Navy moved one step closer to getting back to a bowl on Saturday. The Mids rallied to beat Indiana…
Navy rallies past Indiana, 31-30
Starting just his second game of the season, freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds completed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Matt Aiken with 2:02 to play and Nick Sloan added the point after as Navy rallied for a 31-30 win over Indiana.
Parrish Gaines' interception with 1:38 remaining sealed the win for the Midshipmen (4-3), who beat a Big Ten opponent for the first time since 1979 when they won at Illinois 13-12.
Earlier in the game, Navy linebacker Jordan Drake's 24-yard interception return had cut the Hoosiers' lead to 17-14.
The win also kept the Midshipmen's bowl hopes alive as they need just two wins in their final five games to return to postseason play.
"What a game! What a great football game! Indiana moved the ball up and down the field (on us) ... We just found a way to make one more play than they did," said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo.
It was the fifth straight loss for Indiana (2-5) and came despite the fact the Hoosiers moved the ball almost at will against Navy for most of the first three quarters and gained 417 yards on 78 plays.
"They are like a machine out there. We just tried to do our best to slow them down," Niumatalolo said.
Indiana led 30-21 with 12:18 left. The Hoosiers had also led Navy 17-7 after opening the game with scoring drives of 67, 50 and 72 yards.
The Midshipmen led only once before the winning score when they took a 21-20 lead on Darius Staten's 17-yard run with 7:37 to play in the third period.
Indiana countered with drives of 58 and 80 yards, yielding a 30-yard field goal by Mitch Ewald and a 3-yard run by Tevin Coleman.
On the Hoosiers' last two drives, however, they failed to pick up a first down — allowing Navy the time and possessions it needed to stage a comeback.
"We just needed to get the initial first down and get it rolling," said Indiana coach Kevin Wilson. "As good as we played, we always have mistakes. We had a couple of critical ones at the point of attack that hurt us getting a first down at the end of the game."
Reynolds led Navy on scoring drives of 74 yards on 16 plays and 72 yards on nine plays to win the game.
The first drive ended in Sloan's 18-yard field goal as the Midshipmen were thwarted at the 1 after a drive that lasted almost 7 minutes. Then, after Navy held the Hoosiers on downs, the Midshipmen got the ball back at their own 28 with 4:48 to play.
On the winning drive, Gee Gee Greene caught a 21-yard pass from Reynolds and added a 22-yard run to move the ball to the Hoosiers' 21.
Reynolds completed 8 of 13 passes for 96 yards and also rushed for 66 yards on 17 carries.
"This is just his second start," Niumatalolo said. "He missed some reads on the second option. He didn't play as well as he did last week (in a 31-13 win over Central Michigan), but he kept his composure on that last drive. He methodically moved the ball down the field."
Of the winning touchdown, Reynolds said that the Hoosier defenders were pinching the corners and that offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper had called the play.
"Coach Jasper had been telling me all week to get my eyes around," said Reynolds. "I was actually a little late, so I saw (Aiken) standing by himself."
Greene had 88 yards on 15 rushes and caught two passes for 35 yards as Navy gained 353 yards, 233 in the second half.
Indiana quarterback Cameron Coffman completed 25 of 37 passes for 244 yards and the Hoosiers also rushed for 173 yards, led by Stephen Houston's 82 yards.
Shane Wynn and Kofi Hughes each had seven catches for Indiana.
"At the end of the day they made the stops, they made the plays, they got two turnovers and we got none," said Wilson.
In addition to the interceptions, the Navy defense stopped Indiana on possessions before and after the winning touchdown. After allowing 269 yards in the first half, the defense firmed up somewhat in the second to hold the Hoosiers to 148 yards.
"I don't think anyone on the defense felt they played their best game, but we played well when we needed it," said linebacker Keenan Wetzel, who had three tackles for losses among his eight stops.
Drake's interception and touchdown return was a big momentum changer in the game.
"It was amazing to get the ball," he said. "It was just like practice. I didn't know what to do with the ball. I was just trying not to drop it."
On his game-clinching interception, Gaines said it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
"We knew they had to pass the ball," said Gaines, who was mobbed by his teammates after the play. "It was good to get that interception for the team; it was one of the best moments of my life."
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