Memphis' dreams of an undefeated season came to a screeching halt last night at the hands of Navy. After staying up to re-watch the game I came away with a few thoughts on the event because, in person, it really was a spectacular spectacle. Below is a "take 5" if I may:
Keenan Reynolds is Pure Class
I wanted to start with Reynolds. The kid is special. He was playing in his home state and had a chance to set the NCAA career rushing touchdown record in front of his family.
Reynolds, this morning, still stands tied with Montee Ball.
Reynolds has his hands in on every play. With Navy running the triple option it is Reynolds who ultimately decides where the ball will go. Keep it, hand it off, or pitch it. He just has to read the defense.
Late in the 4th quarter Reynolds had a goal line run. He turned the corner and had a chance to get in to the end zone. Of course, there is always the chance he gets stuffed, but it would have possibly scored. Reynolds opted to pitch the ball to Demond Brown for the 1 yard score. The pitch almost guaranteed a score. Reynolds was selfless in that moment and opted for team over personal.
With 4 games (5 including a bowl game) remaining on Navy's schedule it is unimaginable that Reyonlds will not break the record. However, on that play, Reynolds proved A. his sound decision making and B. his selflessness as a leader.
Paxton Lynch was MIA
The box score lookers will probably say "hey idiot, Lynch completed the game with 305 yards and a touchdown." You guys are correct. Lynch did post some numbers. Lynch also, early in the game, airmailed several passes. He was overthrowing receivers. Even worse, Lynch had several bad decision plays. Lynch was picked off once but very easily could have been 3 or 4.
After a half of play Lynch seemed to somewhat find his groove. Despite his poor performance Lynch still proved just how valuable he is and why he'll be a pro. Even through his miscues the Tigers were only in a 24-20 hole before they, figuratively and quite literally, fumbled the game away. Lynch will need to find himself quickly as the Tigers face a dangerous Houston pass defense next week.
The Triple Option is Boring
This statement may or may not be popular, but it is true. The triple option is a boring brand of football. A great running game is a beautiful thing but in the year 2015 we love our passing. Even if you look at the pro level you'll note just how many passing records have been broken and re-broken in the past 10 years. The game is evolving, heck it has evolved, to a more pass happy game.
So the triple option is boring, but an effective triple option is still deadly. Teams just don't know exactly how to prepare for it. Memphis spent the week running two a days in hopes of slowing Navy. The results (45-20 Navy victory) speak for themselves. Airing the ball out may be the more modern and sexy approach, but running it down a teams throat is still an effective way to win.
The Cream of the AAC Crop is Really Good
For a week now we have heard about how Memphis, Houston, and Temple were rated too low. I thought that on Tuesday and this game doesn't make me feel as if my thoughts are invalidated. Navy is a really good football team. But nobody has really talked about Navy.
The Midshipmen's lone slip up is a 41-24 loss at Notre Dame. Navy was only trailing Notre Dame by 3 at the half of that game before the Irish pulled away. They really deserve recognition for how well their season has played out.
The combined record of the AAC's top 4 teams is 32-2. The conference has 3 teams in the top 25 of both polls and the computer rankings. I fully expect to see all 4 in the top 25 today as well as the playoff polls this week. #AmericanRising
The City of Memphis and Players Put on a Classy Show
This is the first time Memphis and Navy have squared off so naturally it is the first time Navy has visited Memphis. The atmosphere was electric but incredibly respectful.
In front of 55k+, Navy was not boo'ed during introductions. They actually were, somewhat, cheered. Normally I wouldn't have this outlook on an opponent, but for Navy I will. I know, it's a sports competition but the level of respect was cool to see in person. I have never been in a stadium that went completely silent for the National Anthem. Usually there is someone walking around or playing on their phone, but not in Memphis tonight. The atmosphere was electric but the respect for our country was special.
After games, Navy players always find their band and join them for the playing of the Navy Alma Mater. Last night was no different. The Memphis players, in a show of respect, joined the Navy team for the playing of the song. Given all that was lost it would have been easy for the Tigers to pack up and go home. It was a nice gesture to our service men and women in attendance.