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Memphis Holds off Navy 28-24 in 4th Quarter Slugfest

Navy ended up being a handful for Memphis Thursday night at the Liberty Bowl but the Tigers clawed their way to victory in the 4th quarter.

Seth Henigan takes a knee in Memphis’ 28-24 victory over Navy Thursday night.
Emily Van Buskirk

The skirmish that broke out on the field between Memphis and Navy players after Thursday night’s game was merely overflow from the battle – emotions running high after the Midshipmen’s last-second attempt to secure victory fell short at the Tigers’ 10-yard line.

Frustration bubbled over for the Mids watching Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan kneel down to secure the Tiger’s first conference win of the season and their third consecutive victory on the year. There were words exchanged and shoulders shoved, an extension of the charged energy felt on the field all night long.

“I think the whole game we saw some chippiness and I think that’s what happens when you play – it’s a rivalry, it’s a conference game, and man there are some tough SOB’s over there at Navy,” exclaimed Memphis head coach Ryan Silverfield after the game. “Full credit to them, they’re wonderful young men and they are going to serve our country, but man those guys at Navy are tough.”

The Tigers were just a little bit tougher tonight, battling back from being down 14-7. In the first quarter, Navy had back-to-back touchdown drives with a 75-yard stunner to the house from sophomore fullback Alex Tecza, followed by a 16-yard pass from Navy quarterback Tai Lavatai to Regis Velez. It was the junior wide receiver’s first career catch and touchdown.

Tecza finished with 163 yards off of 15 carries while Lavatai recorded his second 100-yard passing game, finishing 10-19 for 133 yards as well as 14 carries for 30 yards.

Running the ball was the order of the night - Memphis’ running back Blake Watson rushed for 169 yards off of 10 carries, accounting for 88 percent of the Tigers’ rushing yards.

Henigan and the Tigers’ offense caught stride and traded touchdowns with the Midshipmen for a while before the junior signal caller scampered into the endzone on a three yard rushing touchdown to start the fourth quarter. Memphis’ defense showed up big in the final 15 minutes, limiting Navy to just five first downs, relegating them to 2-5 on third downs and of course stopping them on that fateful fourth down.

“I’m proud of the way we finished,” said Silverfield. “There’s a lot of things that could be fixed in that game and we sure know it, but as I sit here now I’m going to go in reverse order, we’re 1-0 in conference and 3-0 and found a way to win tonight and that’s something we weren’t able to do last year.”

At the end of the day, pride is something both head coaches have in common.

“There’s always four or five plays in a game like that that could be the difference and sometimes the bricks go your way and sometimes they don’t,” said Newberry post game. “I told our guys that they deserved success today by how hard they played and how hard they fought and it just didn’t turn out on the scoreboard the way we wanted it to but man I’m damn proud of these players.”

Memphis head out on the road next weekend to face Missouri while Navy returns home to host South Florida, in the hunt for the Mids’ first conference win.