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QB Reynolds propels top triple-option attack

Mike Monaco | Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tahj Boyd. Teddy Bridgewater. Johnny Manziel. Marcus Mariota. AJ McCarron. Braxton Miller.

These six star quarterbacks and 28 of the other best quarterbacks in the nation were named to the 2013 Davey O’Brien Award Watch List in July. But the watch list for the O’Brien Award, presented annually to the nation’s best college quarterback, featured just one true sophomore: Keenan Reynolds.

Navy’s sophomore quarterback earned the preseason recognition beside the likes of the aforementioned Heisman candidates. Since then, Reynolds has powered the Midshipmen offensively, racking up 546 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground in addition to throwing for 667 yards and four scores.

“They’re led offensively by Reynolds, outstanding quarterback who has really been the catalyst for their offense,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday.

Navy’s triple-option attack has averaged 292.1 rushing yards per game this season, good for 10th in the nation. Reynolds is tied for ninth in the country and first among quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns with 11. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder is fourth among quarterbacks in rushing yards per game at 78.0, ahead of Miller, Mariota and Manziel.

In Navy’s 24-21 come-from-behind win over Pittsburgh on Saturday, Reynolds scampered for 93 yards, including a 2-yard rumble to tie the game at 21 with less than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. On the Midshipmen’s next drive, Reynolds churned out another 18 yards to set up the game-winning field goal. As a team, Navy (4-3) rushed for 220 yards against the Panthers.

“Navy runs the triple option better than anybody in the country,” Kelly said. “I mean, it’s what they do. And they have so many variations off of it, just little variations that make a huge difference, splits, the preciseness of how they run it may not to the untrained eye look like much but it’s a real big difference.”

Kelly said having just faced another triple-option team in Air Force is beneficial in the attempt to stymie the Midshipmen. The Irish (6-2) did surrender 290 total rushing yards to the Falcons, but Air Force ran 12 times for 101 yards (8.4 per carry) in the first quarter and 53 times for just 189 yards (3.6 per carry) in the final three quarters.

“Certainly from our standpoint, the most important thing for us is to be disciplined again defensively,” Kelly said. “In one respect having gone against Air Force and having the principles of option already repped out is an advantage. But certainly [Navy has] seen us and how we defend the option as well. So that gives them a week to do some things as well.”

Aside from defending the option, Reynolds presents a passing threat Navy hasn’t possessed since former star quarterback Ricky Dobbs was under center. Since 2003, Navy is 18-1 when throwing 0-5 times in a game and 61-14 when throwing 10 or fewer passes. In that same timeframe, the Midshipmen are 26-34 when they throw it 11 times or more and 6-13 when they reach at least 16 pass attempts.

But against the Panthers on Saturday, Reynolds attempted 18 throws (completing eight for 105 yards, a touchdown and an interception) and Navy earned a crucial victory to jump back over the .500 mark.

With Reynolds as the starting quarterback, The Midshipmen are 6-5 when throwing at least 11 times.

“You know he can throw the ball extremely well,” Kelly said. “And so he gives you that option, no pun intended, that he can, if you’re just sitting on playing the triple option, he can throw the ball effectively.”

Reynolds is 10-5 in his career as the starting quarterback, and Saturday’s victory – during which Navy was trailing entering the final quarter – was already the fourth fourth-quarter comeback win of the sophomore’s career.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu