Wimbush scores three TD’s as No. 8 Notre Dame holds off Navy

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A week after getting embarrassed on the big stage by Miami, No. 8 Notre Dame (9-2) responded by holding off an upset bid from rival Navy (6-4). Notre Dame had to gut this one out, as we have come to expect from these two teams over the years. An incomplete pass on fourth down by Navy turned the ball over to the Irish in the final minutes and Notre Dame escaped with the win.

The play was a running back pass, and Navy appeared to have the play they were hoping for. But the pass intended for Tyler Carmona from Darryl Bonner was probably a split second late and just off the mark as it fell to the ground with the game on the line.

Navy took a 17-10 lead on the Irish in the third quarter after working a nearly eight-minute drive while running 15 plays to travel 72 yards. The drive ended with a touchdown pass from Zach Abey to Craig Scott from 12 yards out on third-and-goal. The lead did not last for very long, however, as Notre Dame answered with a much quicker offensive series. Brandon Wimbush completed a 30-yard touchdown to Kevin Stepherson to tie the game just five plays later.

The Wimbush-to-Stepherson struck again for the go-ahead touchdown on their next offensive series, after Navy missed a field goal.

Wimbush ended his day with 164 passing yards and two touchdowns with 41 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Running back Josh Adams moved into fifth place in the school record book for the most all-time rushing yards as he rushed for 106 yards on 18 carries. Adams still appears to be on the Heisman Trophy’s radar. Notre Dame’s ability to make big plays helped to overcome a draining day for the Navy offense. Navy held the football for 42:42 in the game, leaving Notre Dame the football for fewer than 18 minutes. Navy quarterback Zach Abey led Navy with 87 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown (Anthony Gargiulo also had 87 rushing yards, but no touchdowns) as the Irish gave up 277 rushing yards.

Notre Dame will wrap up the regular season on the road next week against Stanford. After that, the Irish will wait to hear their bowl fate. Notre Dame is still in firm position to be selected for a New Years Six bowl game, although a shot at playing in the playoff appears to still be an incredibly long shot with little time to spare.

Navy will also be on the road next week for one more conference game. The Midshipmen take on Houston on Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving. Navy will not play for the conference championship game, but they will play one more game before the bowl season with the annual Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia on Dec. 9.

Navy drops anchor on Notre Dame’s bowl hopes in Jacksonville, 28-27

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Navy (6-2) clinched bowl eligibility at the same time Notre Dame (3-6) was put on the brink of bowl elimination in Jacksonville. A Will Worth pass completion on fourth and six to Jamir Tillman allowed the Midshipmen to run out the clock on the final possession of the game. Navy held the football for the final seven minutes and 28 seconds to hang on to a 28-27 victory.

With just over seven and a half minutes to play, Brian Kelly was faced with a decision on fourth and four. Kick a field goal and cut Navy’s lead down to one and hope the defense can get the ball back, or go for a first down and keep a drive alive. Kelly opted for a 31-yard field goal. Notre Dame’s offense never stepped back on the field until the postgame handshakes and alma mater performances. It was a critical coaching decision that appeared to backfire in a big way, although whatever happened on the drive it was pretty clear Notre Dame’s defense would need to make a stop either way. It did not, allowing two fourth-down conversions and committing a costly pass interference penalty on a third down on Navy’s final possession.

Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer passed for 223 yards and three touchdowns, but it was all for nothing as the Irish defense was unable to make a stop. Navy scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions, not counting the final possession that ran out the clock in the second half.

Kelly has now lost to Navy twice (a dubious feat also accomplished by his predecessor, Charlie Weis), while Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo has picked up his third win against the Irish since becoming Navy’s head coach. Navy can now refocus its sights on competing for the American Athletic Conference title, while Notre Dame simply looks to find any reason for optimism.

Navy returns to American Athletic Conference play next week back home in Annapolis against Tulsa. the game will have high stake sin the division on the line. A Navy win will keep the Midshipmen atop the division with two conference games to play. Navy would have a minimum one-game lead in the division with a win against the Golden Hurricane, but Tulsa could take over first place in the division with a win and a head-to-head tiebreaker with Navy. Tulsa plays at home against East Carolina later tonight.

