By Gene Wang The Washington Post
PHILADELPHIA — The Navy football team completed its regular season resurgence on Saturday by rallying for a 17-13 victory over Army to reclaim the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, thanks to a signature performance from freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds and an opportunistic defense that preserved the result in the closing minutes at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
In the Midshipmen’s series-record 11th consecutive win before an announced crowd of 69,607, Reynolds scored on an eight-yard run with 4 minutes 41 seconds left in regulation, turning a play designed to go inside to a dash wide around the right side and reaching the end zone just inside the pylon.
Then on the Black Knights’ ensuing possession that had them with a first and 10 at the Navy 14, nose guard Barry Dabney fell on a loose ball following a poor exchange between quarterback Trent Steelman and running back Larry Dixon with 1:04 remaining, and the Midshipmen could begin celebrating their seventh win in eight games.
“This is the best I’ve ever felt after winning a football game,” said senior wide receiver Brandon Turner, who caught a 49-yard pass one play before Reynolds’ winning touchdown. “I wish I could put it into words and describe it to you. It’s phenomenal.”
Named the game’s most valuable player, Reynolds finished with 43 rushing yards on 15 carries and added 130 passing yards on 10 of 17 completions without an interception. Sophomore fullback Noah Copeland, meantime, had 99 rushing yards on 22 carries, including a 12-yard touchdown run for the first points of the game.
Steelman’s 11-yard run with 6:20 to play before halftime tied it at 7, and after the Midshipmen got a 31-yard field goal from freshman place kicker Nick Sloan, Army went ahead on a pair of field goals by senior Eric Osteen. The first came when his 41-yard bid hit the left upright but fell through on the final snap of the first half.
Osteen’s 21-yard kick with 3:36 left in the third quarter produced the only points of the period, and he had an opportunity to give Army a six-point lead, but he missed wide left on a 37-yard attempt with just less than seven minutes remaining in the game.
The Midshipmen (8-4) then took over at their 20 for the decisive drive reminiscent of when Reynolds, the first freshman since 1991 to start at quarterback for Navy, scored the tying touchdown and directed the winning drive during an 28-21 overtime triumph against Air Force on Oct. 6 in Colorado Springs, Colo. That victory coupled with Saturday’s outcome means Navy owns the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the 13th time and has run its record to 19-2 in its past 21 games against the other service academies.
“I don’t really say much to Keenan because the kid knows what he’s doing,” Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “The kid is a very, very good football player. He listens, he’s coachable. His legacy will be, will he stay hungry and stay humble? If if does those two things, that kid has a chance to go down as one of the best quarterbacks we’ve ever had here.”
Steelman, meantime, leaves West Point among the most decorated players in Army history but with an 0-4 record against Navy. He finished with 96 yards rushing and one touchdown and added 48 passing yards on 4 of 5 completions in the final game of his college football career.
Running back Raymond Maples ran for a game-high 156 yards on 27 carries as the Black Knights (2-10) rolled up 370 rushing yards and outgained Navy 418-297 in total yards. But Army wasn’t able to overcome three lost fumbles that in part allowed Navy to win in time of possession by nearly four minutes.
“It’s just unfortunate,” Steelman said. “I don’t know how else to put it. I feel like we deserved that game in every way possible, but it just didn’t happen. We were wearing them down, and there was nothing that was going to stop us, but that’s life. Things don’t go your way sometimes.”