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Keenan Reynolds leads No. 21 Navy to 14th straight win vs. Army

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Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was making history left and right in a 21-17 victory over Army in Philadelphia on Saturday. Reynolds set a new Division 1 rushing touchdown record, set a new Army-Navy Game record for career touchdowns and became the first player from Navy to ever go 4-0 as a starting quarterback against Army.

Reynolds passed for 113 yards and a touchdown and led Navy on the ground with 136 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns, setting the new Division 1 all-time rushing touchdown record at 85. Reynolds also scored his seventh touchdown in an Army-Navy Game, setting another gold standard for the series. As if that were not enough record setting for one day, Reynolds’ passing touchdown was his 30th career touchdown pass at Navy, which set a school record for career passing touchdowns.

With this being one of the better Navy teams coached by Ken Niumatalolo, this was no blowout. In fact, Navy had to hang on for the win as Army hung around and forced Navy to punt the ball enough times to keep hope alive of ending the losing streak against Navy. Army tried dipping into the trick play book by having DeAndre Bell unload on a deep pass down toward the end zone, but Navy’s Daiquan Thomasson got enough air to snag the football to kill what looked to be a promising drive by Army in the final minutes. It was a play that would have been praised for years to come by Army fans. Instead, it is added to a long and growing list of moments of misfortune for the long-suffering Army fans. Navy’s offense was forced to punt the ball away from their own nine-yard line, giving Army one more chance. Two incomplete passes by Kelvin White fell incomplete though and time expired.

The win for Navy was the 14th straight over Army, continuing to add on to the longest winning streak by either academy in the long historic rivalry series. Army’s last victory over the Midshipmen came in 2001.

Army did show some good fight though, which should come as no real surprise. Despite the success of Navy this season, Army always tends to bring their best performance of the season against their rivals from Annapolis. Army quarterback Chris Carter connected on some big gains with Edgar Poe to keep Army in the game, and at times in front on the scoreboard. The problem was every time Army made something happen, Navy seemed to strike right back with big plays of their own. One time, in particular, Army did it to themselves. In the fourth quarter, a promising looking drive crossed midfield only to see a fumbled snap be recovered by Navy with eight and a half minutes to play. That allowed Navy an opportunity to run some clock with a four-point lead.

Navy still has one more game to play. The Midshipmen will play Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl on a not-so-neutral field on December 28. The Military Bowl is played in Navy’s home stadium, so Navy will feel at home for the game against the Panthers. The two programs last faced each other in 2013, with Navy winning 24-21 in Annapolis. This will be the first postseason meeting between the two.

Army will head into the offseason once again not looking forward to a postseason game. Army’s 2016 season is scheduled to open right back at Lincoln Financial Field though, as Army will open the season on the road against Temple on September 3.

No. 21 Fresno State runs past Arizona State in Las Vegas Bowl

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No. 21 Fresno State concluded arguably the best season in school history with an emphatic win over Arizona State on Saturday, toppling the Sun Devils 31-20 in the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl.

For a moment in the third quarter, it seemed the Las Vegas Bowl was headed toward a heartbreaking loss. After a 17-17 first half, Fresno State threatened to strike first in the second half when Dejonte O’Neal hauled in a beautifully designed screen pass and jetted 29 yards toward the end zone. But the ball was dislodged as O’Neal reached toward the pylon, resulting in a fumble that turned the ball over to the Sun Devils.

Fresno State forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but the Bulldogs’ next touch ended in another costly turnover when Marcus McMariyon was intercepted in his own territory.

Brandon Ruiz turned that pick into a 44-yard field goal and a 20-17 lead.

Fresno State’s next possession ended in another McMariyon pick near midfield, but again the Bulldog defense stiffened, forcing another three-and-out — though with the help of Herm Edwards. Facing a 4th-and-1 at the Fresno State 44 with a 3-point lead, Edwards elected to take a delay of game and punt the ball away. The Sun Devils gained only two first downs after that punt.

Given a fourth chance to take the lead, Fresno State this time didn’t leave anything to chance. McMariyon handed the ball to Ronnie Rivers, who charged 68 yards for a touchdown to give Fresno State a lead it would not relinquish. The Fresno State defense thoroughly shut down the Sun Devils’ second-half offense — forcing four three-and-outs and an interception, while surrendering just a 13-yard field goal drive — which allowed Rivers’ 5-yard touchdown rush with 5:19 remaining to put a cap on an important, satisfying win.

