- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 21, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds faked a pitch and turned to face the odds.

His team was down six points to Indiana with two minutes left Saturday. It was homecoming night. Third and goal. And the Hoosiers were on an all-out blitz.

Rather than panic, Reynolds did what many freshman quarterbacks could not: he kept his composure and spotted tight end Matt Aiken standing all alone in the corner of the end zone. He tossed the ball over five defenders and put his Midshipmen up 31-30, capping a fourth-quarter comeback and the program’s first home win over a Big Ten opponent since 1926.

In other words, he didn’t play like a freshman.

“[Navy offensive coordinator Ivin] Jasper has been hounding me all week, ‘Get your eyes around, get your eyes around to see what’s coming on the back side,’” Reynolds said after the game. “I actually did it a little late, and then I saw Matt by himself so I had to connect.”

Reynolds sometimes played tentatively Saturday in Navy’s third consecutive win and its fourth in five games. He sometimes misread the option or made an ill-advised throw, but that’s to be expected. He’s the first plebe to start at quarterback since 1991 and just the third to do so in program history.

Navy is now 2-0 with him under center.

“The kid just continued to grind it out,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “He didn’t play as well as he did last week but, again to his credit, on that last drive he was just very composed. He’s a true freshman, we’re down to a Big Ten team, and [he] just methodically moved us down. He’ll be the first one to tell you he could’ve done some things better during the game, but the way he finished — very happy for him.”

Reynolds led the Midshipmen on scoring drives of 74 and 72 yards in the game’s final 12 minutes. While his statistics weren’t spectacular — 96 passing yards, 66 rushing yards and two touchdowns — the plebe made plays when he needed to. He displayed poise beyond his years when the game was on the line.

“Ever since his first couple games when he was brought in, his understanding of the playbook has allowed him to play confident, to play smooth,” senior slot back Bo Snelson said. “He really understands where everything is.”

Junior Trey Miller started the season as Navy’s quarterback until the combination of 10 turnovers and an ankle injury gave Reynolds a shot at the job. The Antioch, Tenn., native responded by guiding the Midshipmen to a 31-13 victory in his first start at Central Michigan a week ago. He also completed three touchdown passes and was named the ECAC Offensive Player of the Week for good measure.

Reynolds was quick to praise his teammates after the game. When he looks around the Navy huddle and knows that he needs to make a play, the freshman finds a veteran comfort zone.

“Our team motto [‘It’s Not About Me’], we use it a lot, and I really think about that when I get in those situations,” Reynolds said. “I can’t let my teammates down because of my personal feelings. I just need to go out and do my job.”

Reynolds did just that before walking off the field Saturday night. A cloudy afternoon had turned into a starless night and the freshman was flagged down by two children in the stands as he walked to the locker room.

The children asked for a keepsake — a glove, a wristband, anything to remember Reynolds and his performance that night. The quarterback obliged, sheepishly handing over his towel and continuing up tunnel.

For all his poise under pressure with two minutes to go and the game on the line, Reynolds isn’t used to dealing with all the attention quite yet. But that, like most things, should come in time.

After all, Reynolds’ best games still lie ahead.

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