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Navy finished its best season in more than 50 years with its best player in a generation

Navy had lost 11-of-17 games when Keenan Reynolds subbed in against Air Force in 2012. The Midshipmen would win 35 of their next 48. Here's a thing or two to know about each of Monday's bowls, and you can catch up on the rest of bowl season's Numericals here.

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1. 88 career touchdowns, 35 wins

The Keenan Reynolds revolution was televised. On Oct. 12, 2012, the true freshman quarterback from Antioch, Tenn., was featured for the first time at Central Michigan on ESPN2 on Friday night.

Navy's offense was struggling in its second year after star Ricky Dobbs had left. In their first three games against FBS competition, the Midshipmen had lost to Notre Dame, Penn State and San Jose State by a combined 96-17.

The week before, against Air Force, Reynolds had lit a spark. Replacing injured Trey Miller, Reynolds helped to seal a game-tying drive with the first touchdown of his career. Navy would win when Reynolds fumbled a first-and-goal snap from the 1 in overtime, only for Jake Zuzek to recover it for a touchdown.

Reynolds had rushed three times for 22 yards and completed three passes for 55, enough to lead Ken Niumatalolo to believe he might be ready for an extended audition. The following Friday, it began. Reynolds completed six passes for 134 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 79 yards minus two sacks. Navy won, 31-13. He led a 31-30 win over Indiana, then rushed for three scores in a romp over ECU.

The Midshipmen were 1-3 in 2012 when Reynolds came in for Miller, winners of only six of their last 17 games. They would go 35-13 over the rest of Reynolds' career.

His last game was one of his best. Against Pitt in the Military Bowl on Monday, Reynolds led the team in rushing, passing and receiving yards. He carried 24 times for 144 yards and three scores (reclaiming the FBS touchdowns record), completed nine of 17 passes for 126 yards and another touchdown, and caught a 47-yard pass from Shawn White.

Despite two Pitt return scores, Navy cruised to an easy 44-28 win because of an offense that could rarely be stopped. Not including end-of-half drives, Navy got the ball nine times, scored six touchdowns and kicked a field goal once. The Middies were 12-for-17 on third downs, and on two of the five failed third downs, they converted fourth down.

Pitt couldn't get the ball back until Navy said so.

Navy finishes with an 11-2 record and its best win percentage since 1957. The team was more than Reynolds. It started 10 seniors on offense, and Reynolds' upside would have been tamped down if not for the power of fullback Chris Swain (27 carries, 114 yards) and the slice-and-dice speed of slot backs like Dishan Romine, Demond Brown and Toneo Gulley (combined: 11 carries: 136 yards, two touchdowns). This was a nearly perfect option offense, led by a nearly perfect option quarterback and coordinator in Ivin Jasper.

Navy starts over on offense (though somehow it looks like Jasper will remain Niumatalolo's right-hand man -- at some point, he will have earned a head coaching job) and will start to look for its next great option QB.

2. Pitt had only 42 plays

Pittsburgh averaged 8 yards per play against Navy -- 6.5 in the first half, 9.6 in the second. Quarterback Nathan Peterman never got rolling, throwing three picks among 21 passes and completing just 13 for 137 yards. But the run game clicked. Mixing in jet sweeps with between-the-tackles rushing, Qadree Ollison, Tyler Boyd and Jordan Whitehead combined to average 11.4 yards per carry; all three had at least one rush of 20 yards, and Ollison had a 45-yard touchdown.

The problem: your per-play averages take on less meaning when you manage only 42 plays. Two of four Pitt touchdowns took zero plays (a kick return and a fumble return), and a third took just four. Two drives contained 10 plays each, and the other six combined for 22 total.

Meanwhile, Navy was doing Navy things: 10 plays for 75 yards, 14 for 86, nine for 34, 12 for 84, 14 for 68, nine for 75. Pitt had one drive last for more than four minutes; Navy had five. Total snaps: Navy 89, Pitt 42. Time of possession: Navy 42:05, Pitt 17:55.

Time of possession is a drastically overrated statistic, and when it's useful, it's more for descriptive purposes than any sort of "this is what determined the game" use. When Navy is at its most Navyish, however, the Midshipmen are playing such effective keep-away that every mistake you make is magnified. Throw an interception, and you're not going to get the ball back for six minutes. Blow a scoring opportunity, and you might not get a chance to make up for it.

Throw three interceptions and blow three opportunities to score (two with interceptions, one with a missed field goal), and you might lose by 16 despite 8 yards per play and two return touchdowns.

3. Minnesota's 13-play, 74-yard drive

It wasn't exactly Michigan State's miraculous, 22-play drive against Iowa, but it still made the difference. Down 14-13 to CMU after Romello Ross' 13-yard touchdown run, Minnesota got the ball back with 11:02 remaining in a less-than-thrilling Quick Lane Bowl, faced with the prospect of finishing the season 5-8.

To date, the Golden Gophers had held Cooper Rush and a pretty good CMU passing attack to 11-of-23 passing for just 90 yards, but Ross (19 carries, 100 yards) had provided a spark, and Minnesota's offense hadn't been very helpful. Three scoring opportunities had resulted in a touchdown and two field goals, and on their previous drive, a fourth-and-2 pass to Brandon Lingen had been stuffed for no gain near midfield.

The Gophers gathered themselves. Mitch Leidner completed short passes to Rodney Smith and KJ Maye to advance into CMU territory; then he hit Maye for nine yards on third-and-7 to keep the chains moving. He rushed for seven yards on third-and-3, then up the middle for 13 on another third-and-3 to cap a 13-play, 74-yard drive that had eaten 6:36 off of the clock.

CMU would advance into Minnesota territory, but a Briean Boddy-Calhoun interception all but locked up the win.


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This was a Minnesota kind of win, one the Gophers managed only six of this season. The running backs averaged about 4 yards per carry, and the passing game averaged only slightly better; Leidner completed 24 of 30 passes, but for only 208 net yards including two sacks. Minnesota's was an efficiency offense that wasn't efficient enough to take pressure off of the defense, but it worked when it absolutely needed to on Monday.

4. 6-7s all around!

Minnesota's win assured us of no 5-8 teams this year. After only 77 teams became bowl eligible, three short of the number of slots available, Nebraska, Minnesota and San Jose State were selected as bowl teams because a) their APR scores placed them at the top of the 5-7 pile and b) they accepted bids (others did not).

While there was plenty of tiresome outrage about rewarding mediocrity! and participation ribbons for everyone!, all three five-win teams acquitted themselves well, and all three won. The world continued to spin.