Something had to give in Monday's Armed Forces Bowl between Navy and Middle Tennessee. The Midshipmen entered with the nation's second-ranked rushing offense, averaging 322 yards per game behind their triple-option attack. The Blue Raiders boasted a stingy run defense that had allowed just 186 rushing yards per game.
Ultimately, quarterback Keenan Reynolds and Navy's offense won the day. The Midshipmen ran for 365 yards (5.4 per carry) and beat the Blue Raiders 24-6. Reynolds finished the game with 86 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He closes 2013 with 31 rushing scores, an FBS single-season record for a quarterback.
Middle Tennessee's defense seemed to do its job in the first half. Reynolds, who set an FBS single-game quarterback record with seven rushing touchdowns against San Jose State on Nov. 29, was limited to a mere 27 rushing yards and one score on 10 carries before the break. The Midshipmen managed only 144 first-half yards and went to the locker room with a slim 10-6 lead.
The Blue Raiders started the third quarter strong, forcing a fumble -- the Midshipmen's second of the day -- and recovering on their own eight-yard line. Navy came into the game having turned the ball over only eight times all season, but a Middle Tennessee defense that gained 31 takeaways this year -- fifth in the country -- kept the Mids on their heels.
In the fourth quarter, however, the floodgates burst open. Reynolds punched in a one-yard touchdown run and DeBrandon Sanders broke free for a 41-yard score to seal the 24-6 result. Navy might be known for its offense, but its defense played well against an attack that came in averaging 31 points per game. The Midshipmen held the Blue Raiders to a season-low six points, an impressive accomplishment considering Middle Tennesee averaged more than 42 points during its season-ending five-game winning streak. With the victory, Navy closed the year with five consecutive victories of its own, including a 34-7 rout of rival Army on Dec. 14.