EAST HARTFORD — The UConn defense had no answer for Navy’s triple-option offense during the first half of Saturday’s game.
Unlike two weeks ago against Army when the Huskies were able to decipher the puzzling code that is the triple-option offense, Navy ran it differently. It was faster and much sharper.
Unfortunately, by the time the Huskies were able to settle down on the defensive side of the ball and figure Navy out, it was too late.
Led by senior quarterback Keenan Reynolds, the Midshipmen gained 343 yards of offense — 303 on the ground — and defeated the Huskies 28-18 in front of 33,204 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.
“It was and is the strongest Navy offense that I’ve had an opportunity to watch,” UConn head coach Bob Diaco said. “They basically have 19 or 20 seniors in their offensive two-deep. So they don’t miss a read, they don’t miss a fit, they don’t miss a window.”
Navy (3-0, 2-0 the American) was nearly perfect in the first half.
The Midshipmen scored touchdowns on all three of their possessions in the first half, taking time off the clock and keeping the UConn offense off the field. The Midshipmen had scoring drives of 62, 85 and 77 yards. All three drives in the first half took up a combined 15:33.
In the first half, Reynolds had two rushing touchdowns and threw another to Jamir Tillman. Navy was 5 for 5 on third down conversions. They made the all the right plays when they had to.
“It was huge. If you have high third down efficiency, you are going to do very well offensively,” Reynolds said of the team’s success on third down. “It means that overall, you are going to be very efficient. To be able to convert on those third and mediums, it’s a big deal.”
UConn captain Andrew Adams said that even though they got Navy in a lot of third down situations, at the end of the day they didn’t make the stops on fourth down when they needed to.
The Huskies, which allowed 126.3 rushing yards per game prior to Saturday’s game, allowed 190 rushing yards in the first half, 90 of which came from Reynolds.
Navy led 21-10 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Midshipmen had the ball for 11:04 and didn’t allow the UConn offense to see the field. Neither team scored in the third quarter and although the Huskies outscored Navy 8-7 in the fourth quarter, UConn (2-2, 0-1 the American) never really had a chance due to Navy controlling the tempo.
Navy gained 124 yards of offense in the second half. Their one touchdown in the fourth quarter came on a 4-yard run from Reynolds.
Reynolds finished the game with 142 yards rushing, 40 yards passing and accounted for four touchdowns (three rushing, one passing). He now has 73 rushing touchdowns in his career, good for a tie for second on the NCAA all-time list. He is four away from matching Montee Ball’s (Wisconsin) record of 77.
His 100-plus rushing yards also marks the 16th time he has rushed for over 100 yards in his career.
Diaco spoke very highly of Reynolds after the game, but also mentioned that the offensive system he plays in allows him to be so successful.
“I think you’re looking at a grown man who’s taken thousands of snaps in game,” Diaco said. “He’s a senior. He’s a talented player, but he’s an experienced player in that offense and time in it. That really makes a difference for that position.”
Reynolds has scored three or more touchdowns in a game for a NCAA record 15th time.
Chris Swain was the second leading rusher for Navy, running for 58 yards (43 in the first half).
The Midshipmen finished the game 8 of 12 on third down.
“We had to start fast and we didn’t,” UConn sophomore linebacker Junior Joseph said. “With that type of offense, you have to settle in fast and if you don’t settle in fast you get in deep behind. When you’re behind dealing with that offense it’s hard to get back.”