Navy Football: The Best and Worst of 2014

The 2014 Navy football season was full of highs and lows. GoMids.com's Jim Lawler guides us through the 2014 Navy football season's best and worst moments.

THE BEST MOMENTS OF 2014

Ken Niumatalolo becomes the winningest coach in Navy history
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo (57-35, 62%) passed George Welch as Navy's winningest head coach with his victory over Army. He has succeeded after following a great coach, in his mentor Paul Johnson, and has established his own legacy. Niumatalolo is now 7-0 all-time against Army and is the first head coach in the history of the Army-Navy rivalry to win his first seven games against the other service academy. Niumatalolo is the fastest in school history to reach 50 wins. He has been a huge part of the Navy turnaround. Ken has been on the Mids’ sidelines either as an assistant or head coach for 17 of the last 20 years. Not only has Niumatalolo done an outstanding job both coaching and recruiting but it’s clear he loves Annapolis and the mission of the academy. This season was filled with struggles and adversity but once again he produced eight wins, a win over Army and a bowl victory. When Paul Johnson was head coach it was obvious that it was only a matter of line before a major football program offered him a job and he would leave. With Niumatalolo it seems like he is a lifer who loves being Navy's head coach and this is his dream job. All Navy football fans hope that is the case.

Navy makes it a Baker's dozen over Army
The Navy Midshipmen defeated the Army Black Knights 17-10 for a record thirteenth consecutive year in America's Game. The Black Knights took an early 7-0 lead when Army's Josh Jenkins blocked Pablo Beltran's punt inside the Midshipmen's ten yard line. Army's Xavier Moss picked up the ball and ran it in seven yards for the score. Navy struggled early with three consecutive three and out possessions to open the game. The Mids used the passing of quarterback Keenan Reynolds to pull even on a nine yard touchdown pass to Jamir Tillman late in the first half. It was the start of 17 unanswered points by Navy to secure the victory. It was a defensive struggle and the Mids defense held Army without an offensive touchdown. The Black Knights kicker Daniel Grochowski nailed a career-long 52-yard field goal to narrow the score to a touchdown with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter. Navy's Thomas Wilson recovered the ensuing on-side kick and the Mids ran out the clock. The Mids improved its lead in the all-time series to 59-49-7. Beat Army has become a way of life for a decade of Navy fans. It wasn't always this easy.

Now this is an option offense
It was supposed to be a battle of the two best running team in the nation. However, Navy simply rolled over Georgia Southern 52-19 on Senior Day. Georgia Southern entered the game with an 8-2 record that and were averaging an amazing 386.5 rushing yards per game. The Navy defense allowed an opening score but then held the high powered Eagles rushing attack off the scoreboard until late in the third quarter as the Mids offense posted 31 unanswered points. Navy ran for 394 rushing yards, 7.9 per carry and six touchdowns. Keenan Reynolds carried the ball 30 times for a career-high 277 yards and scored six touchdowns. This was the Navy team we expected to see all year. GSU was no push over. The Eagles entered the game an 8-2 team with suffering only close losses to two ACC teams, NC State 24-23 and Georgia Tech 42-38. The Mids made them look like they didn't belong on the same field.

Mids win back-to-back bowl games
Navy overcame four lost fumbles and its struggling offense to defeat the hometown San Diego State Aztecs 17-16 in the Poinsettia Bowl. There were a total of seven turnovers in this ugly defensive game. The winning drive was set up when the Mids striker linebacker Chris Johnson forced and recovered a fumble by SDSU's running back Donnel Pumphrey. B-back Chris Swain converted on a fourth-and-1 with a 13-yard gain. Two plays later Ryan Williams-Jenkins took a pitch 28 yards to set up the game winning field goal. Navy kicker Austin Grebe kicked the go-ahead, 24-yard field goal with 1 minute, 27 seconds left.. San Diego State then drove 47-yards against the Mids defense which had played very well. San Diego State lined up for the potential game winner but kicker Donny Hageman was wide right on a 34-yard field goal attempt with 20 seconds left to allow Navy to hold on. Hageman had made his first three field goal attempts for the Aztecs and 83% of his previous kicks before pushing his last attempt wide right. This is the second time in school history the Mids won a bowl game in back-to-back years. It was the first time they defeated San Diego State in four tries. Navy's victory broke San Diego State's eight-game home field winning streak at Qualcomm Stadium.

Keenan Reynolds is the best Navy option quarterback ever
Keenan Reynolds had a rough start to the season. Navy had just a 1-4 record in the first five games Reynolds started this year He was uncharacteristic sloppy handling the football and then was limited after he hurt his knee in the second game against Temple. He played hurt with a knee brace but struggled and wasn't effective. After missing the VMI game, and resting two weeks, he was able to play without the knee brace and returned to his old form. Reynolds won five of his last six starts as he ran for 15 scores and threw four touchdown passes in those six games. Keenan posted four 100- yard or better rushing efforts, including a career high 277 yards against Georgia Southern, in the last six games. His 62 career touchdowns are the most by a quarterback in NCAA history. Reynolds is simply the best Navy quarterback in the triple option era. THE WORST MOMENTS OF 2014



The Mids mourn the loss of Will McKamey
Part of the Naval Academy's mission is to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service. Navy football players understand the potential dangers they will face with their decision to attend the Naval Academy and serve their country during a time of war. The football program has lost 1st Lt. Ronald D. Winchester, USMC, 2nd Lt. James P. Blecksmith, USMC, Lt Jonas Panik, LCDR Anthony R. Domino, LCDR Scott A. Zellem, LT Matthew S. Shubzda and LT J. Brendan A. Looney since the war on terror began. Those losses and sacrifices unfortunately happen during a time of war.

