Quarterback change to Reynolds sparking Navy

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Photo - David Zalubowski/AP
Keenan Reynolds followed up a comeback victory over Air Force two weeks ago by leading a drubbing of Central Michigan.
David Zalubowski/AP Keenan Reynolds followed up a comeback victory over Air Force two weeks ago by leading a drubbing of Central Michigan.
Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Reynolds already looks like next star for Midshipmen

Even before he started his first game for Navy, coach Ken Niumatalolo labeled freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds "special" and compared him to former Midshipmen Heisman Trophy candidate Ricky Dobbs.

After Reynolds propelled Navy to a 31-13 victory at Central Michigan on Friday, there was no need for Niumatalolo to temper his assessment. Instead, he simply could contemplate an exciting future with Reynolds as his quarterback.

In his starting debut, Reynolds threw three touchdown passes, accomplishing a feat no quarterback for the run-oriented Mids had done since Chris McCoy in 1997. On Monday, Reynolds was named FBS independent offensive player of the week.

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

"Every time the guy goes out there, he amazes you," Niumatalolo said. "The thing that's unbelievable about this kid is we haven't had to pare back our offense."

Trailing at Air Force in the fourth quarter Oct. 6, Navy was contemplating a disastrous 1-4 start and a third straight failure to win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. But when starting quarterback Trey Miller suffered an ankle injury, Reynolds entered and led a stunning comeback for a 28-21 overtime victory.

Six days later in Mount Pleasant, Mich., Reynolds guided the Mids to the type of victory they have become known for over the last decade -- no turnovers, two penalties and domination of the clock. They possessed the ball for 35:47 to 24:13 for Central Michigan.

After Navy committed 12 turnovers in its first five games, including 10 by Miller, the Mids are back thanks largely to a change at quarterback.

"The blueprint for our success was this past [game] -- run the ball, eat the clock," Niumatalolo said. "That's how we've gotta win."

Reynolds stats weren't spectacular. He completed six of 11 passes for 134 yards and ran 24 times for 59 yards. But his knack for making big plays was evident, and most importantly he made the right decisions in the triple-option offense, playing error-free.

The 5-foot-11, 199-pound Reynolds came from Goodpasture Christian, a perennial power in the suburbs of Nashville, Tenn. Navy offensive line coach Ashley Ingram, who handles recruiting in talent-rich Tennessee, immediately liked what he saw, knowing Reynolds' size would scare off top-level schools but would not be hindrance in the offense of the Mids. After last season was over, Ingram said he made weekly visits to woo Reynolds.

"His high school coach [David Martin] said, 'I've been doing this for 40 years, and he's the best I've had,'?" Ingram said. "He said, 'Whether he's the fastest or strongest or this or that, he's just got it.' He's a guy I trust and have a lot of respect for, so that went a long way in us being on it."

Reynolds was contacted by some BCS conference schools, but they wanted him to walk on and move to wide receiver or defensive back. Ultimately Reynolds decided among Air Force, Wofford and Navy.

"I prayed about it, felt like God led me this way," Reynolds said.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kevin Dunleavy

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner