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The Military Bowl
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The Midshipmen host Pittsburgh at Navy’s home field in Annapolis Md. Navy is vying for their first 11 game win season in what could very be coach Ken Niumatalolo’s last game. Niumatalolo, who took over as Midshipmen coach prior to the the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl, is 67-37-0 – the winningest coach in Academy annals – but appears to be a strong candidate to take over at BYU. “It’s been my life,” Niumatalolo, a Mormon who went on a two-year mission after his freshman year at Hawaii, told reporters about his time at Navy. “My kids have grown up here. I’ve given everything for this program.”
Keenan Reynolds, who finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting, plays his final collegiate game after becoming the first Midshipmen quarterback to defeat Army four times. Reynolds rushed for two touchdowns in No. 22 Navy’s 21-17 victory over the Black Knights on Dec. 12 to set the Division I record with 85 career TDs, passing Georgia Southern‘s Adrian Peterson and Towson‘s Terrance West. Reynolds has rushed for 4,415 yards, trailing only West Virginia‘s Pat White (4,480) and Michigan‘s Denard Robinson (4,495) on the all-time FBS list for quarterbacks.
While it appears the Midshipmen may soon need a new coach, Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi on Dec. 10 received a two-year contract extension through 2021 after guiding the Panthers to eight wins in his first season. Narduzzi’s rushing defense is 20th nationally at 126.1 yards per game, but he must figure out a way to stop the country’s No. 3 ground attack which averages 319.2 yards. Pittsburgh held Navy to 220 rushing yards in a 24-21 loss in Annapolis on a last-second goal in 2013.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (8-4, 6-2 ACC): The Panthers boast a trio of offensive standouts in quarterback Nathan Peterman (61.4 percent completion rate, 19 touchdowns, five interceptions), redshirt freshman running back Qadree Ollison (1,048 rushing yards, 10 TDs) and wide receiver Tyler Boyd (85 catches, six TDs). Freshman defensive back Jordan Whitehead finished third in the ACC with 67 solo tackles. Pittsburgh, which finished second to North Carolina in the ACC’s Coastal Division, plays in its eighth straight bowl after losing to Houston 35-34 in last season’s Armed Forces Bowl to drop to 13-18 in bowl games.
ABOUT NAVY (10-2, 7-1 American Athletic Conference): Reynolds ran for 1,229 yards and 21 touchdowns this season – the second-most rushing scores in the nation to Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry of Alabama (23) – while fullback Chris Swain added 909 yards and 10 scores. Reynolds tossed seven touchdown passes – five to wide receiver Jamir Tillman – in 98 attempts this season. The Midshipmen (9-10-1 in bowl games) play in their fourth straight bowl and try for their third consecutive victory after a 17-16 win over San Diego State in the 2014 Poinsettia Bowl and a 24-6 verdict over Middle Tennessee in the 2013 Armed Forces Bowl.