W hen Middle Tennessee State plays Navy in the 11th annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 30, it will be playing a team that racks up yards in bunches on the ground and a squad that rarely turns it over .
Led by quarterback Keenan Reynolds, the Midshipmen (7-4) lead the country in fewest turnovers lost (8). Navy has lost four fumbles and had four interceptions through 11 games this season.
Navy plays Army on Saturday to wrap up its regular season.
The Midshipmen will then turn its attention to the Blue Raiders (8-4) in the first meeting between the schools.
Reynolds, a former Goodpasture High School standout who played for current Stewarts Creek coach David Martin, also is second in the country in rushing touchdowns with 26. Reynolds leads the country in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, and is the focal point to the Navy triple-option attack.
MTSU senior receiver Tavarres Jefferson , who played at Ensworth, said he isn’t familiar with Reynolds despite also being from the Nashville area.
“I may call (former MTSU and Goodpasture running back) Benny (Cunningham) and see if he k nows h i m ,” Jefferson said.
The Midshipmen rank third in the country in team rushing with 320.1 yards per game, trailing only Auburn (335.7 ypg) and Army (323.6).
While Navy is new to the Blue Raiders, its offense is not. MTSU faced Georgia Tech, which also runs the triple-option, three times from 2010-2012 and beat the Yellow Jackets 49-28 in Atlanta last season after holding them to just 238 rushing yards.
“Coach said they probably do a little more throwing than Geogia Tech,” MTSU senior defensive lineman Jimmy Staten said. “We just have to prepare.
“When we faced Georgia Tech with their tripleoption (in 2012), we had plenty of time to prepare (there was an open date the week prior).” MTSU coach Rick Stockstill said past experiences against the Yellow Jackets can help in preparation, but the two teams are different.
“Will it help? Yeah,” said Stockstill, who led MTSU to its fourth FBS bowl game. “But I’m sure they are a different team. We’re a different team.
“But we’ve got an idea on what they’ll do.” MTSU also has been very successful on the ground and rank 25th in team rushing (208.3 ypg). The Blue Raiders’ success on the ground has been with a stable of running backs due to injuries. MTSU has used Jordan Parker, Reggie Whatley, William Pratcher, Jeremiah Bryson, Shane Tucker and Corey Carmichael in the back field.
However, Pratcher is out for the season with an injury. Parker, Whatley and Bryson also have missed action due to injuries. Parker leads the team in rushing with 767 yards.