Pitt run over by Reynolds, Navy in 44-28 loss at Military Bowl


Pitt was unable to slow down quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who rushed for 144 yards and 3 touchdowns and led No. 21 Navy to a 44-28 Military Bowl victory.

I had the opportunity to drive to Washington D.C. this weekend with my family and make a “Pittsburgh sports trip” out of it.  I am sure several other Pitt fans did the same thing.

The actual sporting events did not fare too well, starting with the ugly Pittsburgh Steelers game against Baltimore.  I hoped that Pitt would balance it out with a victory in the Military Bowl at Navy Marine-Corps Stadium in Annapolis, MD.

For Panthers fans, the Military Bowl started out with a bang.

Pitt shot out of a canon to start the game, as true freshman returner Quadree Henderson returned the opening kick 100 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-0 in front of a sellout crowd of 36,352.

Navy responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a one yard Reynolds touchdown to knot it at seven.

Pitt punted and Navy went on a 14-play, 86-yard drive that consumed nearly seven minutes and was sealed by a Reynolds 5-yard score.  The Panthers could not get to Navy in the backfield, as they continued to grind it out and convert on all of their third downs.

Pitt responded with a nice drive highlighted by a 22-yard run by true freshman Jordan Whitehead, but on 3rd and 9, quarterback Nathan Peterman rushed for only 2 yards.  Then kicker Chris Blewitt missed a 29-yard field goal, keeping the Navy lead at 14-7.

Pitt then forced Navy to punt on the next drive, which was promising considering it did not look like the defense could stop Reynolds at this point.  However, Pitt could not capitalize, as Peterman was intercepted by Lorentez Barbour at the Navy 16.

Navy capitalized on the turnover with a 12-play, 84-yard drive resulting in a Reynolds to Tyler Carmona 11-yard TD pass to make it 21-7.

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Before halftime, Peterman connected with Dontez Ford for 20 yards and Scott Orndoff for 21 yards down to the Navy 17.  Peterman was then intercepted by Brendon Clements in which Tyler Boyd slipped near the end zone.

Going into the half, it was 21-7 Navy.  Despite struggling to contain Reynolds, Pitt’s missed field goal and end zone interception really hurt.  If Pitt at least gets 6 points on those two drive, it is only a 21-13 game.

The Midshipmen got the ball to start the half, and they blew the game open with some trickery as Shawn White completed a pass to QB Reynolds for 47 yards, then Demond Brown rushed for a 26-yard TD on 3rd down and seven to make it 28-7.

Pitt punted and Navy extended its lead with a field goal.  At 31-7, I considered making an early exit, but the Panthers showed some signs of life.

Pitt responded with a 10-play, 85-yard drive finished with a Qadree Ollison 4-yard TD run to cut the lead to 31-14.

Dec 28, 2015; Annapolis, MD, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers running back Qadree Ollison (37) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Navy Midshipmen at Navy-Marine Corps. Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

On Navy’s next drive, running back Chris Swain fumbled and Jordan Whitehead returned it 22 yards for the Pitt TD to make it 31-21.

All of a sudden, Pitt was back into the game.

Though exciting and the Pitt fans were loud, Navy was not phased.  The Midshipmen went on another 14-play, 68-yard drive, converting two fourth downs and eventually a 15 yard TD run by Toneo Gulley.  Pitt had Navy at 3rd-and-17 after a holding penalty but Reynolds completed a pass to Jamir Tillman for 15 yards to make it a manageable 4th down.  To me, this play was the dagger of the game.

Qadree Ollison busted a 45-yard touch run quickly to make it 38-28, but Pitt simply could not stop the Navy offense. On fourth and three, an offside penalty resulted in a first down and Reynolds scored his third rushing touchdown from 9 yards out to make it 44-28.  This TD by Reynolds surpassed Kenneth Dixon of Louisiana Tech for the most rushing touchdowns by a QB in FBS history (88).

Navy compiled 590 yards of offense, including 417 rushing and 114 by fullback Chris Swain.

Peterman completed passes to Boyd and Orndoff but was then intercepted by Clements for the second time.

Peterman finished the game only completing 13 of 21 passes for 137 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions, while Ollison rushed for 73 yards and two TDs on 8 carries.

Having made the trip, there were thousands of Pitt fans who attended.  The turnout was amazing and the Pitt crowd was loud.  The pregame tailgate party was packed and you can certainly tell that Pat Narduzzi and company have generated excitement with the program.

Pitt was able to contain Georgia Tech’s triple option this year, mainly due to pressure and their attempts to pass, but Navy was simply a much better well-oiled machine this season.  Playing its home stadium, Navy’s triple-option attack was damaging to Pitt, who ranked 20th in the nation against the run.  Pitt falls to 8-5, whereas Navy improved to 11-2.  This was Navy’s first 11-win season in 135 years of football.

Navy simply controlled the game, with a time of possession advantage of 42:05 to 17:55, first down advantage of 31 to 17, and total yards advantage of 590 to 335.

Reynolds leaves Navy as the FBS leader in touchdowns (88), points (530), and rushing yards (4,559) as he surpassed Pat White and Denard Robinson.


After the game, Narduzzi told reporters, “Just have to keep getting one step closer. You just have to take one step at a time. Told the seniors, they laid the foundation. We’ve done a lot of great things this year.”

Pitt had a successful year, considering the loss of ACC Player of the Year James Conner to a knee injury.  The Panthers also played this game without offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who left to take the same position with Georgia.

After the game, junior wide receiver Tyler Boyd indicated that he was not sure about the NFL draft, and there is some speculation that he is not pleased with his draft status and could potentially return for his senior season.

Pitt will return most of its offense and defense and some games next season include Penn State and Marshall at home, and Clemson and Oklahoma State on the road.

As for the Military Bowl, several Pitt fans were disappointed in the selection, but the bowl was really nice.  A pre-game parade included the Budweiser Clydesdales, Santa, Pitt and Navy dance/cheer/band, mascots, Pittsburgh Pirates pierogis and the Washington Nationals presidents, Miss Maryland, and Miss USA, among others.

Next: Three Rivers Classic: Robert Morris vs Penn State recap

I also made an ESPN appearance signing the James Conner “Conner Strong” banner, and I wish James well on his fight with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Pitt fans cannot wait for James to beat cancer and return to the field next season.