The Navy Midshipmen defeated the Tulane Green Wave 31-14 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. This American Athletic Conference game was a lot closer than the final score indicated. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds ran for a pair of touchdowns and the Midshipmen forced three straight turnovers in the second half to secure the victory. Navy (5-1, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) entered the game ranked third nationally with over 335.4 yards rushing per game but was held to just 133 yards. Tulane employed an odd man front covering the center and guards similar to the Air force defense and had their linebackers Eric Thomas, Nico Manley and safety Darion Monroe making plays all game. Tulane had eleven tackles for loss. Reynolds was able to make a few big passing plays to set up scores and a 17-7 lead. The Midshipmen forced three straight turnovers in the second half to extend the lead to 31-7 before Tulane closed the scoring with 26 seconds left in the game.
PASSING OFFENSE: B
Keenan Reynolds completed 7-of-11 passes for 134 passing yards. Tago Smith completed his only pass for a 24 yard touchdown to Calvin Cass after Keenan was pulled. If was a great job by Reynolds who made plays despite being sacked four times and under constant pressure. Navy running game coordinator Ashley Ingram felt Tulane's defensive line was even better than Notre Dame. Reynolds first pass on Navy's opening touchdown drive was a third down 10-yard completion to Jamir Tillman who initially had the ball deflect high in the air off his hands and he caught the rebound as he was being tackled. The second series was a mess with Jamir Tillman (3 rec, 61 yds.) dropping a pass after he was wide open on a short button hook route. The next play Reynolds was sacked by Niko Marley for a 12-yard loss.
The following series started with Reynolds scrambling and being sacked again. Keenan was able to climb out of the third-and-17 hole when he found wide receiver Thomas Wilson (2 rec., 32 yds.) for a 23-yard gain on the money bullet pass to beat tight coverage. He then hit Craig Scott on a short button hook for five yards. Reynolds later on the same drive connected on a 41-yard bomb to Tillman that set up a field goal.
The next series Reynold was sacked again for a six yard loss when E.K. Binns was beat by Calvin Thomas. Reynolds then rolled out and hit Tillman for ten yards but it was far short of the first down and Navy had to punt. On the opening drive of the third quarter Reynolds was sacked for the last time after Tulane's big nose tackle Corey Redwine pancaked Navy center Blaze Ryder and took Keenan down for a seven yard loss. The following series the passing game came through. Reynolds hit Thomas Wilson for a nine yard gain on third-and-seven to convert a first down. Wilson made a nice reception on the low throw. On the ensuing third-and-one Reynolds hit slotback DeBrandon Sanders for a 36-yard gain off a play action pass. It was a well thrown ball that set up Ezell's touchdown run. Reynolds missed Chad Lewellyn and Jamir Tillman, who looked like he was held but didn't get the call, on the next 11-play drive which ended in a punt. Navy drove to the one yard line after Barbour's interception and Reynolds threw a pass away when the receiver didn't break open.
Tago Smith replaced Reynolds and threw his touchdown pass to Cass to wrap up the scoring. Reynolds was very effective when he threw the ball despite the line allowing four sacks.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D
Navy ran for just 133 rushing yards, a 2.5 average but managed to score three rushing touchdowns. Tulane employed the Air Force type defense as they covered up the linemen and took away the inside. Tulane were usually able to keep their middle linebacker and safety clean as they chased and made plays. The Green Wave defensive line simply dominated the Mids up front. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds ran 23 times for only 38 yards as he lost 34 yards on sacks. Reynolds longest run was just nine yards but he avoided fumbling and scored twice.
B-back Chris Swain ran 12 times for 31 yards as the Swain train was derailed. Swain was blown up on an option pitch by Eric Thomas for a three yard loss and he did a great job to just hang on to the ball. Chris's longest run of 11-yards saw him break three tackles and allow Navy to escape their own goal line after the Anthony's fumble recovery. Fullback Quentin Ezell had three carries for 11 yards and a nine yard touchdown run. Fellow fullback Shawn White saw more snaps than usual as he ran four times for five net yards.
The slotbacks had trouble finding running room. DeBrandon Sanders (5 att., 20 yds.) had the longest run for the Mids when he took a pitch 12-yards to set up Reynolds second score to make it 24-7. Calvin Cass Jr. had two carries for 13 yards. Dishane Romine had two attempts for 9 yards and Demond Brown ran twice for a net five yards. The slotbacks and wide receivers didn't have a great day blocking.
PASSING DFENSE: B
Navy allowed Tulane quarterbacks to complete 27-of-38 passes for 263 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Navy posted two sacks. The Mids played their bend but don't break style well.
Cornerback Quincy Adams led the team with 12 tackles as he allowed a number of completions in front of him but limited yards after the catch. Adams made a key play on a three yard screen pass to Baddie when he avoided the block and knocked him out of bounds short of the first down to set up Navy turning them over on downs the next play. Adams was lucky when he sat on stop and go route by Tulane wide receiver Devon Breaux. Breaux dropped the sure touchdown pass in the end zone just before the half.
Cornerback Brandon Clements (2 tackles, 2 PD) broke up a pass in the end zone just before the end of the first half. he broke up a post pattern to Breaux in the second half. Lorentez Barbour (5 tackles, INT) had a huge pick to end Tulane's comeback hopes and set up a score. Kevin McCoy planted Tanner Lee on a sack like it was Arbor day and forced a fumble that was recovered by D.J. Palmore. Tyler Sayles added a sack. Striker linebacker Josiah Powell made four tackles and broke up a pass. Brandon Jones posted four tackles and a few hard hits. Amos Mason (1 tackle, PD) deflected a pass at the line. Tulane converted 7-of-13 third down plays.
RUSHING DEFENSE: A
The Mids allowed Tulane 123 rushing yards and one touchdown. The Mids defense was physical and made a number of key stops. The biggest was Daniel Gonzalez (3 tackle, FF, QBH) forcing a Tanner Lee fumble on third-and-1 which was recovered by Will Anthony at the bottom of the pile. Daiquan Thomasson posted nine tackles in his second start. Mike linebacker Micah Thomas (7 tackles) had a huge fourth-and-1 stop of Hillard to turn Tulane over on downs on their opening drive of the second half.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Kicker Austin Grebe hit his only field goal attempt from 25 yards. Punter Alex Barta averaged 36.5 yards on five punts and placed one inside the twenty yard line. Punt returner Calvin Cass Jr had a nice eight yard return off a short punt to set up Navy's first touchdown. DeBrandon Sanders had one punt return for just a yard. Navy did an excellent job covering kicks. Toneo Gulley had a big hit on opening kickoff but was shaken up. Ryan Harris plastered kick returner Ricky Preston at the 15-yard line on a kickoff.
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo’s team has come a long way over the years. Navy struggled offensively yet still won 31-14. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper admitted he expected to see Tulane use the same defense they had against Georgia Tech the last two seasons. As he told Bill Wagner of the Capital "When you spend six days working against one defense then you get into the game and they do something totally different, it's tough," Jasper admitted. "They came out in an odd front and used their best players to cover our center and guards and try to knock them out of there."
Defensive coordinator Dale Pehrson's unit played well and was very physical. They kept Tulane under wraps the entire game and forced three consecutive turnovers late in the second half to put the game out of reach.
OVERALL GRADE: B
The Mids had their fewest rushing yards since gaining just 162 against Western Kentucky in 2013 but still managed to run for three scores. Tulane had an excellent game plan and played well but the Mids did what good teams do and find a way to win.