Navy freshman Keenan Reynolds entered the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Army-Navy game in Philadephia with 13 rushing yards on 12 carries. He’d completed six of 10 passes for a little more than 60 yards. With seven minutes to play, down 13-10, Reynolds’ day went from underwhelming to the verge of unbelievable.
“Before the drive started, I told the guys, ‘This is the one,'” Reynolds told reporters at Lincoln Financial Field after he’d completed a seven play, 80-yard drive that earned him the game’s most valuable player award and a place in Army-Navy history.
How he and the Mids did it:
Play 1: Sophomore Noah Copeland gets his 22nd carry of the game, gaining his 98th and 99th yards. The Navy workhorse set a personal record for carries in a contest — his longest came on a 12-yard score in the second quarter. Aside from that score, his presence running into the gut of the Army defense went mostly unheralded, but it helped set the Black Knights up for what was coming later.
Play 2: Reynolds hits senior slotback Bo Snelson with a pass. Snelson drops it. With about five minutes left to play, the freshman has his team on its own 22-yard line, facing a critical, long, third-down conversion. It turned out to be the last third down of the drive.
Play 3: Reynolds finds sophomore reserve slotback Geoffrey Whiteside for a 10-yard gain, resetting the down markers.
Play 4: After escaping an Army rush, Reynolds fires a bullet to junior wideout Matt Aiken, who has it jarred loose by an Army defender. Aiken had already caught two passes in the game, one of five targets to that point for the freshman.
Play 5: Another escape, rolling right, as Reynolds breaks Army’s outside containment to rack up 11 yards on the ground.
Play 6: Remember those five targets from earlier? The sixth target had spoken up earlier about his lack of participation.
“I wasn’t jealous, I was just more frustrated because we weren’t doing so hot,” senior wideout Brandon Turner said after the game. He’d kept quiet for most of the contest until senior slotback Gee Gee Greene began speaking up, wondering why the Mids weren’t targeting their outside threats.
“If he’s saying it,” Turner said, “It’s not going to sound so selfish if I do.”
Turner made his case to Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper — the 6-foot-4 senior had a height advantage over the Army secondary and likely a speed advantage. The Black Knights, thanks to Copeland and the traditional Navy run attack, didn’t have a safety deep, even in the fourth quarter with a lead. Turner faced single coverage from 6-foot Army freshman Chris Carnegie; Reynolds found him.
“I’ll let you guys in on a little secret. I literally did nothing on that catch,” Turner said. “I … just outside released and ran to the ball. Keenan put it perfect. I just reached my hands out and it just found my hands.”
The 49-yard bomb sent the Navy faithful in Lincoln Financial Field into a near-meltdown and set up first-and-goal on the Army 8.
Play 7: Reynolds was supposed to run up the middle. But Army had the middle stuffed. It didn’t matter. Reynolds hung a right and headed into the end zone unchallenged.
“They clogged everything up,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “It’s not really designed to go there, but he bounced it out. There was a guy actually unblocked on the edge, he just made him miss.”
After an extra point and an Army drive that cracked the hearts of Black Knights fans everywhere, Reynolds and the Mids had secured an 11th straight rivalry win and the Commander in Chief’s Trophy.
“It’s the greatest game I’ve ever been a part of,” Reynolds said.