The Navy Midshipmen (4-1, 4-0) now own control of the AAC West after a brutalizing defeat of the Memphis Tigers (5-2, 2-1) in Annapolis. After taking down defending league champion, and the #6 ranked team in the nation, Houston two weeks ago, the Mids are taking control of a season that looked to be in trouble with a loss to Air Force back on the first Saturday in October.
Here is a look at how the three keys played out:
1) Run the ball just like last season - Pass
Navy didn't just run the ball as well as they did last season against Memphis, they actually managed to run it even better. In 2015 the Mids rolled for 374 yards on the ground in a 45-20 win, while this time around the ground game piled up an astonishing 447 yards in a 42-28 victory.
The start of the show was quarterback Will Worth who rushed for a career-high 201 yards and picked up three touchdowns while carrying the ball 31 times. Worth also added two more touchdowns through the air as he went 3-of-4 passing the ball. When Tago Smith went down the Navy offense was expected to struggle, but Worth has proven to be better than even his strongest supporters could have imagined. His ability to carry the ball so many times, yet still make the right reads and decisions, is proving to be the difference in these Navy victories.
2) Protect the football - Pass
The Memphis defense averaged three turnovers a game coming into this one, picking up 18 total turnovers on the season. The Navy coaching staff stressed all week the need to have good ball security in tackles as the Tigers defense always works to strip the ball. Navy passed this test by only turning the ball over once and even that was a turnover that really shouldn't have happened as the fumble through the end zone/touchback rule is the worst rule in all any sport out there.
The big factor here was that Navy just didn't have to pass the ball all that much. Eleven of the 18 Memphis turnovers coming in were interceptions as the Tigers defensive backs do an excellent job of locating and going after the ball. With Navy able to run the ball as they wanted, Worth only put the ball in the air four times all game, drastically reducing the chances of a Memphis pick.
3) Come out of the gates fast - Pass
The first four drives of the game (technically) resulted in touchdowns. Memphis took the opening kickoff 75 yards in 2:34 to score and it was massively important that Navy was able to reply with a touchdown drive of their own. Then, after a Memphis kick return score made it 14-7, Navy was again able to drive (10 plays in 5:35) to tie the game. Memphis was never able to grab that early momentum because the Mids offense was so sharp on its first two drives. Navy would actually have scored on its first three drives had Worth not fumbled at the pylon, but either way the offense was on fire early in the game.