The Navy football team's identity as an offense is rooted in the running game, but Keenan Reynolds and Co. showed Saturday what they can do through the air.
The sophomore quarterback completed 10 of 13 passes for 233 yards the most by a Midshipman since Brian Broadwater's 302 in 2000 — and two touchdowns as Navy thumped visiting Delaware, 51-7, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Saturday.
Reynolds also rushed 15 times for 109 yards for as he recorded his third career game of 100 yards rushing and passing. His 233 passing yards eclipsed his previous career high of 159 in a 41-31 loss to Troy last Nov. 10.
“We just tried to take advantage of what we see,” said Reynolds, who connected on just two of four passes for 71 yards in last week's 41-35 win against Indiana. “We try to find an answer to every situation, and it just goes back to our great offensive staff. They set us up and put us in perfect position to make plays. We just try to execute.”
Reynolds' biggest gain through the air came on the first play of the fourth quarter. He faked a handoff, spotted junior slotback Geoffrey Whiteside running down the seam and fired a pass that Whiteside took to the Blue Hens' 4-yard line for a 61-yard gain. Two plays later, sophomore fullback Chris Swain rumbled into the end zone to give Navy a 44-7 advantage.
Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo said the play was surprising, if only because the offense had not yet practiced it.
“He makes all of us a lot smarter,” Niumatalolo said of Reynolds. “Coaching is about players, and we have some real good players right now. I've been around a long time, and this is as athletic of a team that we've had since I've been here. We've got good kids, and No. 19 [Reynolds' jersey number] is special. He just keeps doing things that make you say, ‘Wow.' Hopefully, the young man is going to continually stay humble and stay hungry and just keep working and keep grinding.”
An announced 36,208 — the largest crowd to attend a home opener and the eighth highest in school history — watched the Midshipmen improve to 2-0 for only the second time in six seasons under Niumatalolo. Delaware, a perennial contender in the Football Championship Division, fell to 2-1 in what was the worst loss in its 17-game series with Navy.
The Midshipmen scored the game's first 23 points before the Blue Hens responded with a touchdown with 4:27 left in the second quarter. Navy scored all four of the game's second-half touchdowns.
Whiteside had 95 total yards (65 receiving and 30 rushing) and scored a pair of touchdowns on the ground. Navy had five rushing touchdowns, but Whiteside said opponents should beware the offense's run-first reputation.
“We're definitely known as a running team,” he said. “So when we throw the ball, our guys need to get open. Our offensive line does a good job of allowing Keenan time to throw.”
The defense was just as overpowering as the offense. The unit caused three turnovers (two interceptions and one fumble), and senior inside linebacker DJ Sargenti had eight tackles, the first interception of his career and a key tackle for loss on fourth down in the first quarter. Senior inside linebacker Cody Peterson finished with a game-high 12 tackles, and junior cornerback Lonnie Richardson had three tackles and one forced fumble.
“I think, as a defense, we played a lot better,” Sargenti said. “We saw on the film last week that we didn't really get hands on the receivers, which led to a lot of passing yards for Indiana. So I think we emphasized that. We just played a lot better as a defense.”
Notes: The 51 points Navy scored were the most in a home opener since Sept. 20, 1975, when it walloped Connecticut, 55-7. … The 92 points scored against Indiana and Delaware are the most in a two-game stretch since 2007, when the Midshipmen scored a combined 109 points against North Texas (74-62) and Northern Illinois (35-24). … Senior Marcus Thomas returned the 81st kick of his career, surpassing the school record of 80 previously held by Reggie Campbell (2004-2007). … Junior Pablo Beltran's punt late in the second quarter was the team's first of the season and first in 14 possessions. … Sloan's extra-point attempt that clanked off the left upright in the second quarter was his first miss in 49 career attempts. … Navy's 92-yard scoring drive in the third quarter was the offense's longest since a 97-yard drive in a 35-17 win against Notre Dame on Oct. 23, 2010.