BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Keenan Reynolds is Navy's best offensive option as well as the Midshipmen's starting quarterback. Losing the dual-threat sophomore to a head injury in the first half proved just too much to overcome.
Navy managed only 65 yards total offense in the second half with Reynolds on the sideline wearing a ball cap, and Western Kentucky beat the Midshipmen for the first time in three tries 19-7 on Saturday.
Reynolds' last carry was a 2-yard run with just over 3 minutes left in the first half after Parrish Gaines intercepted a pass for Navy. Coach Ken Niumatalolo turned to junior John Hendrick, who was stopped a couple inches short on fourth-and-1. That was the last time the Midshipmen threatened to score.
"John hasn't been practicing very much, so Keenan has been getting most of the reps, so it took away a lot of our continuity," Niumatalolo said. "We had a lot of opportunities in the first half that we let go. Western had a good plan, and we couldn't do anything."
Western Kentucky (3-2) shut down the nation's best rushing offense, and Hilltoppers senior Antonio Andrews outgained Navy all by himself with 182 yards rushing compared to 107 for Navy — well below the 398 yards the Midshipmen averaged through the first two games. The Hilltoppers outgained Navy 417-183 in total offense and held the ball 37 minutes.
Navy was struggling to move the ball even before Reynolds was hurt with the Hilltoppers trying to tackle him whenever the quarterback had the ball.
"He's really a great player," WKU coach Bobby Petrino said of Reynolds. "I hope he's going to be OK because he's really a special football player."
Navy (2-1) was trying to start 3-0 for the first time since 2006. The Midshipmen averaged 552 yards offense through two games but just couldn't keep the chains moving against the Hilltoppers.
"They out-coached us and out-played us, and you have to give those guys credit," Niumatalolo said. "Coach Petrino and his staff, they beat us, they played better than us and coached better than us. Coach Petrino did a better job of getting his team ready. We lost, and I am not going to make excuses."