ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Navy’s Keenan Reynolds faced constant pressure from a gang of Tulane defenders who were determined to keep him grounded.
Nonetheless, the dynamic quarterback was still able to make just enough plays when his team needed them the most.
Reynolds ran for a pair of touchdowns, and the Midshipmen forced three straight turnovers in the second half for a 31-14 victory over the Green Wave on Saturday.
Reynolds is just two shy of the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns set by former Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball (77) from 2009-2012.
“We found a way to get it done,” Reynolds said. “I think we just kind of came out flat. We met some adversity. The good thing is we didn’t turn the football over. We just kept playing. That’s what you got to do in these types of games.”
Navy (5-1, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) entered the game ranked third nationally with 335.4 yards rushing per game but was held to just 133 as Tulane stacked nine players in the box. Reynolds had just 38 yards on 23 carries.
“We knew they were going to be tough interior-wise defensively,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “They had a really good plan. They’re athletic, and we knew it was going to be tough sledding. I’m proud the way we played and how our defense did some good things.”
The Midshipmen stopped the Green Wave on a fourth-and-1 midway through the third quarter and took over at their own 34-yard line. On the ensuing drive, Navy extended its lead to 17-7 on a 9-yard run by Quentin Ezell, who has five touchdowns on 46 carries this season.
Tulane (2-5, 1-3) got down to Navy’s 2-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but a fumble by Tanner Lee was recovered by Navy’s Will Anthony. It was the 13th straight game the Midshipmen forced a turnover.
“We definitely had a slow start,” Anthony said. “During halftime, we really had a good talking to. ... I’ll say that. Our mindset, including mine, was that it was a reality check that we needed to step up in the second half.”
Lorentez Barbour had another big defensive play for Navy, intercepting Lee at the Tulane 36. That later set up a 1-yard run by Reynolds.
On the ensuing possession, the Midshipmen got their third straight turnover on another fumble by Lee that was recovered by D.J. Palmore on the Tulane 23. Navy backup quarterback Tago Smith threw a 24-yard pass to Calvin Cass Jr. for the 31-7 lead.
That ended Lee’s day as back-up Jordy Joseph hit Charles Jones for a 13-yard touchdown that cut into the final margin. Lee, who missed the previous game against Houston with a concussion, was 22-of-31 for 205 yards with his first career interception.
On a fourth-and-goal from the Tulane 8-yard line, Reynolds ran 4 yards and scored two plays later on Navy’s opening drive. That was his first rushing touchdown after being held scoreless the past two games.
The Green Wave tied the game at 7 on a 19-yard run by sophomore tailback Dontrell Hilliard with 10:43 left in the half, capping a 7-play, 60-yard drive.
Reynolds, who was sacked three times in the first half, converted another fourth-and-2 from midfield and threw a 41-yard pass to Jamir Tillman on the next play. However, the Mids had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Austin Grebe.
Tulane’s Trevor Simms missed a 49-yard field-goal attempt as time expired and Navy led 10-7 at the half. The Midshipmen were held to 44 yards rushing in the opening two quarters — their lowest output since 2013 against Western Kentucky.
“Navy is a tough team to prepare for,” Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said. “The players are very well-conditioned players. They know what they’re doing. Keenan Reynolds is phenomenal.”