Navy’s Defense Carries Team in Comeback Win Over Memphis

| September 9, 2018

Navy’s defense forced four turnovers and held the Memphis offense to 145 passing yards as the Midshipmen complete a 13-point comeback to beat the Tigers 22-21.


The rain was relentless, but the Navy defense proved to be even more so. After giving up 522 yards against Hawaii last week and allowing the Rainbow Warriors to score on their first five possessions, the Midshipmen secondary knew they had to make their presence known early. That burden fell especially hard on senior safety and team co-captain Sean Williams. Williams is not known for his “rah-rah” style of leadership. He leads by example, and that’s precisely what he did on Saturday.

On the Tigers opening drive of the game, Memphis QB Brady White completed a pass to WR John Williams, who fumbled the ball after a hit by Sean Williams. That gave Navy the ball at the Memphis 28-yard line, and eventually a 3-0 lead in the game.

At the end of the first quarter, Memphis seemed to be getting things together. After Navy punted with just under three minutes left In the quarter, White completed a 13-yard pass to Sean Dykes, but once again Sean Williams was there to force a fumble and get Navy the ball at their 36-yard line.

“I’m very proud of the way we played. We showed our character. We got back to playing Navy football,” said safety Sean Williams. “The whole defensive room, we want to play with reckless abandon. If I am going 100 miles an hour, I know someone else will be right behind me. If I line somebody up someone will be right behind me. If we keep the aggressive play and flying to the ball, things like that will happen.”

Navy’s defense held Memphis for most of the first half, giving up one long, 12-play, 86-yard drive that resulted in a TD. Navy responded in kind with a 75-yard TD drive of their own, and after a strange incident that forced Navy to return to the field with less than one second on the clock, the Midshipmen took a 9-7 lead into the half.

The second half saw a break in the rain, but Navy’s offense still struggled to get things rolling consistently. Navy was able to hold the ball for 12 minutes in the 3rd quarter, but only put up 69 yards including 19 yards through the air. They went 2-5 on third down and couldn’t find the end zone.

“I feel we didn’t start how we wanted to. Overall, I’m not happy with how I executed, but I am happy with the way the team played.” Said JR QB Malcolm Perry.

Memphis on the other hand, only needed nine plays to score two TD’s behind sophomore running back and big-play machine Darrell Henderson.

Last week, Henderson took a pass 62-yards for a score against Mercer. In the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Navy, he flashed his game-changing abilities once again. On the Tigers second drive of the half, Henderson seemed like he broke a tackle from every single Navy defender on his way to a 78-yard score that put the Tigers back in the lead. Two drives later, Henderson scored on a 59-yard rush behind some fantastic blocking.

Memphis took a 21-9 lead into the 4th quarter, and after Navy was forced to punt on the next drive, it seemed destined that Navy would be 0-2 for the first time since 2012.

But Navy doesn’t give up, and they certainly do not give up at home. Once again, the defensive secondary found a way to create a turnover after SR safety Juan Hailey forced the ball away from JR running back Patrick Taylor, and it was recovered by Jarvis Polu on the Memphis 27-yard line. Down 21-9, Malcolm Perry faces an uphill battle against a Memphis defense that has been very successful against Navy’s triple-option in the past.

“Memphis has a really good game plan. They play the triple option very well, as we saw last year. They have a good grasp of it,” said WR/QB Zach Abey.

Coming out of a time-out, Malcolm Perry dropped back to pass, broke a run, and willed his way through and around defenders on his way to a 19-yard score that put Navy within five.

“We never gave up. Just kept coming back and executing the next play.” Said Perry

Navy forced Memphis into a 3-and-out on the next drive, and Zach Abey completed a 13-play, 56-yard drive with a 3-yard run that gave Navy a 22-21 lead with six minutes left, and the Midshipmen beat the Memphis Tigers.

“Just really proud of our team, their grit, their resiliency. Last week was as bad of a loss I can remember in some time,” said Niumatalolo.  “It just shows you the resolve of our young men. I am just really proud of the way our guys fought. We did just enough at the end on offense to get the `W.’ That’s all that matters — one more point than them. Great win.”

Navy (1-1, 1-0) will host Lehigh (1-1) next Saturday in Annapolis at 3:30 pm.

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About the Author - Kevin Chaney, Jr

Kevin Chaney covers sports all at all levels throughout Anne Arundel County. Follow him on twitter @Kchaneysports and his website www.Shellbacksports.com

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