QB Keenan Reynolds set the NCAA's all-time single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in Navy's 34-7 win over Army on Saturday. (USA Today Images)
A nation-high mark in rushing touchdowns (29). A school-record in points (174). And an NCAA-record in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (29).
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds had himself quite a game -- and quite a season.
And yet on an afternoon when he hit three individual milestones, the sophomore said they all paled in comparison to the mark he and his teammates earned in the win column with a 34-7 victory over Army (see Instant Replay).
“Coming into the game, I wasn’t too concerned about the record,” said Reynolds, who scored rushing touchdown No. 27, 28 and 29 Saturday. But...
“My main concern was trying to get the W," he said. "So if that involved me getting zero touchdowns and everybody else running and having a field day, then I was cool with that.
“Fortunately enough, I was able to get it into the end zone a few times.”
A few times, while accurate, was the quarterback’s way of downplaying his performance Saturday. In reality, he was the key to his team’s success.
Reynolds ran 30 times for 136 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, leading Navy (8-4) to its 12th straight win over Army (3-9). He led the Midshipmen's run-heavy offense to 343 yards on the ground in sloppy conditions that only worsened as the afternoon continued.
His second rushing touchdown of the game, scored with 6:22 left in the fourth quarter, was the one that set the NCAA record for most rushing touchdowns scored by a quarterback in a single season.
It also iced the game, encapsulating just about everything Reynolds means to this Navy team.
The drive began at the Navy 47 with 11:18 to play and the Midshipmen up, 20-7. Keen to put the game out of reach for good, head coach Ken Niumatalolo decided the best plan of attack was to ride his star 53 yards for a score. So that’s exactly what he did.
Reynolds rushed the ball seven times on the eight-play drive, including on six straight plays that culminated in his 11-yard touchdown. The drive ate up nearly five minutes of game time, put Navy up by 21, and assured that the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy would be returning with the team to Annapolis.
“It just happened to be the way the ball bounced on that drive,” Reynolds said of the impressive fourth-quarter drive. “I was fortunate enough to get the ball in my hands six times and make something happen. Army had been doing a good job of keeping me in check the whole game.”
He credited his offensive linemen with making the task of running 30 times in swirling snow and mushy conditions at least a little more manageable.
“It starts up front,” Reynolds said. “Those guys have been chugging away all year, a lot of those guys are banged up, and I can’t say enough about how they played and the composure they kept throughout the game.”
Coach Niumatalolo also tried to adopt the team-first mentality that Reynolds pushed in his thoughts on the game.
“I was pleased with all of our players,” Niumatalolo said. “I don’t know if I can single anybody out.”
But in the very next sentence he showed his hand, at least a little bit.
“Obviously Keenan got the record," the coach said. "I’m very happy for him. He’s been a major part of our team.”
With the Heisman trophy presentation Saturday night and his star quarterback leading the country in total touchdowns as a sophomore, the Navy coach faced a few questions about whether he believed Reynolds belonged in New York, vying for the 25-pound bronze statue.
“I think [Reynolds] deserves to be there,” Niumatalolo said. “He’s as good a quarterback that I’ve been around.” The coach appeared to begin formulating an argument for Reynolds’s presence in New York on Saturday night before thinking better of it and taking the high road.
“Not to take anything away from the guys who are there, because all those guys are very deserving,” he said.
“I think Keenan had one heck of a year, too.”
Reynolds himself chose an even less confrontational answer.
“It’s not for me to judge,” the quarterback said about being up for the award. “The only thing I can do is to come out here and do my best and do my job and let the rest take care of itself.”
He did his job, and now Navy has one more game left, a showdown with Middle Tennessee in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 30.
But with the way Reynolds described his first career experience with snow football, it sounds like Saturday’s win would have been a perfect ending to his season.
“It was kind of storybook Army-Navy. Cold, snowing, grind it out type of game," he said. "Couldn’t ask for too much better.”
Couldn’t put it too much better, either.