ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- While watching a healthy Keenan Reynolds glide through practice during the week, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo figured his quarterback was poised for a bounce-back performance against San Jose State.
After Reynolds ran for a career-high 251 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-31 victory Saturday, Niumatalolo smiled knowingly.
"I knew this was coming," the coach said.
Following an uneven outing in a loss to Air Force, Reynolds missed Navy's next game on Oct. 11 with knee and shoulder injuries. That was followed by a bye, which allowed the junior quarterback to rest, shed his knee brace and run confidently at practice.
Then came the game. Reynolds had a career-high 39 carries, scored on runs of 8, 3 and 2 yards and accounted for 93 yards during a pivotal third-quarter drive.
"I saw this coming because I saw the way he was running and cutting (in practice), carefree, back to his old self," Niumatalolo said. "I said, `He's going to have a big game.'"
Reynolds did just that, putting on a show that earned him a place in the school record book.
His three touchdowns gave him 52 for his career, breaking the Navy mark of 49 held by Ricky Dobbs (2008-10). Ten of Reynolds' TDs have come against San Jose State, including seven last year in a 58-52 overtime win.
Reynolds ran for 240 yards in that overtime game. That was his career high until this one, when he gained 17 yards in the first quarter, 100 in the second quarter and added 106 in the third period.
"It was nice to be out there, brace-free, running around," Reynolds said.
Joe Gray went 33 for 46 for 322 yards and three touchdowns for San Jose State (3-4).
"We passed for a good number of yards, but I think we left some opportunities on the table," coach Ron Caragher said
The Spartans hung with Navy (4-4) for a while, but they had no answer for Reynolds in this finale of a four-game series.
"I'm very pleased we won't have to face him again," Caragher said. "He's had two career games against the Spartans and I'm glad they are not on the schedule next year."
After falling behind 3-0, the Midshipmen peeled off five touchdowns and two field goals over their next seven possessions. Navy used a 24-point second quarter to go up 24-17 at halftime, then took control in the third quarter with a 98-yard drive that ended with a touchdown and a 31-17 lead.
Reynolds ran for 93 yards on 11 carries during the 13-play march, including a 2-yard touchdown.
"It was really one play at a time," Reynolds said. "You can't get caught up in thinking we have to score. Next thing you know, we're on the other side of the field."
An 8-yard run by Navy's DeBrandon Sanders made it 38-17 with 14:21 remaining, and at that point the Midshipmen could begin looking forward to next Saturday's matchup against Notre Dame.
At the outset of this one, Reynolds showed his rust by losing a fumble on the game's first play from scrimmage.
"I shook my head and smiled," he said. "First play back and that happens. I felt that it was a test to see if could fight through it."
Gray gave it back by throwing an interception near the goal-line, but the Spartans' next possession lasted 18 plays over 7 1/2 minutes before Austin Lopez kicked a 22-yard field goal.
Because the San Jose State defense was jamming the line, Reynolds opted to test the nation's top-ranked unit against the pass. Completions of 27 and 13 yards set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Noah Copeland on the opening play of the second quarter.
Gray promptly took the Spartans the other way and threw a 6-yard TD pass to Billy Freeman.
Reynolds then ran 47 yards to the San Jose State 12 before scoring from the 8 to put Navy ahead for good. Minutes later, Reynolds scored again to make it 21-10.
An impressive display of balance brought San Jose State to 21-17. Tim Crawley caught a short pass and was seemingly tackled by Quincy Adams, but Crawley twisted out of Adams' grasp and regained his footing before sprinting into the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown.
Reynolds then took Navy 73 yards to set up a field goal on the final play of the half.