Jamir Tillman

Houston takes halftime lead on Navy in AAC West winner-takes-all contest

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If Houston is going to slow down Navy’s offense, keeping it off the field is a good way to go about it. In a battle for the American Athletic Conference West Division title, and home field advantage in the AAC Championship Game, Houston has used methodic ball control to its advantage and leads the Midshipmen 24-14 at halftime. Greg Ward Jr.‘s five-yard touchdown run gave the home team the lead just minutes after Houston successfully converted a fourth down and short after a timeout.

Houston took the game’s opening possession 82 yards for a touchdown after 13 plays for an early lead. Greg Ward Jr. completed a short pass to Steven Dunbar from five yards out for the score, but Navy answered with a touchdown drive on their opening possession. Keenan Reynolds ripped off a 52-yard run and later capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7.

Houston again put together a lengthy and time-consuming touchdown drive on the ensuing possession. The Cougars took 13 plays to move 76 yards for a score, this time seeing Brandon Wilson complete the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead. The two teams exchanged punts before Navy once again tied the game with Reynolds completing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jamir Tillman.

Army starts strong, but Navy seizes momentum at half

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Looking to bring an end to a painful 12-game losing streak to their rivals from Navy, Army nearly pulled off about a perfect first half as it could muster. But Keenan Reynolds and the Midshipmen had a late rally in them just before the half to tie things up 7-7.

Josh Jenkins blocked a a Navy punt deep in the Navy end, and Xavier Moss picked up the loose ball and returned it seven short yards for a quick score. It was the first time since 2009 Army had scored first in the Army Navy Game, and it was the first blocked punt returned for a touchdown against Navy since 2008 (Notre Dame). Navy’s ensuing possession was not much better, with a second straight three-and-out before getting a punt away.

It looked for a while as though Army was going to find a way to the half with the lead, but Reynolds completed a 39-yard pass to Jamir Tillman to move Navy’s offense into Army territory. A couple of plays later Navy entered the red zone. A nine-yard touchdown pass from Reynolds to Tillman with 18 seconds left in the first half tied things up, perhaps seizing the momentum for Navy n the process at the best possible time.

The touchdown pass from Reynolds was his 23rd career touchdown pass. That moved him into a tie for fourth place in Navy program history with Jim Kubiak.

Of course, the pregame fanfare and show of unified patriotism was put on display as well.