24th Ranked Navy Offense runs over Memphis
Story By Deborah Leung
Photo’s By Benjamin Rogers, Jr
In addition to operating the triple option in near-flawless fashion, Worth completed three of four passes for 85 yards and two scores.
The Midshipmen (5-1, 4-0 American Athletic Conference) gained a season-high 447 yards on the ground, averaging 6 yards per carry.
The victory put Navy in sole possession of first place in the AAC West and served as a suitable encore for its 46-40 upset of defending league champion Houston two weeks ago.
The 14-game home winning streak is the team’s longest at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium since the facility opened in 1959.
Tony Pollard returned a kickoff 100 yards and Riley Ferguson completed 25 of 40 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns for Memphis (5-2, 2-1). But the Tigers simply couldn’t score enough to offset the damage inflicted by Navy’s sensational running attack.
Worth’s second touchdown run put Navy ahead 28-14 early in the third quarter. Memphis responded with a 9-yard TD pass from Furguson to Daniel Hurd.
As the clock wound down in the third quarter, Navy faced a fourth-and-4 at the Memphis 18. Tigers coach Mike Norvell called a timeout, hoping to make the Midshipmen try to kick a field goal into a stiff wind. Instead, Navy sent its offense on the field and went up 35-21 on a touchdown pass from Worth to Tyler Carmona.
After Memphis again got within a touchdown, a 52-yard completion by Worth led to a 32-yard field goal try by Bennett Moehring. The kick clanged off the left upright with 5:40 to go.
But a fumble by Tigers wide receiver Roderick Proctor was recovered by Navy with 3:39 remaining, and Worth clinched it with a 1-yard plunge.
Worth, a 6-foot-1 senior, started the season as the backup quarterback but was elevated to starting status after Tago Smith injured his right knee in the opener.
Navy amassed 243 yards rushing – 119 by Worth – in taking a 21-14 halftime lead.
Memphis scored on its opening drive on a 33-yard TD pass from Furguson to Anthony Miller. Navy tied it after converting a fourth-and-1 from its own 44.
The deadlock lasted only as long as it took Pollard to go the distance with the ensuing kickoff. Worth then connected with Jamir Tillman for a 15-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-all.
Both teams muffed scoring opportunities early in the second quarter. Worth scored on an apparent 29-yard run, but a replay determined that he lost the ball off the pylon, giving Memphis a touchback.
The Tigers subsequently went 79 yards before Ferguson was stuffed on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Memphis: The Tigers came in as a slight favorite because their offense hadn’t scored fewer than 24 points in any game. But the defense wasn’t up for the challenge of Navy’s running attack, and now Memphis needs help to get to the AAC title game.
Navy: The Midshipmen have proven they don’t need Keenan Reynolds at quarterback to make the triple option sing. Navy’s running game is tricky, shifty and just about unstoppable for teams not accustomed to chasing the quarterback, fullback and slotback all over the field.
Memphis: The Tigers host Tulsa under the lights next Saturday at the Liberty Bowl.
Navy: The Midshipmen face AAC East Division co-leader South Florida (6-2, 3-1) on the road Friday night.