ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — It was only fitting that on a momentous day for Navy football, the Midshipmen’s record-setting quarterback Keenan Reynolds continued to etch his name in the history books.
Reynolds ran for five touchdowns and 142 yards as Navy dominated East Carolina in its American Athletic Conference debut with a 45-21 victory on Saturday.
Reynolds already owns the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 70 and is now fourth overall for the most by any player.
Reynolds has scored three touchdowns or more in 13 games–the most in NCAA history. His five rushing touchdowns is also an AAC record.
“He’s so business-like and gets things done,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said about Reynolds. “There are so many things that happen over the course of the game and he makes it look easy. We’re going to be a hard team to defend with Keenan because he has seen everything.”
East Carolina (1-2, 0-1 AAC) had held seven of its past 15 opponents to less than 100 rushing yards. Navy (2-0, 1-0 AAC) had 415 on the ground. Fullback Chris Swain went over 100 yards for the second straight game, finishing with 123 on a career-high 29 carries and a touchdown.
Pirates quarterback Blake Kemp completed 36 of his 49 passes for 325 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Isaiah Jones caught 10 passes for 130 yards.
In the first half, Navy scored on all of its four possessions on drives of 68, 56, 70 and 85 yards for a 28-14 lead.
“It’s just good to get off to a good start in the conference,” Reynolds said. “It’s just one game and we have another one next week against a tough UConn team.”
The Pirates tried to keep Navy off-balance with a no-huddle offense. However, it was the Midshipmen who took the lead on their first possession, helped by runs of 23 and 11 yards by slotback Dishan Romine. Reynolds capped the drive with a sneak from the one.
East Carolina responded with a 2-yard pass from Kemp to Jimmy Williams with 2:45 left in the first quarter.
The Midshipmen relied on their bruising fullbacks, led by Swain and Quentin Ezell, to control the ground attack. This helped setup Reynolds’ second touchdown on a 2-yard dive to open the second quarter.
After East Carolina’s Davis Plowman missed a 48-yard field goal attempt, Navy responded with two more touchdowns on 2-yard sneak by Reynolds and another 4-yard run by Swain.
“Keenan Is a fine quarterback and the fullbacks gave us problems,” East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill said. “Keenan has been running this offense for four years, his 33rd straight start. You can tell he’s been there and he’s tough as all get out.”
Navy linebacker Daniel Gonzales was ejected late in the second quarter for targeting. This set up a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kemp to Bryce Williams.
Navy’s defense came up with big plays in the third quarter as the offense sputtered. Will Anthony stuffed Kemp on a 4th and 1 and then recovered a fumble on the Pirates’ 17-yard line on a sack by Amos Mason. Reynolds took advantage with a 2-yard run boosted the lead to 35-14 to open the fourth quarter.
“I think we played very well and very sound,” Anthony said. “Up front, I think we played one of our best games.”
The Pirates cut the lead on the next possession when Kemp found Bryce Williams on an 8-yard score. Navy responded with an 11-play, 75 yard score with Reynolds running in from the 17 to make it 42-14. Tyler Goble’s first career interception set up Austin Grebe’s 25-yard field goal to round out the scoring.
“We didn’t score enough and we knew going into the game we would have to capitalize on our possessions because they don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Kemp said. “We didn’t do it.”
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