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Navy wins 22-21 in stunner over Memphis

The Midshipmen won in an old school slug fest on Saturday.

September 08, 2018 - 9:05 pm

By: Kyle J. Andrews

ANNAPOLIS -- Navy was coming off of a 41-59 loss at the hands of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors last Saturday. The Midshipmen gave up a total of 436 passing yards and 90 rushing yards. Navy’s offense fared much better with 326 rushing yards. With an 0-1 record, the Midshipmen looked to bounce back.

Navy was able to get the win against Memphis, finishing the game with a score of 22-21. On stout defense that generated four turnovers and a sturdy offense that kept churning, despite a few key stops by Memphis.

“We knew it was a big game,” Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo stated. “We knew how good Memphis was – preseason favorite for us out of the conference. Them coming off of their game, us coming off of our game, us having to travel and come back – all of the things were against us. We didn’t get our pads until a certain date – there are a lot of things that were pointed against us.

“But it just shows you the type of people that come to the school – just tough, tough people. Young men, young women – keep fighting. Just really, really proud of how our guys fought to win. A lot of times during that game, things looked really bleak for us and to beat a team like Memphis – like you said ‘why is that so good’ – they’re a really good team. We feel very, very fortunate to come out with one more point than them, but our kids fought for it. I’m proud of them.”

Their keys to the game were to pound the rock and to play stout defense. The Midshipmen started the game with those two goals in mind, as the rain poured. Navy safety Sean Williams came out by causing a fumble on a Brady White pass to John “Pop” Williams with a recovery by linebacker Hudson Sullivan. Navy wouldn’t be able score a touchdown off of the turnover, scoring a field goal by Bennett Moehring. It was the only score of the first quarter.

After a few drives back and forth to begin the second quarter, Memphis would get on the board for the first time during the game. Darrell Henderson had a two-yard rush for a touchdown with 4:01 remaining in the second. Navy answered with a touchdown of their own in 11 plays and 75 yards. Malcolm Perry scored on a seven-yard rush with just seven seconds remaining in the half. The PAT attempt was no good on a botched snap by Garrett Lewis. Navy led 9-7 at the half.

Henderson would run with a vengeance in the third quarter. After two Navy drives were stalled and a stymied drive of their own, Memphis began with the ball, only having 07:56 left in the third. White threw an incomplete pass to Damonte Coxie on first down. The Tigers were able to remedy the situation with a 78-yard touchdown rush from Henderson. That drive just lasted 21 seconds, giving Memphis a 14-9 lead.

Memphis’ star running back was not finished just yet. With 1:50 remaining, White simply handed the ball off to Henderson once again. Henderson broke for a 59-yard rushing touchdown, giving the Tigers a 21-9 lead over name.

“There are only two ways to go – fold and lose or line up and play,” Perry said postgame.

Navy surely lined up and played. Getting the ball back on the Memphis 27 from a Juan Hailey forced fumble and a Jarvis Polu recovery with 11:51 left in the fourth quarter. Perry dazzled on the second play of the drive, taking a designed passing play and watching the pocket break down. After making his reads, Perry decided to run and followed his blocks while spinning off of defenders for a 19-yard touchdown.

“Coach called a pass play,” Perry said of his touchdown run. “Right away I had pressure on the right side. I didn’t like what I saw with my receivers, so I just tried to make a play with my feet.”

Navy continued grinding away the clock with their second to last drive of the game. After a long and grueling 13-play drive, Zach Abey walked into the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown with just 02:37 remaining in the game. The Midshipmen finished with 56 yards on the drive, grinding away 6:51 from the clock.

Starting with the ball back at their own 35, Memphis drew a penalty for a delay of game on White, pushing them back to the Memphis 27. White completed a swing pass to Henderson for 18 yards on the subsequent play for a first down at their own 45. With the clock moving rapidly, Henderson rushed for 15 yards, getting to the Navy 40. Henderson gave the Tigers six extra yards on his next run, but White could aid him. With three consecutive incomplete passes, the Navy took the ball over on downs and kneeled to run the clock out.

Navy (1-1) will be at home to take on Lehigh (1-1) next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Game Notes:

Abey’s game-winning one-yard touchdown run gave him his 30th career rushing touchdown. It is the sixth most in program history.

Perry made his fifth career start at quarterback and finished as Navy’s leading rusher of the game with 36 carries for 166 yards and two touchdowns. He also went two-for-three on passes for 22 yards in the air. Perry also caught a pass of his own for 17 yards on a reverse from Abey.

Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleAndrews1994