Another week, another record for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds. The Heisman Trophy candidate seems to find his name atop a new record every single week, and this week it was moving past Napoleon McCallum to become the all-time leading rusher in Navy history with 4,195 yards in his career. That puts him fifth all-time for quarterbacks in FBS history with a great chance to pass former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson for first all-time in that category as well by the end of the season.
It was somewhat of a slow start for Navy, as Reynolds fumbled on both of the first two drives of the game, recovering it once and turning it over another, his first turnover of the season.
However, the Navy defense would hold serve each time, allowing the offense to find its rhythm, and once that happened, the contest quickly turned into a rout.
A 70 yard touchdown run by Toneo Gulley, the longest rushing touchdown of the season for the Mids, would get the scoring started on Navy's third drive of the game. After a missed field goal, Reynolds would find Jamir Tillman for a 39 yard touchdown pass to put the Midshipmen up 14-0. Reynolds now sits one behind Bill Byrne for the all-time record for touchdown passes at Navy.
Reynolds would add the 82nd rushing touchdown of his career on the next drive, moving him into sole possession of second place and one behind Montee Ball for the all-time FBS record for touchdowns scored in a career.
Tulsa would finally get on the board with a one yard Zack Langer touchdown, but a botched snap would result in a safety to close out the half as Navy went into the locker room with a 23-7 lead.
Dishan Romine would take the opening kickoff of the second half 90 yards and Demond Brown punched it in from four yards out to put Navy up 30-7 less than a minute into the third quarter.
Tulsa answered right back with another Langer touchdown run, but Navy would then counter with touchdowns by Quentin Ezell and Brandon Colon to make the score 44-14.
Navy rolled up 524 yards of total offense in the 44-21 victory, and the defense led by Will Anthony limited Tulsa to just 356 yards, 170 below their season average entering the game.
It was another dominant performance for a Navy program that will in all likelihood move into the top 15 of the College Football Playoff rankings ahead of their epic showdown with Houston next Friday at noon on ABC.
Here are my three most pressing thoughts after last night's victory over Tulsa:
1. Balanced on offense
This is the most complete Navy team in recent memory, and last night's domination of Tulsa was a prime example of just how balanced the Midshipmen are on both sides of the ball.
On offense, Keenan Reynolds naturally receives all of the hype and praise for everything he has accomplished this season and in his career, but if I am a defensive coordinator, I am probably more terrified of the fact that Ivin Jasper always finds a way to get all of the offensive weapons involved, and this is not a one-trick pony offense by any stretch of the imagination.
Last night, Navy had six different offensive players score all six touchdowns in the game. It's scary to think that if you try and limit Reynolds, he will just give the ball to Chris Swain and Ezell up the middle or pitch it to Demond Brown, DeBrandon Sanders, Dishan Romine, Toneo Gulley, or Calvin Cass on the outside. The way the offensive line, receivers, and other slot backs are blocking, good luck trying to find a way to contain the second leading rushing attack in the country. When you try and creep the safeties up to help counter the rushing attack, then Navy has another weapon in Jamir Tillman who will make you pay over the top.
While Reynolds and Co. are as prolific a rushing attack as there is in college football, do not discount the passing element of their offense. While the timing in the passing game has not been perfect this season, Reynolds has still found success when necessary, and he is closing in on 100 passes in a row without an interception. He has the lowest interception percentage in Navy history over his career at just 1.6% as well.
2. Dominant on defense
While Navy's offense has been efficient and dominant all season, it is the fact that they are one of three teams in all of FBS with a top 20 scoring offense and top 20 scoring defense that makes them so balanced and dangerous.
Last night, defensive end Will Anthony was playing in another stratosphere. If he doesn't win defensive player of the week for the AAC, I will be completely shocked and dumbfounded. He was all over the field throughout the game and ended up with 8 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, and 3 sacks.
This is a complete defensive unit that has time and time again held high profile offensive attacks at bay throughout the season. Tulsa came in averaging 36 points per game and were held to 21 last night, with the final touchdown coming after the second and third string players found their way to the field. They came in averaging 526 yards of total offense and were held to 356. This is as impressive a defensive unit as Navy has put on the field in a long time, and when you add that with an offense that is as efficient as any in the country, that makes for a lethal combination.
3. Turnover margin/time of possession
Navy's balance has allowed it to execute its game plan week after week which includes limiting opponents' possessions and maximizing their own. The team now ranks 11th in the country in time of possession, and that is a testament to the defense being able to get off the field quicker than in year's past and the offense getting into an early rhythm that they never relinquish.
You combine this with the fact that Navy is second in the country in turnover margin on the season at +15, and the result is a team that is not just winning games, but winning big.
Navy is 9th in the country in average margin of victory at 17.4 points per game.
Next week's game against Houston is a winner-take-all for the AAC West Division, with the winner set to host the inaugural AAC Championship Game the following week. This is a Navy team playing like the best team in the Group of 5, and the balance they are displaying on both sides of the ball has put them in the driver's seat for a spot in a New Year's Six bowl game if they continue to go 1-0 over the next three weeks.