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UConn ends up on the wrong side of history in loss to Reynolds, Navy

POSTED September 28, 2015
BY Patrick Tiscia
Twitter: @PatrickTiscia

EAST HARTFORD – Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, when asked to discuss his record-setting quarterback in Keenan Reynolds, used an all-too-familiar cliché, a phrase many in the sports world use as a throwaway line.

But when that line comes from someone at the Naval Academy, a place where everything is precisely measured, you can take it seriously.

“His career is like our motto, one game at a time,” Niumatalolo said following Reynolds’ four-touchdown performance in a 28-18 win over UConn at Rentschler Field. “He is one of the seniors who came up with it. What he has done is remarkable, but he continues to move on to the next game.”

You may be asking, “What has he done?” Well, for starters, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior currently ranks tied for second on the NCAA’s all-time list for rushing touchdowns with 73, trailing only Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, who had 77. He’s the all-time NCAA leader in games with three rushing touchdowns (14) and is now second on Navy’s all-time rushing yards list with 3,491.

Running the Midshipmen’s famed triple-option offense, Reynolds torched UConn for 142 yards on the ground on 28 carries, including three touchdowns, and, for good measure, completed a 19-yard scoring pass to Jamir Tillman, too.

Most importantly, though, his team is now 3-0, with seven straight victories dating back to last season, their longest streak since 1979.

Reynolds is starting to see a lot of attention nationally for his climb up these lists. Instead of letting it get to his head, he’s enjoying this time. Who wouldn’t?

“I’m grateful just to be mentioned in that category,” said Reynolds, now with nine rushing touchdowns in this early season. “When I get in the red zone, though, I just want to punch it in. I don’t care if it’s me or anyone else. I just want points. That’s my main goal.”

Making his accomplishments more impressive is that they come in an offense with little imagination. It’s run, run, run, run with a pass throw in on rare occasion. Reynolds only attempted four throws on Saturday. The Huskies knew what was coming. They, like many others, just couldn’t stop it.

“As I had anticipated, they lived up to being the best team that we have played so far,” said UConn coach Bob Diaco, whose team fell to 2-2. “They have 19 or 20 seniors in their offense and they don’t miss a read, they don’t miss a fit or a window.”

UConn, after a tough 9-6 loss at ranked Missouri last week, is still showing signs of improvement. Bryant Shirreffs threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns, one each to Tyraiq Beals and Tommy Myers. Ansonia’s Arkeel Newsome had 184 total yards (72 rushing, 51 receiving, 61 kick returning) and Andrew Adams had 17 tackles in the secondary.

There were, though, areas of opportunities for the Huskies, ones that cost them this game and must be cleaned up if they plan on making a run to a bowl game.

Trailing 14-10, the Huskies allowed Navy to march down the field and score with two seconds left in the first half on a two-yard run from Reynolds.

“That was huge,” noted Niumatalolo. “That is the fruits of having a senior quarterback and skill guys that have been there. They know when to get out of bounds, know when to pick-up first downs. We didn’t panic. That was a big drive.”

UConn also allowed the Midshipmen to convert on eight-of-12 third down attempts and failed to pick up two Navy fumbles in the second half that could’ve turned the tide.

Navy, however, was impressed with their opponent, a team that suffered through an excruciating 2-10 season a year ago.

“What we saw on tape wasn’t a fluke,” Niumatalolo said. “Them going down to Missouri and have a chance to beat them was not a fluke. That is a well-coached, physical ball team.”

“They have great tacklers and they move to the ball,” added Reynolds. “They shut down a high-powered Mizzou offense that is a two-time SEC champion. What seems to be the thing with coach Diaco’s defense is that they’re very sound.”

Diaco knows that cleaning those errors and improving execution is the next step for his team.

“There is some great, great stuff,” Diaco said. “We just need to execute better. The players are resolved to turning this thing into a winner.”

For motivation, the Huskies didn’t have to look far. Across on the other sideline, Reynolds and Navy are already there - one game at a time.

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