The Navy Midshipmen (7-1, ACC 5-0) ended the 13th ranked Memphis Tigers' (8-1, 4-1) perfect season and dropped them from the top of the West Division with a 45-20 victory in a battle of unbeaten American Athletic Conference teams. It didn't start well for the Midshipmen as Memphis took the opening kickoff and drove 85 yards down the field for a touchdown in just a 1:21. Navy had the perfect response with a nine minute all run march over 75 yards with Chris Swain scoring from three yards out to tie the score. Swain added his second touchdown on a two yard run in the second quarter before kicker Austin Grebe hit a 44-yard field goal to close out the first half with Navy leading 17-10. Memphis tied the score in the third quarter and the Mids answered the next play with a 75-yard scoring pass from Keenan Reynolds to DeBrandon Sanders on a wheel route to take with 6:43 left in the third quarter that gave the Midshipmen the lead for good at 24-17. Fullback Chris Swain scored his third touchdown when raced untouched 40 yards into the end zone. Navy led 31-20 at that point and never looked back as they added two scores in the fourth quarter. This was Navy's first road win over a top-15 ranked team since a 7-6 victory over eighth-ranked Penn State in 1974. The Midshipmen remained tied with Houston atop the West Division.
PASSING OFFENSE: A
Keenan Reynolds completed 3-of-5 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Reynolds first pass was a short 5-yard screen pass to Jamir Tillman. His second pass occurred with just 17 seconds left in the half after Daniel Gonzalez picked off Paxton Lynch. Reynolds threw a perfect pass to a wide open Thomas Wilson who dropped the ball in the end zone. Reynolds threw an incompletion off his back foot on the next play as he tried to hit Calvin Cass who was well covered before settling for the field goal to take a 17-10 halftime lead. Reynolds hit Brandon Colon for a five yard gain on a short out pattern on the opening drive of the second half. After Memphis tied the score in the third quarter Reynolds answered back the next play. Keenan hit DeBrandon Sanders, who was wide open on a wheel route, for a 75-yard touchdown pass with 6:43 left in the third quarter that gave the Midshipmen the lead for good at 24-17. That was the last pass Navy attempted. The offensive line allowed no sacks.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A+
Navy ran for 374 rushing yards, a 5.7 average and five rushing touchdowns. Navy B-back Chris Swain ran 18 times for a team leading 108 yards and a career high three touchdown game. QB Keenan Reynolds was a maestro directing the Navy attack. He ran 17 times for just 38 yards as the Tiger defense keyed on him all night. Keenan just read the defense and took what they gave him. With the game in hand Navy called for a quarterback sneak for Keenan to set the NCAA rushing record but he checked out of the play and pitched the ball to Demond Brown (6 att., 40 yds., TD ) because he saw an easy touchdown. It illustrated what an unselfish player Reynolds is in passing on a chance to set the record in his home state. Slotback Toneo Gulley (3 att., 35 yds.) took a third down pitch a career long 31 yards to set up Navy's second touchdown. DeBrandon Sanders had eight carries for 82 yards and helped convert a number of key third downs. Sanders played a great game. Calvin Cass (2 att., 19 yds., TD) scored on an eight yard touchdown run. Slotback Dishane Romine had three rush attempts for 28 yards. He showed his speed to the edge on a 13-yard run that helped set up Cass's score. Fullback Quentin Ezell had six carries for 28 yards when he gave Swain a breather. The blocking by the Navy offensive line, slotbacks and receivers was outstanding.
PASSING DEFENSE: A+
Navy allowed highly regarded NFL quarterback prospect Paxton Lynch to complete 26 of 42 for 305 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. He entered the game with only one interception all season. After the opening series the Mids offense seemed to help take the up tempo Memphis offense out of its rhythm. The Tigers had entered the game with the third most productive offense in football which was averaging 47.9 points per game. Linebacker Daniel Gonzales (7 tackles, INT) picked off a pass to set up Austin Grebe's field goal as time expired in the first half. Cornerback Quincy Adams had a busy night battling the talented Tiger receiving corps. Adams made four tackles, broke up a pass, forced a fumble and made a fumble recovery. He recovered the key fumble forced by Ted Colburn (3 tackles, TFL) late in the third quarter. Cornerback Brandon Clements (5 tackles, FR) played well in coverage He recovered a fumble. Free safety Lorentez Barbour led the Mids with 9 tackles and a forced fumble. He was a step late in tackling Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller at the goal line as he was able to hit the pylon on the opening Tigers drive. Barbour had a huge forced fumble in the fourth period that helped put the game out of reach. Defensive end Will Anthony made four tackles and had the games only sack. Rover Daiquan Thomasson (2 tackle, PD) broke up a pass with a nice hit in the end zone to hold Memphis to a field goal.
RUSHING DEFENSE: A+
The Mids allowed Memphis only 133 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown. The Mids defense did a great job against an offense that entered averaging 202 rushing yards a game. Twenty four of those yards came off of scrambles by Lynch. Linebacker D.J. Palmore was stout at the point of attack with seven tackles. Mike linebacker Micah Thomas (6 tackles) filled the inside running gaps all day. Nose guard Bernie Sarra had two tackles but anchored the defensive line to allow Navy's inside linebackers to limit the Tigers running game. Mike Kelly made four stops. Striker Brandon Jones (4 tackles) teamed with Quincy Adams to drop Doroland Dorceus for a key loss on fourth-and-1 and give the ball back to Navy's offense. Amos Mason was a rock up front making four tackles and helped slow down the Memphis offense.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Kicker Austin Grebe hit his clutch 44-yard field goal with no time left in the first half. Grebe helped save a touchdown on a long kick return by the Tigers. Justin Norton had a huge game for the coverage units with four tackles and a forced fumble. Punter Alex Barta averaged 45.2 yards on four punts and placed two inside the twenty yard line. Barta directional kicking was excellent and he hit a 50 yard punt. Dishane Romine had an 18-yard kickoff return. Brandon Jones had a huge hit on that punt return after Memphis tried to return the ball from out of its own end zone. Even with the one long kick return the special teams did a great job making Memphis drive the length of the field.
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo had his team ready for the biggest non service academy game in years. Thought he would go for it on fourth-and-3 from the 43-yard line but his decision to punt helped set up the Navy field goal before end of the half. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper called a great game and kept Memphis off balance all game. Defensive coordinator Dale Pehrson's unit played very well and was sound. After the opening drive the defense had the Tigers out of their usual tempo.
OVERALL GRADE: A+
The Mids won the biggest non service academy game for the program in years. It was a complete team effort. It was Navy's first win over a top-15 ranked team since Nov. 17, 1984 when the Mids shocked #2 South Carolina 38-21, in Annapolis. I thought for Navy to win his would have to be one of those games where Navy had to have its offense stay on schedule and outscore Memphis. The Mids defense proved to be a lot better than I and a lot of others thought. Memphis coach Justin Fuente said. "They run a lot better and are a lot more athletic than anyone gives them credit for, they kicked our tail. They are a nightmare."
A nightmare to some, a dream season for Navy fans. This was a great win and Navy now has a chance to win the AAC West division.