Notre Dame has one more service academy to play next week. Notre Dame will face Army in San Antonio next Saturday. The Irish are now on the brink of being ineligible for postseason play, unless 5-7 teams start getting invites to fill vacancies. Even then, Notre Dame may have a difficult road to travel to a bowl game. Notre Dame must win their final three games of the season just to hit the typical win minimum for bowl eligibility (six wins), or two of the final three to jump in the 5-7 mix. With games still to play against Virginia Tech and USC, Notre Dame could very well be staying home this bowl season.

Navy QB Keenan Reynolds named co-winner of 2016 Sullivan Award

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Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds may not have been a Heisman Trophy finalist, but the legendary Midshipmen took home a share of one of the most prestigious individual awards in collegiate athletics Sunday. Reynolds was named a co-winner of the 2016 AAU James E. Sullivan Award in New York. He shares the honor with Connecticut women’s basketball player Breanna Stewart.

“I’m extremely blessed and honored to have won this award,” said Reynolds. “I would like to thank my family, the coaching staff, my teammates, the Naval Academy Athletic Association, the Naval Academy administration, the Brigade of Midshipmen and the entire Naval Academy family for all the support they have provided me over the last four years. Winning this award is the cherry on top of a great four years.”

Reynolds was an all-around class act on and off the field and exhibited all of the best qualities a college football player could possess. Winning the Sullivan Award confirms that as the award is presented to an outstanding amateur athlete who has displayed outstanding achievement in athletics while showing great leadership, character and sportsmanship. Reynolds exhibited all of that in victory and defeat for the Naval Academy.

Reynolds is the third football player in three years to receive the high honor, joining Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott and Penn State offensive lineman John Urschel. Other football players to receive the honor previously include Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning.

Navy retires Keenan Reynolds’ No. 19 uniform number

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No player to suit up in a Navy football uniform will ever wear the number 19 again. The number, most recently worn by Keenan Reynolds, was officially retired by the Naval Academy Sunday during the program’s annual football banquet.

Reynolds joins an elite group in Navy football history. Only three other players in program history have had their uniform number retired. They are Roger Staubach (No. 12), Joe Bellino (No. 27) and Napoleon McCallum (No. 30).

“This is quite an honor and something that I never dreamed would happen,” said Reynolds.  “I give all the credit to my teammates.  This is a group honor and without my teammates over the past four years none of this would have been possible. I would like to thank Vice Admiral Carter, Mr. Gladchuk and Coach Niumatalolo for this unbelievable honor that I will never forget.”

Reynolds set the NCAA career touchdown record (88 touchdowns) and set the record for most rushing touchdowns in Division 1 last season, Navy’s first in a conference home. He also ended his Navy career with a remarkable 7-1 record against service academies, Army and Air Force. In that record is the first 4-0 record by a starting quarterback in Army-Navy Game history.

In addition to having his number retired, Reynolds also received the E.E. “Rip” Miller Award, a season MVP award voted on by his Navy teammates. Reynolds also won the Roger Staubach Award for his outstanding leadership and attitude and the Napoleon McCallum Award for having the most all-purpose yards in his career in his graduating class. Perhaps someday Navy will hand out a Keenan Reynolds Award.

They totally should.

LSU adds RB coach Jabbar Juluke from Texas Tech

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If there ends up being college football in the state of Louisiana in 2016, LSU has a running backs coach lined up. LSU announced the hiring of running backs coach Jabbar Juluke Saturday morning. Juluke joins LSU after previously coaching at Texas Tech. He fills the vacancy left on the staff by Frank Wilson, who accepted a position as head coach at UTSA.

“Jabbar is a veteran running backs coach with strong ties to New Orleans,” LSU head coach Les Miles said in a released statement. “He has a proven track record of success at both the college and high school level and he’s going to do a great job of continuing to develop our players both on and off the field. Jabbar is a great fit for us and we are excited to have him join our program.”

Juluke spent three years coaching running backs at Louisiana Tech before heading to Texas Tech. The New Orleans native was  a high school head coach for nine years and graduated from Southern University, so it goes without saying he has a good feel for the landscape in Louisiana, which has clearly been a big recruiting factory for LSU over the years. At Louisiana Tech, Juluke coached Kenneth Dixon, who would go on to set NCAA all-time rushing records for touchdowns (which was then topped by Navy’s Keenan Reynolds), points scored and games with a touchdown scored. Now he will get the opportunity to coach one of the nation’s best running backs, Leonard Fournette.

LSU also announced the departure of wide receivers coach Tony Ball, who is leaving to pursue other coaching opportunities.