Rivers earned MVP honors, rushing 24 times for 212 yards and two touchdowns.

Arizona State’s comeback efforts ended when Manny Wilkins was intercepted by Juju Hughes at the Fresno State 11-yard line with 3:36 remaining. The senior closed his career hitting 17-of-25 passes for 112 yards — he threw for just one yard after halftime — with one touchdown and two picks, including a pick-six.

With the win, Fresno State set a school record with 12 wins, capping a season in which the club captured its third Mountain West championship. The Bulldogs will end the season ranked inside the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2004, another impressive milestone in the Jeff Tedford era, a 2-year run in which a program that went 4-20 in 2015-17 has turned the tide to go 22-6 in 2017-18.

Despite the loss, Year 1 of the Edwards era was still a success for Arizona State. Picked to finished last in the Pac-12 South in the league’s preseason poll, the Sun Devils concluded the year at 7-6.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 10-0 lead 10 minutes when Anthoula Kelly stepped in front of a Wilkins pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown, but the Sun Devils responded with consecutive touchdown drives.

The first scoring drive was almost all Wilkins, as he rushed or pass on the final seven snaps of a 9-play, 65-yard drive, culminating in a 3-yard scoring toss to Kyle Williams. After forcing a Fresno State three-and-out, Arizona State took the lead when Eno Benjamin covered the final 30 yards on an 8-play, 58-yard march. Benjamin’s 17-yard touchdown run not only gave his team the lead, it handed him the Arizona State single-season rushing record at 1,585 yards.

Fresno State answered with a 9-play, 75-yard drive, seven of them runs. Rivers ran for gains of 19 and 15 yards to open the drive, then quarterback McMariyon finished the drive with a 10-yard keeper, putting the Bulldogs back in front at 17-14 with 8:03 left in the first half.

Arizona State consumed nearly the remainder of the half, piecing together a marathon 17-play, 72-minute drive. Rather than go for a 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Edwards, foreshadowing another un-Vegas-like decision, opted for a 20-yard Ruiz field goal with 51 seconds left in the first half.

Georgia Southern running wild to take halftime lead over EMU in the Camellia Bowl

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When MACtion meets the Fun Belt in a bowl game, chances are points will come in bunches, right? Well, not in the case of the Camellia Bowl between Georgia Southern and Eastern Michigan as the two sets of Eagles played a somewhat low-scoring first half that featured plenty of fun plays but surprisingly few scoring drives to put GS up 17-7.

Part of the reason why was the Sun Belt squad’s option offense turning in one of the drives of the season, covering a whopping 95 yards over 15 plays before Shai Werts found the end zone — taking off a robust nine minutes and one second off the clock in the process. That was the first of two scores for the quarterback, who put on a masterclass in pitching, catching and converting on third down for the Eagles.

The offense finished the first half with 230 yards rushing and are hoping to keep their perfect bowl record going in just the program’s second-ever postseason appearance at the FBS level. Tyler Bass also added a 50-yard field goal in the rain just as the clock hit zeros too.

Eastern Michigan, relative bowl novices themselves, made their fair share of plays in all three phases to keep things close for the most part. That included a blocked punt in the second quarter to put them at midfield and set up a fairly brisk six-play scoring drive that saw Mike Glass (7/8, 53 yards passing) hit Tyler Lyle from a yard out to find pay dirt.

Word to the wise though, don’t count out the Eagles from the North in this one even with the Eagles from the South taking that lead into the break. Few programs have a knack for playing in close, one-score games quite like Chris Creighton’s group does and they’ll need yet another rally to get that job done in this fun bowl matchup.

Utah State bowls over North Texas in New Mexico

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As if there was ever any doubt, players are more important than coaches in college football. Despite the fact Matt Wells and the majority of his coaching staff bailed early, Utah State rolled over an overmatched and undermanned North Texas team, cruising to a 52-13 win in the New Mexico Bowl presented by Progressive.

