren't really sure how he would adapt," Niumatalolo said. "But I've been so impressed with his mechanics and learning the nuances of the triple option. He's a very astute student of the game. He's picked up things very, very quickly, quicker than anyone I've been around."

Though Navy doesn't throw much, Reynolds' passing numbers are stellar: 27-for-42, 413 yards and six touchdowns. His efficiency rating of 189.3 would lead the nation if he had enough attempts.

With 246 yards in 68 rushes (3.6 yards per carry), Reynold's running numbers are mediocre, but his ability to read defenses, make decisions and protect the ball has keyed the team's rushing surge.

The mantra of the Navy offense is, take what the defense gives. On Saturday, East Carolina was intent on taking away between-the-tackles runs of fullback Noah Copeland, so Reynolds worked the outside.

In 40 combined carries, the slot backs produced 350 yards, their second most since Navy converted to the triple option a decade ago. Senior Gee Gee Greene (14 carries, 131 yards), Snelson (nine carries, 67 yards) and sophomore Geoffrey Whiteside (seven carries, 55 yards) found plenty of room on the flanks.

"He made the right reads," Snelson said. "He got the ball to where it needed to be."

A month ago, Navy was coming off one of its most demoralizing losses in years, 12-0 at home to San Jose State. At 1-3, the hope of going to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl seemed to be fading. But Saturday against Florida Atlantic (2-6), Navy can clinch its trip to San Francisco, thanks largely to the work of a player less than six months removed from high school.

"[Reynolds has] got such an even-keel, even demeanor about him," Niumatalolo said. "I think the way he is kind of permeates to the rest of the team. They realize this young man is a very special football player."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kevin Dunleavy

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner