The best and worst of Navy football 2013

The best and worst of Navy football 2013

Navy's 2013 football season was full of highs and even had a few low moments. Look inside for the best and worst of Navy football 2013.

THE BEST MOMENTS OF 2013

The Brilliance of Keenan Reynolds

Sophomore Keenan Reynolds had an amazing season. Reynolds finished the season with 1,346 rushing yards and a record setting 31 rushing touchdowns for a quarterback. He threw for 1,057 passing yards and eight touchdowns against only two interceptions as he accounted for 39 total touchdowns. He scored 188 points which shattered the old school record set by Bill Ingram in 1917. Reynolds was named the Independent team's Offensive Player of the Year. Reynolds play can't be simply be quantified in statistics or awards. It's his ability as a playmaker, his toughness, his precision in running the offense and the confidence he inspires in his teammates that makes him a great player. He is a special player who has that magic "it" that you want in a quarterback. Navy had lost that mojo at QB when Ricky Dobbs graduated. It's easy to forget now but between September 17, 2011 and September 29, 2012 the Mids lost 10 of 14 games. Reynolds changed that as a plebe when he came off the bench to replace an injured Trey Miller against Air Force and led the Mids to a comeback 28-21 overtime victory. Reynolds has compiled a 15-6 record (71.4% winning percentage) as a starter since that game. He's only a sophomore and he is already the best Navy quarterback in the triple option era.

Navy makes it an even dozen over Army
This never gets old. Some younger fans take it for granted. Others feel sympathy for the Black Knights. Shortly after I started following Navy football the Cadets, they were cadets back then, defeated the Midshipmen in eleven out of fifteen years. I remember the five straight losses (1992-1996) by a total of ten points. Many Navy fans my age remember the wide right chant the year after Ryan Bucchianeri missed a chip shot field goal. The 96-yard Army touchdown drive in 1995 after Navy head coach Charlie Weatherbie passed up a field goal to make it a two score game. The current winning streak isn't one of luck. It represents the difference between the two programs since 2002. Navy has produce a 94- 59 record (61.4%) while Army has posted a miserable 36-108 (250%) mark. Army has just hired its sixth head coach since 2002. Navy's 12-game run is the longest in the history of the rivalry that began in 1890. Beat Army indeed.

The Commander-in-Chief's Trophy dominance
Navy won their second consecutive Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Last year Navy defeated their two rivals in nail bitters. The Mids beat Air Force 28-21 on the road in a comeback overtime win. Against Army they recovered a fumbled mesh Army handoff to hang on to a hard fought 17-13 victory. This year there was no suspense. Navy dominated the other struggling service academy programs as they beat Air Force 28-10, and Army 34-7, by a combined 45 points. The Mids, after a two year hiatus between 2010-2011, have reestablished themselves as the dominate service academy program. Navy has won 21 of the last 23 meetings against Air Force and Army. The Mids have won nine Commander-in-Chief's Trophies in the last 11 years.

The Bowl Win over the Middle Tennessee State
Navy football's goals are the same each season; Beat Army, win the Commanders-in-Chief Trophy, win at least eight games and make a bowl game. For all their success under Ken Niumatalolo he had a disappointing 1-4 record in bowl games entering this past season's Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. In his previous two bowl appearances the Mids had been outscored 97-42. Athletic director Chet Gladchuk surprisingly said before the game that, "last year (a 62-28 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl loss to Arizona State) was a national embarrassment." Hopefully this year's bowl should end Gladchuk's "embarrassment". Navy defeated the Middle Tennessee State 24-6 in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. The Navy defense ended the season playing their best game. The defense held the Blue Raiders high powered offense to just two field goals. Ken Niumatalolo won his first bowl game since the 2009 victory against Missouri. Gladchuk and all Navy fans should appreciate the outstanding job Ken Niumatalolo has done.

A must win over the Pitt Panthers
The Midshipmen had lost three of previous four games entering its game against Pitt. The season was on the brink. The Panthers entered the game on a roll having won four of their previous five games. The Navy Midshipmen produced 17 fourth quarter points to rally and beat Pitt 24-21 on Homecoming day at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Kicker Nick Sloan hit the 30-yard game winning field goal as time ran out to give the Mids a much needed victory. It didn't look good early as Pitt dominated the first half and Keenan Reynolds injured his leg. Reynolds was able to tough it out, play through the pain and get the Mids offense in gear. Reynolds directed touchdown drives 91 and 71- yards in the fourth quarter. This win saved the season.

Reynolds knows the way to beat San Jose State
Navy outlasted San Jose State 58-52 in a wild shoot triple overtime shootout. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds set an NCAA record with seven rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single game. San Jose State led at half time and had a 30-24 fourth quarter lead. Navy took a 38-30 lead when San Jose State head coach Ron Caragher had his team allow Keenan Reynolds to score on a 20-yard run so they can get the ball back. It worked as Spartans quarterback David Fales drove 75-yards and hit Kyle Nunn for the touchdown and then for an amazing two point conversion to force overtime. Navy safety Parrish Gaines' interception set up Keenan Reynolds game winning 25-yard touchdown run in the third overtime. Reynolds ran for a touchdown on each of the last five Navy offensive possessions. Reynolds was limping noticeably after the game. It was a tremendous team effort but Reynolds refused to allow the Mids to lose this game by his sheer will.

THE WORST MOMENTS OF 2013

Luck of the Irish
Navy, after being pounded 106-24 in blowout losses the previous two years, fell just short of upsetting Notre Dame in South Bend. Navy's wide receiver Shawn Lynch was stopped on fourth down on an end-around on the Mids final drive in Irish territory. The Fighting Irish prevailed 38-34 in a back and forth game that saw nine lead changes. Navy's offense produced 419 yards of total offense and 28 first downs. Navy had no turnovers, no penalties and held the ball for 37:36 while the Irish had it just 22:24. The Navy defense never forced the Irish offense to punt as they racked up 506 yards of total offense and averaged nine yards a play. Navy had destiny in their hands but a pitch slipped out on Reynolds and it put the Mids third and long. Reynolds gave the Mids a chance with a 10-yard completion to setup the fourth-and-4 end around that fell short. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo and his staff had a tremendous plan and executed it well on offense. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper called a masterful game against ND with his use of misdirection, counter option and heavy formations. He had the Fighting Irish defense on their heels all day. His final play call an end around by wide receiver Shawn Lynch was stopped only because left tackle Bradlyn Heap missed all three players he could have blocked. Lynch may have scored if the usually reliable Heap had made his block.

Toledo torpedoes Navy
The Navy Midshipmen lost a 45-44 double overtime heartbreaker on the road to the Toledo Rockets. Navy took a 14-10 lead into halftime as the Navy defense held the high powered Rockets to just three points. The shootout everyone was expecting occurred in the second half as the Rockets ran for three touchdowns to take a 31-21 lead. Down ten point in the fourth quarter, the Mids put together a 96-yard drive that was capped off by Reynolds had a 3-yard touchdown run to pull navy within three points. Navy forced a punt and Nick Sloan hit a 43-yard field goal to tie the score at 31-31. The teams traded touchdowns in overtime .Kicker Nick Sloan missed the extra point after Geoffrey Whiteside 6-yard touchdown run. Toledo scored and kicked the extra point on their possession for the one point victory. Poor tackling, not Buddy Green's game plan, cost the Mids this game more than the kicking struggles. The Mids battled from ten points down with six minutes to force overtime. I'm still amazed that Navy lost a game where they had 35 first downs. Navy's 106 plays set a school record as they produced 514 yards. The defense allowed the high powered Rockets just three points in the first half. Yet it came down to a missed extra point. This was the most frustrating loss this season in my opinion because the Mids were the better team.

A Western Kentucky beat down
The Mids entered the game leading the nation in rushing average after two season opening wins where they looked unstoppable. It looked like business as usual as Navy scored on their opening drive against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers They were shut down the rest of the way and lost 19-7. Western Kentucky held Navy to just 107 rushing yards. The Hilltoppers outgained Navy 417-183 in total offense. Navy was unable to generate any offensive drives after starting quarterback Keenan Reynolds was knocked out of the game. Backup quarterback John Hendrick replaced the injured Reynolds and struggled to move the team behind a beat up offensive line. Navy was out played, out hit and out coached in this one. Career ending injuries
The Mids suffered a few career ending injuries to key players in 2013. Starting tackle Graham Vickers suffered a concussion when he was blindsided late by a cheap shot in the Western Kentucky game. The doctors ended his career. Talented free safety Chris Ferguson had battled health issues and so much more to become a starter. He saw the likely end of his career with a concussion sustained against Notre Dame. Starting wide receiver and team captain Matt Aiken suffered a knee injury after being hit following catching a pass against San Jose State. He missed playing in his last Army game and the bowl game.

Duke Dominates
The Midshipmen were dominated by the Duke Blue Devils 35-7 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina in front of a sparse crowd in October. Duke quarterback Anthony Boone threw three touchdown passes in his first game back from injury. Navy was able to move the ball in the first half but costly penalties, a fumble and a missed field goal allowed Duke to build a 14-7 halftime lead. In the second half Duke scored touchdowns on their first three possessions and pull away. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper tried to make Duke pay for selling out against the run by passing the ball but the Mids rebuilt offensive line struggled in pass protection. The five penalties and three turnovers killed any chance of Navy making it a competitive game by destroying some promising drives. The Blue Devils shutout Navy's offense the rest of the way. Duke coach David Cutcliffe's passing attack has been victorious and ripped Buddy Green's defense apart in all three games between the two teams since he's been Duke's head coach. While this was an ugly loss, by the end of the season it was clear that Duke was the better team.

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