- Chantel Jennings, Pac-12 reporter
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For about three and a half quarters Monday, Middle Tennessee did what few other teams were able to do this season -- keep the Navy triple-option attack under control. The Blue Raiders held the Midshipmen to just 10 points through the first three quarters before Navy, led by quarterback Keenan Reynolds, exploded for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to run away with a 24-6 victory and the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl title.
It was over when: Sophomore running back DeBrandon Sanders found the end zone with a 41-yard run with just more than nine minutes remaining in the game. It was his first touchdown of the season and it extended Navy’s lead to 16. Given how the Midshipmen defense was playing a bend-but-don’t-break style, that was pretty much the final bell.
Game ball goes to: Reynolds. The Navy quarterback attended a camp at Middle Tennessee the summer after his junior season of high school but didn’t get any kind of recruiting interest from the Blue Raiders. He accounted for two rushing touchdowns Monday, bringing his season total to 32 -- an FBS record for a quarterback. By surpassing 30 rushing touchdowns for the season, he joined the elite company of Kapri Bibbs, Montee Ball and Barry Sanders.
Stat of the game: Middle Tennessee accounted for 309 yards and 21 first downs but didn’t get into the end zone once. The Blue Raiders put together field goal scoring drives twice in the first half, but they were unable to execute on crucial downs and in the red zone.
Unsung hero: T.T. Barber. The Middle Tennessee sophomore linebacker forced and recovered two fumbles, and while that would generally be a huge deal in a game, few will talk about it because his team's offense was unable to capitalize on the ensuing drives. Barber had yet to force a fumble all season coming in to the game, but his two came against a Navy squad that had lost only four fumbles all season and its first since Oct. 26.
Injuries, ejections, disqualifications: At some places on the field, Navy and Middle Tennessee were forced to play second- and sometimes third-string players because of players needing to (or being forced to) leave the field. Navy strong safety Wave Ryder was ejected in the second quarter for a targeting penalty. His replacement, junior Lonnie Richardson, later left the game with an injury after colliding with Middle Tennessee wide receiver Marcus Henry, who left the game with a concussion. Navy center Tanner Fleming exited with an ankle injury, as did wide receiver Casey Bolena. Middle Tennessee linebacker Roderic Blunt was disqualified after two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Trifecta: The Armed Forces Bowl is now the only bowl to have hosted all three service academies. Air Force played in the 2007, '08, '09 and '12 games, while Army played in 2010.
To watch the trophy presentation of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, click here.
For about three and a half quarters Monday, Middle Tennessee did what few other teams were able to do this season -- keep the Navy triple-option attack under control.