SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Keenan Reynolds probably won't break an NCAA record Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium, but he could come close.
The senior Navy quarterback has 73 rushing touchdowns in his career, tied with former Miami (Ohio) running back Travis Prentice for the second most in Division I/FBS history. With five more touchdowns, he'll break former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball's record of 77.
Reynolds already has nine touchdowns this year as he's steered Navy and its antiquated-yet-effective triple option offense to a 4-0 record. Notre Dame players are familiar with Reynolds, having faced him in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and enter Saturday's game with a healthy respect for Antioch, Tenn. native.
"You feel like you can't say enough good things about their quarterback," Notre Dame linebacker and captain 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. 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. Tremendous amount of respect as a player and we're looking forward to playing him on Saturday."
Reynolds put scares into Notre Dame in 2013 and 2014, with the Mids losing by four two years ago in South Bend and by 10 last year at FedEx Field. Both games came down to the fourth quarter, and as long as Reynolds is under center, Notre Dame is expecting another nail-biting afternoon.
"Keenan has so much experience," safety and captain Matthias Farley said. "He’s been in the system for four years, he’s been in huge games. He leads and it’s very apparent. He keeps everybody calm, he keeps everybody in it."
In addition to his touchdown total, Reynolds has 3,674 rushing yards on 799 attempts (4.6 yards per carry) in 40 games. But he's also a better passer than his triple option quarterback designation may indicate -- while he doesn't have a high completion percentage (52.1 percent) he's thrown for 3,063 yards over 374 passing attempts with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. That's an average of 8.2 yards per attempt -- compare that to Cincinnati and former Notre Dame quarterback Gunner Kiel, who averaged 8.3 yards (20th among FBS quarterbacks) per attempt in 390 throws in 2014.
Of course, Navy usually has Reynolds throw only five or 10 times a game. But it's an important change of pace within the triple option, and Notre Dame players are keenly aware of the threat.
"He definitely can throw the ball," cornerback Cole Luke said. "I’ve seen him throw. He has a good arm. I’m not going to count him out on that. I respect his arm."
Reynolds is a similar option quarterback to Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas in how they operate their respective offenses, though Reynolds has proven to be the better player this year. Thomas has six fumbles in five games this year and a lower yards per carry average than Reynolds, who's only fumbled once this year.
Coach Brian Kelly called Reynolds a "game-wrecker," but this isn't one of those cases where he needs to talk up a player or a team to instill a level of respect for him/it in his players. Notre Dame players know how good Reynolds is, with his feel for the triple option -- and ability to get in the end zone -- readily apparent over the last few years.
"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."