Keenan Reynolds started his first game as a freshman in high school outside Nashville, Tenn., so the news that he was going to become the first freshman to start at quarterback for Navy in more than two decades doesn't seem like that big a deal to him.
"There's probably going to be some pre-game jitters, but again it's the same game that I've been playing since I was small," Reynolds said. "I've got to remember that, put my emotions to the side and focus and do my job for my teammates."
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo announced after practice Wednesday that Reynolds would replace the injured Trey Miller when the Midshipmen (2-3) play at Central Michigan (2-3) Friday. Reynolds becomes the first plebe to start at quarterback for Navy since Jim Kubiak started five games in 1991.
Asked if it held some some significance that he was the first freshman to start at Navy in a long time, Reynolds said, "Not really. I just try to come to work every day and do what I'm asked."
Reynolds has played in four of Navy's five games this season, and he led the previously struggling Midshipmen on two late scoring drives to help beat Air Force in overtime last Saturday in Colorado Springs, 28-21.
The Midshipmen trailed 21-13 when Reynolds came in after Miller limped off with a sprained left ankle with a little more than nine minutes left.
Niumatalolo said it was Reynolds' calm demeanor in the midst of the chaos at Falcon Stadium that convinced the coach he was ready to start. He completed all three of his passes for 55 yards and rushed for another 22 yards on three carries, including a 15-yard touchdown that helped tie the game at 21. He later fumbled near the goal line in overtime, but sophomore guard Jake Zuzek recovered for the go-ahead touchdown.
Reynolds also played well in a 34-7 loss at Penn State earlier this season. On the season, Reynolds has completed 10 of 13 passes for 132 yards and rushed for 40 yards on 17 carries (including sacks). More importantly, he has only one turnover, a fumble against Notre Dame in his first college game, compared to 10 made by Miller in the first four games.
"I have great confidence in the kid," Niumatalolo said. "Not just what he did [at Air Force], but that fourth down throw that he made at Penn State to Bo [Snelson] was a heckuva throw. He led us on some drives there. The kid has done some amazing things."
Miller, who initially hurt the ankle in a season-opening loss against Notre Dame in Dublin, Ireland, had his best game of the season last week before getting hurt. The junior had rushed for a team-high 118 yards and did not turn the ball over. After being held out of practice on Monday, Miller practiced Tuesday but was unable to practice again Wednesday.
"He's not 100 percent. We've got to be ready to go. He's got to get his ankle better," Niumatalolo said. "He tried to go yesterday, he really tried to gut it out, but his ankle is not ready to go."
Considering what he did last week, it is reminiscent of Ricky Dobbs starting for the first time as a sophomore in 2008. That came in a road game against another Mid-American Conference team, Northern Illinois, in the next-to-last game of the season, and the Midshipmen won, 16-0.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun