Commentary: Different teams, different schools, different results
By Joe Biddle, Columnist
The two teams could not have been more different.
The same could be said about the two schools that met in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth Monday.
About the only fact Middle Tennessee State and Navy shared was 8-4 records.
As a state school, MTSU had a fall enrollment of 23,881 students, making it one of the largest undergrad enrollments in Tennessee. The Naval Academy at Annapolis is a service academy. Its graduates earn military commissions and are bound to serve their country for five years after graduation. Its current enrollment is 4,526 undergrads.
Keenan Reynolds is one of those midshipmen. He played high school football at Goodpasture Christian School in Madison and his family lives in Antioch.
Reynolds is Navy’s quarterback. Although only a sophomore, he operates the triple option offense like a seasoned sailor.
Reynolds was a thorn in MTSU’s side all day. He scored from three yards out in the first quarter to put the Midshipmen up 7-3. It was a 59-yard drive in 10 plays. During that drive, he ran four times for a 5.8 yards a carry average.
MTSU never got a lead in the game. Reynolds and Co. played keep-away from the Blue Raiders, providing a frustrating day for Coach Rick Stockstill’s team.
Navy held the ball for 37 minutes to MTSU’s 23 minutes. Navy piled up 26 first downs, was 8 of 14 on third down conversions.
Reynolds was the difference. Voted the MVP of the bowl game, Reynolds led a ground game that gobbled up 385 yards on 67 carries.
With his two short touchdown runs, Reynolds became one of four college players to score more than 30 rushing touchdowns in a season. The others were Heisman winner Barry Sanders, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball and Colorado State’s Karl Bibbs.
“You just say the name Barry Sanders and you can stop right there," Reynolds said. “Just to even be in the conversation with guys like that is a humbling experience. I never thought I’d be in that category. But like I have said many times, it takes 11 guys to make the play go."
Last season he became only the third freshman to start at quarterback in the academy’s history.
He could have been a Blue Raider. According to Baltimore Sun writer Don Markus, Reynolds’ first college recruiting letter was from MTSU. He later attended a tryout camp after his junior year in high school.
Although Reynolds was pleased with his performance at the camp, he never heard another word from the Blue Raiders staff.
“We evaluated those guys,’’ Stockstill told Markus. “He’s an excellent football player, just different than what we were looking for at the quarterback position."
According to the Sun article, an MTSU assistant told then-Goodpasture head coach David Martin that Reynolds lacked the size they wanted. The now 5-11, 185-pound Reynolds played big enough against MTSU.
During the postgame press conference, Reynolds brought his 8-year-old brother Quinton to the podium.
Perhaps Stockstill can get a second chance to sign a Reynolds.
It was obvious the Blue Raiders offense sputtered all day. It got chippy at times during the game and Stockstill admitted his defense had problems with Navy’s triple option.
“It’s hard to simulate on the scout team what Navy does and I think we adjusted to the speed,’’ he said. “After that, I thought the defense played fast. They played physical. It was really a heck of a football game.’’
Sport Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on: 1/3/2014