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Reynolds heads to ND nearing NCAA record

| Friday, October 9, 2015

Facing Navy senior quarterback Keenan Reynolds is nothing new for Notre Dame: The Irish have done it each of the past three years, the last two as the Midshipmen’s starter.

That doesn’t make the team’s task any easier this Saturday, though.

Reynolds spearheads the triple-option offense showcased by Navy (4-0, 2-0 AAC), leading the team’s rush-heavy attack with 122 yards per game on the ground and nine scores. He and senior running back Chris Swain have combined to take 155 of the Midshipmen’s 234 total carries this season and 849 of the team’s 1,359 total rushing yards.

“You feel like you can’t say enough good things about their quarterback,” Irish graduate student linebacker Joe Schmidt said. “He does a good job running their system, getting them in and out of the right plays. He’s careful with the football.”

The Irish (4-1) have already faced a similar challenge earlier this season in stopping Georgia Tech redshirt junior quarterback Justin Thomas, who they were able to hold to 27 rushing yards and 121 passing yards.

Senior defensive lineman Sheldon Day said the team’s previous experience against the triple option has given it the key to how to control it.

“Stop the big play going up the middle for a lot of yards or stopping the quarterback. It’s about giving them different looks and making sure we confuse them as best as possible,” Day said.

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson installed the triple option at Navy when he was the head coach there from 2002 to 2007, and Ken Niumatalolo, the team’s current head coach, has kept it in place in his eight years in Annapolis.

“We know we’ve got our hands full to stop a very potent offensive attack,” Kelly said. “Coach [Niumatalolo] does a great job of utilizing multiple formations, multiple looks in running their offense. Obviously, the quarterback has played against us for four years. We’re very aware of him and have a great deal of respect for the Naval Academy and what they represent.”

The Irish are also aware — some to a higher degree than others — of a milestone Reynolds is currently chasing as he closes out his four years at the Naval Academy. The quarterback, who has scored 73 career rushing touchdowns, is five more runs to the end zone short of breaking former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball’s all-time NCAA record of 77. Reynolds’ current mark is second-most all-time and the most of any quarterback in history.

“I think I heard earlier in the week that he’s closing in on a record, so anytime you’re able to do that as a player he’s definitely done a lot of things right,” Schmidt said. “Tremendous amount of respect as a player, and we’re looking forward to playing him on Saturday.”

However, Kelly said it’s important to Notre Dame’s cause that Reynolds doesn’t make history so soon.

“We certainly don’t want him to get the record, although it’s a great achievement,” Kelly said. “If he’s to get that record, they’re going to have a great day here, and we can’t afford for him to do that.”

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound quarterback leads the offense that has outscored its opponents’ in its last eight consecutive games and 10 of its last 11. Reynolds is also the winningest starting quarterback in program history, with 25 career victories under his belt.

“They will play harder and longer than anybody else, and that’s our challenge: We need to match that and do everything we can to try to exceed that, and that’s an incredible job for us,” Schmidt said.

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Current Assistant Managing Editor, former Sports Editor of The Observer | Follow Mary on Twitter: @maryegreen15

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