Sunday Morning Quarterback: Navy’s Reynolds puts on one-man show against SJSU

This was a common occurrence on Friday night. (AP)

This was a common occurrence on Friday night. (AP)

What happened to San Jose State’s bowl hopes? They got spiked in the end zone by Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Seven. Times.

Navy’s dual threat quarterback put on a one-man show worthy of Broadway on Friday night at Spartan Stadium in front of a national TV audience. He didn’t have to pass, or really, pitch the ball to his running backs. Most of the time, he just kept it for himself and took off. Who was going to stop him? No one, apparently.

Defensive coordinator Kenwick Thompson talked a good game earlier this week to Jimmy Durkin of the Mercury News about following assignments when defending Navy’s triple option, something that was totally lost on the one assigned to follow Reynolds. He kept the ball more often than not (36 of 62 of Navy’s plays started and ended with the ball in his hands), and wasn’t contested. Especially in overtime, when, you know, contesting him would have been advantageous.

Still, he almost proved to be Navy’s worst enemy by running in his fourth touchdown when it might have been better for him to take a dive not unlike San Jose State coach Rob Caragher asked his defense to do. The Spartans’ coach told them to do it to preserve some time – 2:38 all told – for the offense to try to get a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to tie the game. The sophomore quarterback walked right into the trap by scoring, and gave the Spartans new life …

… Which the defense promptly squandered with an embarrassing performance in overtime.

The loss all but kills the Spartans bowl hopes after entering the season with so much promise. They still have a shot, but they are going to need a win against a great Fresno State team next week that is destroying bad defenses. Then, they need to hope they win the beauty pageant that is the picking system since there are likely to be seven teams eligible.

Here are the key points from Friday’s loss.

The loss drops the Spartans to 5-6 with one more game to go — against Fresno State on Friday.

San Jose State is now in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation with next Friday’s game against 10-0 Fresno State. If they win, they become bowl eligible, but they effectively end the Bulldogs BCS hopes. By doing that, it knocks them into the Mountain West bowls, where there will likely be seven teams from the conference looking to get into six bowl games. The Spartans, should they win, would easily be the least attractive of those teams, and will likely still stay home in December.

But if they don’t, they don’t achieve the all important goal for this season of even making it to bowl eligibility. As it stands, this season’s high hopes have already been tarnished by the last three games. There was a fourth quarter meltdown against San Diego State, a couldn’t-be-bothered-to-show-up performance against a weak Nevada team, and a pathetic defensive showing against Navy that would at many bowl subdivision programs have the DC packing his office the next day (hell, it happened to Chris Tormey at Wyoming earlier this season.)

If the Spartans should come away with a win on Friday, they will become the biggest Air Force and Utah State fans ever, since the Falcons can knock Colorado State from bowl eligibility with a win, and the Aggies can keep Wyoming out by winning. If all three things happen, there would be six bowl eligible teams for six bowls.

Rob Caragher told the Spartans’ defense to let Keenan Reynolds score with 2:38 left so they could get the ball back.

Are you sure he didn’t tell them that before each of the OT periods too? Twice the sophomore quarterback for Navy broke on the first play  for a touchdown, and scored the TD in the second overtime on a 7-yard run. Reynolds finished with 240 yards on 36 carries.

People seem to be up-in-arms about such a move, but it ended up being smart, especially since Reynolds ran it in anyway rather than come up short, then line up to take a few knees. The Spartans probably don’t score to tie if they don’t get the ball back with so much time.

Reynolds ran for an NCAA record seven touchdowns in Friday’s game.

Given the way the Spartans’ defense has folded in the waning weeks of the season, I would expect no less. The blame for this falls squarely on injuries, which have taken a few key starters that were propping up this defense, and DC Kenwick Thompson and his coaches, which have not done a good job making adjustments after halftime (Caragher shares some of this blame too.) It has been an expectation all season long that the offense was going to need to carry the day, and Friday night they tried valiantly to do so. The defense needed to make a stop at some point there, and didn’t.

San Jose State quarterback David Fales set the all-time passing TD mark and the all-time passing yards mark in Friday’s game.

He beat out Adam Tafralis for passing yardage in the second quarter, and Steve Clarkson for touchdowns in a career in the third on a pass to — who else? — Chandler Jones. The San Jose State senior returned to form after three weeks off, going 42 for 56 through the air for five touchdowns and 440 yards. His one mistake came in the third overtime, when he through an interception in the end zone.

He can be forgiven for this error considering he almost single-handedly carried the Spartans to a win. After all, it was his play on the final drive — 9 for 13 passing for a touchdown with no time remaining, then a 2-point conversion — that even gave them a chance to win. You couldn’t ask for more from your quarterback.

San Jose State ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries. 

The lack of balance was glaring late, as the Spartans last run play was halfway through the fourth quarter. Jarred Lawson had 98 yards rushing and a touchdown, but also committed a key fumble that ended up costing the Spartans a chance to take the lead in regulation (it gave Navy the ball for what was their last score of the fourth quarter.)

Of the three freshman running backs, Lawson is fast eclipsing Thomas Tucker, who seems to be more of a speed back who prefers to go around rather than through D-linemen, and Tim Crawley, who caught one pass but was otherwise a not a factor Saturday.

The running game was getting yardage throughout the game, but it felt like Navy was able to stop Lawson when they needed to in big moments (in the third overtime on third an 2, for example), which seemed to be attributable to four things: An already hurting offensive line was getting beat up and getting no push; Running backs who, despite being impressive this season, are small and lack experience; Uncreative playcalling in the running game; and Navy’s defense being experienced enough to know how to handle it.


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