ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Navy jumped out to a 31-7 lead and that proved to be too steep of a mountain for Pitt to climb as the Midshipmen held on for the 44-28 win in the Military Bowl. Here are the five big takeaways from the game:
As good as advertised: So that Keenan Reynolds guy is good. He finished the game with 144 yards on the ground and three touchdowns, including a record-setter in the fourth quarter. It's clear when you watch him play that he runs the option to absolute perfection, always making the right reads and throwing perfectly timed pitches. Navy may not be known for its pass attack, but it was incredibly effective Saturday with Reynolds throwing quick, decisive passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. He even caught a pass on a trick play for 47 yards.
"He's a super football player," Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. "Make no mistake, there was a reason that he was a finalist for the Heisman. He rushed for a touchdown, threw for a touchdown and then caught a heck of a pass on the quarterback throw back. He did a really nice job."
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Defensive wiz? Narduzzi was hailed as one of the top defensive minds in the nation when he was hired at Pitt prior to this season. He spent eight seasons with Mark Dantonio building Michigan State into a defensive juggernaut before leaving to accept the head job at Pitt. That was not on display Saturday as Navy sliced and diced the Panthers' defense with relative ease. The Midshipmen finished with 590 total offensive yards and 44 points, both of which were season highs for the Pitt defense.
Backbreakers: While Navy broke off plenty of big plays in this game, the option offense is built for short plays and long drives. That means setting up a lot of 3rd-and-short conversions. Defenses have to find a way to get off the field on third down because those long drives can be demoralizing. That certainly was the case on Monday. Navy had six drives of nine plays or more, five of which ended with a touchdown. The Midshipmen also converted on third down 12 of 17 times. It's hard to win with stats like that.
More than just Reynolds: There's no denying how great Reynolds was in this game, but Navy's success Monday was not all their senior quarterback. The defense held Pitt to 335 yards, forced three interceptions and managed to keep star wide receiver Tyler Boyd out of the end zone.
"The defense and [defensive coordinator] Dale Pehrson have done a great job all year," Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "All of those turnovers were huge. Those were some huge picks. The defense played well all year and that is a testament to Dale and the players."
A record-setting day: Reynolds set the record for most career touchdowns in FBS history and most rushing yards by a quarterback in FBS history during Monday's game. Reynolds' class has now won 36 games, tying the school record for wins by a class set by the Class of 1909. The senior class is also the first in school history to win three consecutive bowls. In addition, the win was Navy's 11th of the season which is also a school record. For a program as long and as storied as Navy's, that's saying something.
When asked which record meant the most to him, Reynolds was very quick to answer.
"Most wins in a season," he said. "You play to win the game and that means the most."
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