Winless playing the Midshipmen at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Memphis could not have cared less about the looks of a victory before kickoff. Good thing because the 10-7 win on Saturday was, well, not pretty.
Now 1-2 in games played in Annapolis, Maryland, the win was the first away from Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium for first-year head coach Ryan Silverfield. The defense came up big, prompting Silverfield’s post-game assessment, “I am really proud.
“We rotated our guys and played about 25 guys on our defense, which means they were paying attention … we told them they had to do (their) job and they had to do it over and over and over.”
Enhancing the pleasure of victory was the fact that the win kept alive Memphis’ chances of playing in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Championship game. The Tigers’ title-game hopes got a boost when East Carolina defeated SMU 52-38.
Memphis (6-2) needs two losses by Tulsa to keep that dream alive. Tulsa travels to Navy (3-5) next week and ends the regular season hosting the No. 6-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats in the season finale.
Two games remain for the Tigers – Tulane next week in New Orleans and the end of the regular season matchup in Memphis against the Houston Cougars.
Quarterback Brady White (205 yards passing) threw for the Tigers’ only touchdown, connecting with Calvin Austin III on a 14-yard reception toward the end of the first quarter. Austin had his five-game streak of at least 100 yards snapped, managing only two receptions for 21 yards.
The Tigers defense continues to improve. They have only allowed two touchdowns in the last two games. Navy scored a touchdown in the first quarter before the defense shut the door on the end zone, coming up with big stops to stuff drive after drive.
Quindell Johnson, who has been among the leaders in tackles from his defensive backfield position this year, snagged his first interception as a Tiger to end a Navy threat at the end of the first half.
“It felt good because I haven’t gotten an interception in a long time. At SMU, I was supposed to grab one there, but it didn’t turn out with me getting it,” said Johnson. “Just getting my hands back on the ball, it felt good and getting the turnover for the team going into the half was big as well.”
Johnson and the Memphis “D” kept Navy’s troublesome triple-option offense in check.
“It is almost a monotonous deal playing against the triple option,” Silverfield said. “You have to be fundamentally sound down in and down out and trust it. It is a relief because we did prepare for this game for a while in the offseason. …”
The preparation, he said, yielded a better understanding of the triple option, fortifying the defense’s “hopes and beliefs” of being able to execute to the point of reaping dividends.
Memphis’ often high-powered offense mustered only 75 net yards. Injuries have saddled the Tigers’ running corps, with leading rusher Rodrigues Clark unable to take the field against Navy. Marquavius Weaver grounded out 49 yards on 15 attempts.
“I have to put that on me,” Silverfield said of the need to improve the running attack. “I have got to find a way to put us in better positions. … They blitzed us a lot like I knew they would. Shame on me for not having us ready. I think our running backs are running hard.”
- Quindell Johnson and Sanchez Blake led the Tigers in total tackles with 12 each.
- Johnson is a native from New Orleans and will return home next week to play Tulane.
- Memphis was upset two years ago on its last trip to New Orleans to play Tulane.
- The Memphis-Tulane game on Saturday (Dec. 5) is set for an 11 a.m. tipoff. The game can be seen on ESPN+.