The win was a fitting close to one of the best seasons in school history for Utah State. The Aggies (11-2) tied a school record for wins and will likely become the fourth team in school history to finish the season ranked in the AP poll, joining John Ralston‘s 1960-61 teams that went a combined 18-3-1 and former and future head coach Gary Andersen‘s 2012 squad that also went 11-2.

The points started early for the Aggies, finding pay dirt on their third play of the game — a 72-yard strike from Jordan Love to Aaren Vaughns — and ripped off 31 unanswered points over the first and second quarters to break the game open for good.

In addition to the 72-yarder to open the game, Utah State scored touchdowns from 26, 37 and 67 yards in the first half (plus another score on a 10-play, 78-yard drive), as the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense played to its paper throughout the day. Love completed 21-of-43 passes for 361 yards with four touchdowns (plus one rushing) and an interception inside the UNT end zone that robbed him of a sixth score, while Gerold Bright and Darwin Thompson combined to rush 37 times for 196 yards and two touchdowns.

In all, the Aggies rolled up 556 yards of total offense — 360 of them in the first half.

As the score indicates, the game was a complete nightmare for North Texas. The Mean Green entered the game without leading receiver Rico Bussey (1,017 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns) and played the majority of the day without franchise quarterback Mason Fine. Visibly hobbled by a bum hamstring, Fine threw only 12 passes and left the game in the second quarter when he had to limp his way to recover an errant snap — a theme for UNT during the game — near his own goal line.

Fine was replaced by senior backup Quinn Shanbour, who completed 2-of-8 passes for 24 yards with three interceptions. Shanbour was replaced by freshman Jason Bean, whose only completion in his two passes was to Utah State safety DJ Williams, setting up a field goal on the final play of the half that pushed UNT’s deficit to 38-7.

Fellow freshman Kason Martin played the bulk of the second half, and hit Jalen Guyton for a 75-yard touchdown on his first pass. After that throw, Martin went 6-of-11 for 36 yards.

The loss served as a bitter end to a bittersweet season for North Texas. Though the Mean Green (9-4) increased or matched their win total for the third time in as many seasons under Seth Littrell, North Texas saw three double-digit leads turn into losses and then closed with a second consecutive bowl loss in which the opponent hit half a hundred, following a 50-30 loss to Troy in the 2017 New Orleans Bowl.

No. 21 Fresno State, Arizona State dueling in the desert

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It’s hard to state definitively whether it’s the match-ups, the locale or the gorgeous color-on-color uniform combination, but the Las Vegas Bowl frequently delivers some of the best early bowl season viewing, and the 2018 installment is no different.

No. 21 Fresno State and Arizona State are tied 17-17 at the half in the desert.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 10-0 lead 10 minutes when Anthoula Kelly stepped in front of a Manny Wilkins pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown, but the Sun Devils responded with consecutive touchdown drives.

The first scoring drive was almost all Wilkins, as he rushed or pass on the final seven snaps of a 9-play, 65-yard drive, culminating in a 3-yard scoring toss to Kyle Williams. After forcing a Fresno State three-and-out, Arizona State took the lead when Eno Benjamin covered the final 30 yards on an 8-play, 58-yard march. Benjamin’s 17-yard touchdown run not only gave his team the lead, it handed him the Arizona State single-season rushing record at 1,585 yards.

Fresno State answered with a 9-play, 75-yard drive, seven of them runs. Ronnie Rivers ran for gains of 19 and 15 yards to open the drive, then quarterback Marcus McMaryion finished the drive with a 10-yard keeper, putting the Bulldogs back in front at 17-14 with 8:03 left in the first half.

Arizona State consumed nearly the remainder of the half, piecing together a marathon 17-play, 72-minute drive. Rather than go for a 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Herm Edwards opted for a 20-yard Brandon Ruiz field goal with 51 seconds left in the first half.

Excluding kneel downs, Fresno State ran only 24 plays in the first half. McMaryion was 6-of-12 for 76 yards with a rushing touchdown, while Rivers carried nine times for 54 yards.

Wilkins was good outside of his pick-six, hitting 14-of-18 passes for 111 yards with a touchdown while rushing six times for 24 yards. Benjamin led all runners with 14 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown.

Arizona State will receive to open the second half.