Momentum swung back and forth throughout the second half between Pittsburgh and Navy, but once again Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds made the critical plays down the stretch to lead to a win.
Navy set a school mark in wins with its 44-28 victory over Pitt in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman.
What the win means for Navy: The Midshipmen have their first 11-win season in program history, and they should be able to build off this unprecedented season. While Reynolds departs, the program kept coach Ken Niumatalolo. Navy should be in position to compete for AAC championships and a New Year’s Six berth with Niumatalolo on the sidelines, and Reynolds’ publicity should help some in recruiting. Navy’s inaugural season in the AAC will be remembered in Annapolis, Maryland, for years to come. Among academy schools, only Air Force has won more games in a single season (12, 1998).
What the loss means for Pittsburgh: Pat Narduzzi arrived in the Steel City and used the foundation Paul Chryst built to take Pitt to the next level. It was a disappointing end to the season for the Panthers, who had an opportunity for 10 wins. They dropped their final two games of the season and finished 8-5. However, the program took major strides under Narduzzi, a first-time coach. The Panthers have the ACC offensive and defensive rookies of the year, and Narduzzi will continue building the defense. The future is bright.
Player of the game: Reynolds has spent much of his career being the best player on the field for Navy, and that was again the case in his final game. At one point in the third quarter, Reynolds led both teams in passing, rushing and receiving. By the game’s end, Reynolds extended his Division I career rushing touchdown mark to 88. He also became the career FBS leader in total touchdowns with 88 and also the career leader in rushing yards by an FBS quarterback (4,559). If the Heisman Trophy was voted on after bowl games, he might have finished higher than fifth.
How the game was won: The Panthers’ rush defense played better in the second half, but they struggled to force Navy off the field. The prior failures might not have mattered late in the fourth quarter with Navy facing a critical 4th-and-3 while leading 38-28 over Pitt. Reynolds spent all afternoon trying to get Pitt to jump offside, and it finally worked on that fourth down. Three plays later, Reynolds scored a touchdown.