The No. 21 Navy Midshipmen (9-2) could see the last of head coach Ken Niumatalolo, while likely record-setting quarterback Keenan Reynolds will play his last game against the program's most-heated rival, when they square off against the Army Black Knights (2-9) for the 116th time Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.
Navy, having achieved their first Top 25 ranking since 2004, is set to play Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28. The game against Army carries extra significance with Niumatalolo and Reynolds' presence looming large.
Reynolds, who many felt was snubbed for the short list of Heisman Trophy candidates, will try to wrap up his collegiate career with the all-time scrimmage touchdown record. The senior has totaled 83 rushing touchdowns over the last four seasons and gained more than 1,000 yards on the ground each of the last three. Two more rushing scores will break the all-time FBS and FCS records.
And while his send-off could be emotional for Navy and its players, they could also see the last of Niumatalolo. The 50-year-old has drawn interest from his alma mater BYU for its coaching vacancy. According to reports, he will meet with the Cougars on Monday to explore the opening.
Niumatalolo’s amassed a 66-37 overall record during his nine years in Annapolis, and a 3-4 bowl record, and the Midshipmen have posted only one losing season with him as full-time coach.
Niumatalolo, as well as Reynolds, have also been responsible for extending Army’s heartache against its most spirited rival. Behind Reynolds 279 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the last three meetings, Navy’s extended its winning streak to 13 straight over Army and its claimed 15 of the last 16 overall.
But Reynolds isn’t the Midshipmen’s only weapon. He’s joined in the backfield by senior full back Chris Swain, who gained new career-highs with 847 yards and 10 touchdowns for the squad’s No. 2 ranked rushing attack this season. And junior Jamir Tillman led all receivers with 22 receptions for 468 yards and four touchdowns.
Navy enters the game favored by more than three touchdowns, but if any team can knock them down its Army. The Black Knights are finishing their fifth-straight losing campaign, and second under head Jeff Monken, but their No. 8 ranked rushing attack could slow Navy and snap the slide.
"I know nobody gives us a chance, but our guys believe in each other," Monken said to Associated Press. "I believe in this team. We've come close enough in enough ballgames this year. We're probably a much better football team than 2-9, but we're 2-9 and that's where it stands.
"But in this game and this rivalry, it's a game in itself. I don't think that (the record) much matters.”
However, Monken has yet to name a starting quarterback. Third-string quarterback Chris Carter started in a 31-21 loss to Rutgers on Nov. 21, ahead of sophomore Ahmad Bradshaw and senior A.J. Schurr.
Betting Odds: Navy -22
Over/Under: 50.5 points
Prediction: Navy over Army, 27-17