ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) How appropriate that Keenan Reynolds’ final touchdown at Navy thrust him into the NCAA record book and secured a milestone victory for the Midshipmen.
Reynolds wrapped up his record-setting college career in spectacular fashion, running for three scores and throwing for another Monday to lead Navy past Pittsburgh 44-28 in the Military Bowl.
After the Midshipmen let a 24-point cushion dwindle to 38-28, Reynolds capped a nine-play drive with a 9-yard touchdown run with 4:19 remaining. It was his 88th career TD, breaking a tie with Kenneth Dixon of Louisiana Tech for most in Football Bowl Subdivision history.
It was classic Reynolds, given that he broke a slew of records and won a whole lot of games during his four-year run at the Naval Academy.
”To be able to seal the game and get the record at the same time is pretty cool,” the 5-foot-11 senior said.
Reynolds ran for 144 yards on 24 carries, completed 9 of 17 passes for 126 yards and had a reception for 47 yards on a trick play.
He leaves Navy (11-2) as the FBS career leader in touchdowns and points (530). His 4,559 yards rushing are the most by a quarterback in Division I history.
With Reynolds leading the way, the Midshipmen completed their first 11-win season in 135 years of football. That, more than all his personal accomplishments, is what he will remember.
”You play the game to win, so the record for wins is the one that means the most to me,” Reynolds said.
It was the first game for the Midshipmen since they beat Army and coach Ken Niumatalolo decided to stay at Navy instead of taking the head coaching job at Brigham Young.
Niumatalolo was glad he stuck around for Reynolds’ finale.
”All of Keenan’s accolades are well deserved,” the coach said. ”What an unbelievable career he’s had. Once in a generation, some of the things he’s done. We’re going to miss him.”
Qadree Ollison rushed for 73 yards and scored two touchdowns for Pitt. Nate Peterman threw a TD pass but was intercepted three times.
It all added up to a disappointing ending for the Panthers (8-5) in their first season under coach Pat Narduzzi.
”Just have to keep getting one step closer,” Narduzzi said. ”You just have to take one step at a time. Told the seniors, they laid the foundation. We’ve done a lot of great things this year.”
In the end, though, they couldn’t cope with Reynolds.
”He’s a super football player,” Narduzzi said. ”Make no mistake, there were reasons he was in the (running) for the Heisman Trophy.”
After Quadree Henderson returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for Pitt, Navy went up 21-7 at halftime and built a 31-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
Pittsburgh scored two touchdowns in 17 seconds to close to 31-21, but could not complete the comeback.
It’s the first time Navy has won three straight bowl games.
”You always want to go out with a bang,” Reynolds said, ”and to win as a team was pretty awesome.”
Playing before a sellout crowd of 36,352 in its home stadium, Navy used its triple-option attack to overwhelm a team that went 6-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and ranked 20th in the nation against the run. The Midshipmen finished with 590 yards in offense, including 417 on the ground – 114 by fullback Chris Swain.
After Henderson weaved from end zone to end zone for the game-opening score, Reynolds directed a 75-yard drive that ended with his 1-yard touchdown run.
Later in the first quarter, Reynolds capped a 14-play march with a 5-yard TD. Navy’s next touchdown came on an 11-yard pass from Reynolds to Tyler Carmona.
Niumatalolo momentarily abandoned the triple option in the third quarter in favor of a bit of trickery. Reynolds pitched the ball to fullback Shawn White, then went around the right side of the line for a catch-and-run that set up a 26-yard touchdown jaunt by Demond Brown.
”I was glad I actually caught the ball,” Reynolds said.
It was 31-7 before Nate Peterman threw a 4-yard TD pass to Ollison, and a 22-yard fumble return by Jordan Whitehead got Pitt within 10 points.
After Navy scored another touchdown, Ollison ran for a 45-yard score to make it 38-28.
But this was to be Reynolds’ day. In his final significant drive with the Midshipmen, he converted three third downs and drew the Panthers offside on a fourth-and-3.
Soon after that, he walked off the field for the final time.
”We can come back for our 20-year reunion,” Reynolds said, ”and talk about it and just kick back and laugh.”