This spring the unexpected and tragic loss of 19-year old Will McKamey after he collapsed during football practice and passed away stunned everyone. Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “Our deepest and most sincere condolences go out to their entire family and friends. As our Navy football family mourns the loss of one of our brothers, we also celebrate and honor his life. He loved his family, his friends and his teammates. The Brotherhood loves you! Keep the ball “high and tight” in Heaven.” The football team adopted the motto #IWill in memory of McKamey.

Auguring in against Air Force
This was the worst loss of the season. Air Force had an impressive ten win rebound season but Navy fans feel the Falcons caught the Mids at the worse time when Keenan Reynolds was playing hurt with a knee brace and this was the Mids third straight loss. Air Force quarterback Kale Pearson completed a touchdown pass to Garrett Brown with 35 seconds remaining to defeat Navy 30-21. The game was tied at halftime but the Falcons opened the second half with a 15-play 75 yard touchdown drive. Navy's top ranked rushing attack was held to just 36 rushing yards in the second half. The Mids entered the contest averaging 358 rushing yards. The Falcons forced four consecutive punts and two 3-and-out series in the second half. Reynolds tried to rally the Mids late as he hit slotback DeBrandon Sanders with a 40-yard touchdown pass with 2:14 remaining in the game. Air Force recovered the on-sides kick and drove for a touchdown to seal the victory. The loss was Navy's third straight defeat and easily the worst loss of the year as Air Force eventually won the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

No Luck against the Irish
For the second straight year the Notre Dame Fighting Irish held off the Navy Midshipmen 49-39 in a wide open game where both teams combined for 987 yards of offense at Fed Ex field in a nationally televised night game. Notre Dame jumped out to a 28-7 lead but Navy responded with 24 unanswered points to take a 31-28 lead. Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson put Notre Dame back in front with a 3-yard touchdown run. The Irish then extended the lead to 42-31 on a 25-yard touchdown run by Tarean Folston. Navy battled back and scored on a 12 -yard juggling reception by fullback Chris Swain to make it 42-39 after a two point conversion. Navy's onside kick failed although it was well executed. Golston completed a 3rd and six pass to Folston for 30 yards to the Navy three. The Mids allowed the Irish to score to avoid allowing them to run out the clock. Navy failed to move the ball on their last series and the Irish took over on downs to run out the clock. The Mids played so hard and deserved better. This was another heartbreaking loss against Notre Dame There were so many would of, could of, should of moments. If Reynolds had caught the option pass from Noah Copeland, if Keenan's arm hadn't been hit as he threw to a wide open Tillman in the fourth quarter on the post pattern. If the Mids coverage team had beaten the Irish punt returner Riggs to the fumbled punt. This was one of the most frustrating losses of the season.

Outrun by Rutgers
The Navy Midshipmen were beat at their own game as the Rutgers Scarlet Knights out rushed them 284 to 171 yards. Rutgers jumped out to a 24-14 halftime lead. Navy pulled within a touchdown and quarterback Keenan Reynolds desperate 4th down heave was out of the end zone as Rutgers held on for a 31-24 victory. Keenan Reynolds was forced to throw more than usual with Rutgers limiting the Mids running attack. Reynolds completed 12- of- 22 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown. Reynolds hit Jamir Tillman for 53 yards on the second play of the third quarter which set up a 35-yard field goal by Nick Sloan. Keenan was sacked four times and under pressure all day. The Navy offensive line just isn't built to pass block a front seven that can rush the passer like Rutgers. Three of the sacks came on the final series where Rutgers just pinned their ears back. Ivin Jasper probably should have tried to run it from the six yard line rather than attempting four straight passes on the last series. It was a tough loss.

A Season of missed opportunities
For Navy a 8-5 season, a win over Army and a bowl victory is always a successful season. Still Navy fans looked at this team in preseason as possibly the first ten win team since 2009. Navy football entered the 2014 season loaded with a veteran offensive unit, a great quarterback and a solid experienced defense. The Mids returned all of last season’s starting members of the Bell helicopter Armed Forces Bowl offensive line. It shaped up to be a potentially great season but an uncharacteristic 22 turnovers, the knee injury to Reynolds and some bad luck cost the Mids. Navy led both its marquee games against Ohio State and Notre Dame in the second half before losing. Keenan Reynolds knee injury affected his performance in three straight losses to Rutgers, Western Kentucky and Air Force. This is not a case of next levelitis but a look at games that Navy had a chance to win which, if they did, would have made this a season for the ages rather than just a very good season.

GoMids.com Top Stories