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Defense carries Memphis to 30-27 over Navy

The Tigers relied on their defense, who produced five turnovers on their way to a big conference win.

NCAA Football: Navy at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

This game didn’t start the way that Memphis wanted it to. The opening kickoff took a strange bounce on Tony Pollard, and Navy recovered. We didn’t realize the defense would preview their excellence by holding the Midshipmen to just a field goal.

The Tigers defense has been subject to scrutiny thus far, but most of their poor performances could be attributed to injuries. With plenty of youth playing on that side of the ball, a learning curve was to be expected. That youth finally showed what they learned on Saturday, forcing five Midshipmen turnovers. Austin Hall had the best game of his young career, finishing with 10 tackles, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. While the struggles of this unit has been well documented, it seems that this group might be growing up. If the defense can play like this each week, there isn’t a reason why they can’t win the AAC. The defense was special, and Hall was easily the player of the game. He was a major factor in holding Navy’s rush offense to 314 yards on the ground, 100 yards less than their season average so far.

Navy quarterback Zach Abey rushed for yards and three touchdowns, but had multiple costly turnovers that gave Memphis the ball back and led to points. He was also 1-for-7 for 20 yards with two interceptions, and struggled in the fourth quarter.

Navy didn’t look good in their first real conference test, but still managed to stay in the game despite their five turnovers. Memphis offensive struggles in the first half kept the game close, and Navy’s long drives certainly had an effect on the Tigers’ offense. In the end, Memphis’ athleticism and speed were too much for Navy’s defense to handle, and the turnovers were too much to overcome.

Memphis’ offense wasn’t on the same page for most of the first half. Riley Ferguson had multiple overthrows that ended up costing the Tigers points, but he corrected those mistakes in the second half. Ferguson finished 24-for-40 for 279 yards with three touchdowns. Navy struggled covering the Tigers receivers, specifically Anthony Miller. Miller was a target of a couple Ferguson overthrows in the first half, and Navy got away with a couple holds that weren’t called when guarding him. The senior still finished with 10 catches for 90 yards and two scores.

Navy will need to regroup quickly, as UCF awaits them next week. Memphis has a short week ahead, as they will travel to Houston on Thursday.