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Navy holds off South Alabama 42-40

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MOBILE, Ala. (AP) Keenan Reynolds ran for three touchdowns and Navy survived a pair of South Alabama 2-point conversion attempts that were both wiped out by penalties in the final seconds for a 42-40 victory Friday.

Brandon Bridge hit Jereme Jones with a 10-yard TD pass to pull the Jags within two points with 39 seconds left, but his 2-point conversion pass to Shavarez Smith was wiped out by an ineligible man down field call. Bridge's successful scramble to the end zone for another apparent tying conversion was erased by a holding call, sending the crowd of 14,571 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium into a frenzy.

Brendon Clements then intercepted Bridge's desperation heave into the end zone and the Midshipmen recovered the ensuing onside kick to ensure victory.

''I'm proud of our guys. South Alabama is a good football team,'' said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. ''We knew we were going to have to battle them today. They had some turnovers in the first half, and we had some turnovers in the second half. It was a hard-fought game. ''

After the game, Navy (6-5) accepted an invitation to the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego against a team from the Mountain West conference.

''It's obviously pretty tough when you have a team that fights its guts out to get down there,'' South Alabama coach Joey Jones said. ''They fought their tails off to win the ball game.''

Reynolds' second touchdown gave him 60 for his career, passing Eric Crouch of Nebraska and Colin Kaepernick of Nevada to take the NCAA record for most rushing TDs by a quarterback. His 12th career game with three rushing touchdowns broke a tie with Wisconsin's Montee Ball for another NCAA record.

South Alabama (6-6) looked sharp on its opening possession, an eight-play, 73-yard drive capped by Terrance Timmons four-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead at 10:56 of the first quarter.

South's Maleki Harris recovered the seventh fumble of his career on an errant pitch by Reynolds at the 25 on the ensuing Navy possession and Aleen Sunanon kicked a 34-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.

Navy (6-5) went for a fourth-and-1 at its own 45 with 6:20 left in the first and was stopped, but Bridge was intercepted by Myer Krah at the Navy 45 and he returned 31 yards to the South 29. A late hit tacked on an extra 15 yards and Navy was in business at the South 14.

Copeland capped a quick two-play drive with a 13-yard TD run to cut it to 10-7 with 4:56 left in the first quarter. Bridge hit Smith on a 3-yard scoring pass with 35 seconds left in the quarter to make it 17-7.

Bridge threw his second interception of the game and Reynolds sprinted 67 yards to the end zone for a 17-14 score with 7:32 left in the half. Chris Swain gave Navy the lead for good when he bolted in from 34 yards out with 3:07 left in the half.

Copeland's 3-yard TD run made it 28-17 lead with 9:04 left in the third, before Suanon kicked a 40-yard field goal to make it 28-20 with 3:43 left in the third.

Geoffrey Whiteside fumbled on Navy's next possession and safety Jeremy Reaves recovered at the 41, but the play was overturned on replay.

Reynolds took it in from there for a 35-20 lead with 1:46 left in the third. Danny Woodson's 7-yard TD catch cut it to 35-27, but Reynolds got his third TD from 1-yard out midway through the fourth quarter for a 42-27 lead.

Bridge threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Smith to cut the difference to 42-34 with 5:31 left.