Though the University of Memphis Tigers had only lined up against Navy four times prior to last night, it has become a matchup that Tigers fans circle on their calendars.
Watching Navy perform is both impressive and highly frustrating. Their adept usage of the triple option offense is beautiful, surgical, and can result in a slow and certain death to opponents.
Navy thrives on controlling the ball on offense and grinding their opponents’ defense line into submission. In the past, Memphis’ high-powered offenses under Paxton Lynch and Riley Ferguson never scored more than 27 points against the Midshipmen. In former matchups, Navy’s control of possession diminished the time that the Tigers were able to spend on offense, and an exhausted Memphis defense was usually the reason for the unfavorable results.
The first half of this year’s matchup at the Liberty Bowl started out just the same way, with Navy pounding the ball on the ground on their way to 3 touchdowns.
Navy QB Malcolm Perry was involved with all three touchdowns, with a pair of 1 yard runs and a 17 yard (gasp) pass to Chance Warren as the first quarter was winding down.
For the game, Perry completed 6/10 passes for 82 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions.
Perry also ran for 91 yards. Keoni-Kordell Makekau was one of three Midshipmen to carry the ball 8 times, but he was the only man to log over 100 yards with 101 on the night.
While the Tigers’ offense looked pathetically stagnant in the first half, they went into the locker room only down 14-20 due to several big plays and a Navy missed PAT.
On the opening play of their first drive of the game, Memphis stud RB Kenneth Gainwell took it to the house with a massive 75 yard TD run.
As the game pressed on and Navy secured their third touchdown of the first half, the Liberty Bowl crowd of 33,909 grew increasingly uneasy and quiet.
In a monumental way, the Memphis special teams unit did their part to counter and give the Tigers some of the momentum that they was severely absent.
Brady White was the cause of much concern and grief on Tigers Twitter as he was playing poorly and failing to lead the Memphis offense in a manner acceptable to fan base.
During the third quarter, after a wild attempt to throw a pass on the run to a wide open receiver, audible boos began to emerge and could be heard through the TV broadcast. To his credit, White didn’t let the crowd’s lack of confidence get under his skin, as he came back with a vengeance and racked up three passing touchdowns in the second half. He ended the game 14/18 with 196 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Finally, Tigers fans got to witness a deep ball from Brady as he aired a pass 40 for 40 yards to Antonio Gibson in what ultimately resulted in a 73 yard TD reception.
The Tigers put the game away with White’s third touchdown on the night with over 11 minutes to play in the game.
Overall, six Tigers were recipients of Brady’s passes on the night, with Gibson leading the pack in yards with 105 yards on three receptions.
Damonte Coxie hauled in three passes for a total of 41 yards while Kedarian Jones caught four balls for 36 yards.
Joseph Dorceus even got in on the action, lining up on offense quite a few times late in the game as the Tigers put together a 5 minute possession to run the clock down and seal the game.
The Memphis defense put the hurt on Navy starting QB Malcolm Perry, forcing him out of the game on multiple occasions. They didn’t have any mercy on his backup either.
All night, the Tigers defense showed that they are an improved unit under new defensive coordinator Adam Fuller.
Though Navy accrued 291 yards on the ground, the Tigers defense forced two turnovers — one was a crucial fumble recovery that was initially ruled as Navy ball until the call was overturned following a review.
Memphis also tackled Navy behind the line 8 times, throwing a wrench in the Midshipmen offensive scheme.
Navy went for it on fourth down 5 times and achieved the yardage on three of the attempts, but the Memphis defense came up with stops when it counted.
The Tigers’ next game will be Saturday, October 5th, when they travel to face a Louisiana-Monroe team who is 1-2 before their matchup this weekend with South Alabama.