- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — On his way to earning a place in the NCAA record book, Keenan Reynolds showed his potential as a football coach.

Reynolds scored twice in the fourth quarter to tie the collegiate mark for career rushing touchdowns, and Navy set a school record with three 100-yard rushers in a 29-17 victory over USF on Saturday.

The Midshipmen never led until Reynolds bulled in from the one-yard line to make it 22-17 with 6:58 left. After USF fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Reynolds clinched it with another one-yard touchdown run with 1:49 remaining.

Reynolds‘ final touchdown occurred on a fourth-and-goal after a sideline chat with coach Ken Niumatalolo.

“I was going to kick the field goal just to go up by eight,” Niumatalolo said.

Reynolds would have none of it.

“I said, ‘Coach, we don’t need to kick a field goal here,’” Reynolds recalled. “Let’s don’t give them any life. They’re not going to stop us on the one.”

Reynolds was right. Following his fullback, the senior quarterback scored his 77th career rushing touchdown, tying former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball for most in NCAA history.

“The kid is smarter than I am,” Niumatalolo said.

Reynolds didn’t convince his coach to keep the offense on the field because of the record. He did it because it was the best way to assure Navy a victory.

“It’s just a number,” Reynolds said of his touchdown total. “At the end of the day, it was just about getting ahead and putting the game out of reach. We were able to execute that play. It’s a big deal, obviously. I am very blessed and fortunate, but I always deflect the attention to my teammates because it’s 11 guys out there working.”

Said nose guard Bernie Serra, who was in the room when Reynolds was talking: “I hear him saying it’s just a number. Yeah, it’s a number — a really big number.”

Reynolds finished with 117 rushing yards. Dishan Romine ran for 115 yards and Chris Swain totaled 131 for Navy.

The victory made the Midshipmen (6-1, 4-0 The American) bowl eligible for the 12th time in 13 years. Navy has ties to the Military Bowl, but it could go to a more prestigious venue if it wins The American’s title game.

Rodney Adams took the opening kickoff back 97 yards for a touchdown for USF, but the Bulls (4-4, 2-2 The American) scored only one other touchdown. The defeat ended their three-game winning streak.

“Tough loss,” coach Willie Taggart said. “Navy beat us in every phase. We made some mistakes that we can’t make against a winning and mature football team like Navy.”

Those miscues included two missed field goals and a two fumbles.

Navy trailed, 17-16, before Reynolds launched an 80-yard drive for the winning touchdown, accounting for 56 yards on seven carries. Before the Midshipmen took the field, Reynolds had a message for them.

“I just told the guys, ‘It’s gut-check time,’” he said. “If we want to be a great team, this is where it starts. All of the goals we have as a team, it’s an opportunity.”

After Reynolds scored, Adams lost handle of the ensuing kickoff. Navy then covered 42 yards to increase its lead.

The Midshipmen finished with 428 yards on the ground, its most since Sept. 6, 2014 against Temple.

USF went up, 17-13, in the third quarter when Marlon Mack scored on a two-yard run after a short punt and a 25-yard return by D’Ernest Johnson gave the Bulls the ball at Navy’s 36-yard line.

The Midshipmen answered with a 55-yard run by Romine, but cornerback Deatrick Nichols forced a fumble on the next play and recovered the loose ball on USF’s 22-yard line.

The Bulls punted, and Reynolds was promptly sacked for an eight-yard loss. He rebounded to direct a 14-play drive that produced a field goal.

As the game moved into the fourth quarter, the Bulls kicked a field goal but took it off the board after Navy’s Amos Mason was offside. Four plays later, Emilio Nadelman missed a 32-yard kick with 12:45 remaining to keep the score at 17-16.

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