Time of Possession: USF- 20:47 Navy- 39:13
Time of Game: 3 Hours, 6 minutes
Announced Attendance: 26,766
-Quinton Flowers: 12/20, 208 yards. 15 yards rushing.
-Marlon Mack: 10 carries, 29 yards. 1 TD. Breaks streak of consecutive 100+ yards games. Moved to sixth on USF’s all-time career rushing list.
-Auggie Sanchez: 14 tackles. Continues to lead team.
-Jamie Byrd: 10 tackles, 1 sack.
-Emilio Nadelman: 1/3 FG on Saturday.
-Navy QB Keenan Reynolds: 26 carries, 117 yards, 2 TDs. Ties Montee Ball’s career rushing touchdown record at 77.
-Navy RB’s Chris Swain and Dishan Romain: Combined for 246 yards and 1 TD.
-Bulls’ three game winning streak snapped.
-Methodical, disciplined Navy offense on full display. Held football for roughly two-thirds of entire contest. Converted nine of seventeen third down attempts. Only two penalties throughout the game.
-Midshipman secured Military Bowl berth with victory.
Despite holding a tight 17-16 lead with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, South Florida couldn’t overcome the onslaught of Keenan Reynolds and Navy’s triple option, falling 29-17 to the Midshipmen.
Heading into the AAC battle, all eyes were on Reynolds, who entering the contest needed just two rushing touchdowns to tie Montee Ball’s record for most career FBS rushing touchdowns, in which he got accomplished during the conference win. Operating the offense since his freshman season in 2012, Reynolds put on full display his precision, control, and ability to wear down opposing defenses with the triple option on Saturday. The Navy senior rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns while setting up Midshipmen running back’s Chris Swain and Dishan Romain with 100+ yard days as well. The main key however was Navy’s ability to hog the ball for the majority of the game, having possession for a whopping forty minutes of game time and subsequently keeping the ball out of Quinton Flowers’ hands. “We didn’t stay in our gaps, where we were supposed to be, and he snuck it in there,” Taggart said of Reynolds afterwards. “(Navy) is a really good football team with a good offense.”
Knowing they had to capitalize on their opportunities with the football, South Florida jumped out the gate quickly, opening the game with a 97-yard Rodney Adams kickoff return. After allowing a Navy field goal, Flowers would orchestrate a fifteen play, 68 yard drive that took 7:38 off the clock and resulted in an Emilio Nadelman field goal to give the Bulls a 10-3 lead. After the Midshipman took a 13-10 lead, the Bulls utilized a 24-yard D’Ernest Johnson punt return and a quick 34-yard strike to Chris Barr to set up a Marlon Mack goal line touchdown that would give the Bulls a four point lead at the beginning of the third quarter.
While the Bulls made critical plays and important third down conversions at times, they couldn’t finish the job and make key sound plays in other moments. A team must be precise in every aspect to defeat a well-disciplined team like Navy and the Bulls could not deliver. A few examples of wasted opportunities include Emilio Nadelman missing two field goals throughout the contest that would have given the Bulls more breathing room and more momentum. Rodney Adams fumbling a kickoff return in the fourth right after Navy scored the go ahead touchdown. Finally on the ensuing Midshipmen drive, a Johnny Ward unsportsmanlike conduct penalty undid a critical Bull Sharks third-down stop and served as the catalyst for the eventual Keenan Reynolds record tying, back breaking touchdown. “We didn’t make the winning plays that we needed to make in that ballgame,” Taggart would say afterwards. “We were playing turnover-free until the end, but we just didn’t playing winning football overall.”
Having their three game winning streak snapped, South Florida will look to shake off the sting of this loss by preying on a wounded East Carolina team next Saturday.