PHILADELPHIA — With perfection at stake, Keenan Reynolds ended his Navy career with a clean sweep against Army.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo just might leave the academy the same way.
Reynolds rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another score to lead the No. 21 Midshipmen to their 14th straight win over the Black Knights, 21-17 on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
“That was the No. 1 goal,” Reynolds said. “To be able to be here four years and never lose against Army, that’s huge.”
The Midshipmen (10-2) can hook an anchor to the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy. It’s coming back to Annapolis, Maryland, after a one-year hiatus.
“We get to go to the White House this year and get our trophy back,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds’ second rushing TD was his 85th career score, the most for any FBS or FCS Division I player. Hoist that broom to the mast: Reynolds is the first QB to go 4 for 4 in a classic rivalry that began in 1890.
Niumatalolo improved to 8-0 against the Black Knights two days before he is set to visit BYU to talk about the program’s coaching vacancy.
Niumatalolo, the winningest coach in Navy history, seemed focused with “Damn The Torpedoes” stitched on the back of his hat. But he had much more on his mind than just beating Army (2-10) again.
He could leave after eight seasons to follow his heart and his religion to BYU.
“We’re an institution, and we’re certainly a football program, that’s steeped in team and not about ‘me.’ All of a sudden, it’s become about that,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said.
Niumatalolo danced — he at least tried to dab — in the locker room as players circled him and hollered in celebration.
He choked back tears discussing his faith-based decision to visit BYU. Niumatalolo is a Mormon who went on a two-year mission following his freshman year at the University of Hawaii.
“It’s been my life,” at Navy, he said. “My kids have grown up here. I’ve given everything for his program.”
Niumatalolo tied former Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik (8-8-2) for most wins in the series.
Army coach Jeff Monken showed his program might be closing the gap on Navy — but blew any chance of an upset.
Daniel Grochowski missed a 29-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. Chris Carter lost a fumble at the Navy 34 that was recovered by linebacker Ted Colburn. Navy had two interceptions — one off a trick play — on two straight drives to preserve the lead. Army’s Hail Mary on the final play of the game fell short.
“That’s our job at West Point, to build those warriors,” Monken said. “I’m absolutely positive we’ve got a room full of guys in there that are going to find a way to win.”
Reynolds, the game’s MVP, showed why he was a late contender for Heisman Trophy consideration. Reynolds, the only player in team history with two 1,000-yard rushing and passing seasons, put the Mids up 21-17 with a 50-yard TD pass to Jamir Tillman late in the third.
Roger Staubach, who won the 1963 Heisman Trophy at Navy, said he cast his vote for Reynolds.
A three-touchdown favorite, Navy had it tougher than usual in one of the most storied rivalries in college sports. The Mids won the CIC trophy, awarded to the team with the best record in games among the three service academies. Navy beat Air Force 33-11 this season.
Army and Navy turned a game already stuffed with pomp and patriotism into a bit of a fashion show.
Navy wore seven different hand-painted helmets that paid homage to seven of the ships that make up the U.S. Naval Fleet.
Army topped its rivals with 17 different helmets, representing the 17 branches cadets can enter after graduation.
Billed as “America’s Game,” the Linc was stuffed with cadets and midshipmen standing, bouncing and cheering the entire game. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter attended and watched a half with each side.
Army came ready to pull an upset and snap the second-longest losing streak to one team of any uninterrupted FBS series.
The Black Knights got a field goal on the game’s opening drive and Tyler Campbell scored on a 29-yard run make it 10-7 in the first.
Carter hit Edgar Poe for a 39-yard TD pass with 2:08 left in the half to make it 17-14 and give Army its first halftime lead since 2009.
Army had a lead. It just didn’t have Reynolds.
Reynolds scored on runs of 58 yards and 1 yard to keep Navy in the game, and then used his arm to find Tillman in the third for the lead.
Reynolds has a 31-13 career record as a starter and he is Navy’s career leading rusher.
Army’s season again ended with the loss. Navy plays Pittsburgh (8-4) in the Dec. 28 Military Bowl at Annapolis.
Navy leads the series 60-49-7.