ANNAPOLIS — Keenan Reynolds had just burst into the end zone to set the NCAA record for career rushing touchdowns, and the last thing on his mind was clutching the football as a keepsake.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo had the situation well in hand. He sent the team’s equipment manager onto the field to secure a souvenir the Reynolds family will cherish for years to come.
Reynolds scored four rushing touchdowns to boost his career total to 81, and No. 22 Navy beat SMU, 55-14, on Saturday to remain undefeated in The American.
Reynolds shattered the mark held by Montee Ball, who ran for 77 touchdowns with Wisconsin from 2009 through 2012. Ball holds the record with 83 total touchdowns.
No. 78 for Reynolds came on a four-yard run on Navy’s opening drive. Before being embraced by his teammates, the senior quarterback dropped to one knee, lowered his head and pointed skyward.
Soon after that, Niumatalolo went into action.
“I had a plan to make sure we did not lose that ball,” Niumatalolo said. “I just wanted to make sure we got the ball to Keenan and his family. It was great for that to happen. I thought it was great he was able to present the ball to his dad. It’s a pretty cool deal.”
Reynolds scored on runs of 43 and eight yards on the next two series to make it 21-0, and then added a 32-yard touchdown with 14:19 left to make it 41-14.
The first one was the sweetest.
“When coach called the play, I was like, ‘I am not getting tackled,’” Reynolds said. “I am scoring. I was tired of talking about it, when it’s going to happen. I was ready to get it over with.”
Reynolds rushed for 137 yards and threw a 72-yard touchdown pass to help Navy (8-1, 6-0 The American) earn its fourth consecutive win. Playing as a ranked team for the first time since 2004, the Midshipmen — 20th in the College Football Playoff ranking — are off to their best start since 1963.
SMU (1-9, 0-6 The American) knew Reynolds was going to run. The Mustangs were powerless to stop him.
“As an option quarterback, that’s the key to it, making good decisions and not turning the ball over,” SMU coach Chad Morris said. “He’s every bit as good as advertised. Obviously, had a great performance tonight.”
Navy’s defense played a part, putting the clamps on an offense that was averaging 30 points a game. The Mustangs have lost their last eight games.
“I think the work that we just put in the offseason has helped us come together as a defense,” nose guard Bernard Sarra said. “We have great weeks of practice. The guys that needed to step up, stepped up.”
In a sentimental move, Morris started third-string quarterback Garrett Krstich, whose late father was co-captain of Navy in 1969 team. After Krstich completed a pass for no gain on the game’s first play from scrimmage, Morris called a timeout to allow the senior to savor the moment.
“It was the right thing to do,” Morris said. “I was proud of him. It’s a moment he’ll never forget, it’s a moment we’ll all never forget.”
SMU quarterback Matt Davis ran for a touchdown and threw for a score, but the junior never had a chance of keeping pace with Navy’s prolific triple-option attack.
With Reynolds at the controls, the Midshipmen rolled up 403 yards rushing in reaching a season high in points.
Navy took control early. SMU had three-and-outs on its first three possessions, and Navy scored on its first four drives to take a 28-0 lead. The last score came when Reynolds lofted a pass to a wide-open Jamir Tillman.
Twice earlier, Reynolds missed two open receivers downfield against a defense stacked against the run. The misfires did nothing to take the luster off his unforgettable performance.
Davis scored on a one-yard run late in the half, but Navy went up, 34-7, when Demond Brown scored on 32-yard run to close out a 78-yard drive.
Any chance SMU had of a comeback disappeared early in the fourth quarter when Reynolds broke free on the left side of the line and coasted into the end zone.
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