The Navy Midshipmen (5-1) knew that all the good work that was done against Houston would have been for nothing immediately with a loss against Memphis (5-2). Perhaps that is why the Mids came onto the field as a home underdog and blew the Tigers away in the second half. Check out the report card below to see how dominant Navy was on Saturday.
PASSING OFFENSE: A
The Navy passing game was ultra efficient against Memphis. Quarterback Will Worth threw four passes and three of them were completions with two going for touchdowns. Once again the way Navy plays the game means that Worth has a minuscule passing line compared to the other quarterbacks in the country, but he passed for 85 yards and completed 75% of his passes as a compliment to the Mids rushing attack. The biggest passing play of the game was Worth's 18-yard touchdown pass at the end of the third quarter that put Navy up 35-21 for a two-touchdown lead.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A
Worth led Navy to an utterly dominating performance on the ground. He rused for a career-high 201 yards and three touchdowns (it should have been four) as the Mids dominated the line of scrimmage and kept Memphis guessing with the option. The biggest asset that the run provided was simply keeping the ball away from Memphis. Navy held the ball for almost 40 minutes in the game that left the quick scoring Memphis little time to fight back.
PASSING DEFENSE: C
Most of the good work Memphis did come through the air. Quarterback Riley Ferguson was 25-of-40 for 333 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and receiver Anthony Miller, in particular, proved to be very difficult for Navy to handle. Miller went for 134 yards and a score on nine catches, while you feel like the Tigers passing attack could have done even more damage if they had not been kept off of the field by the Mids dominating ground game.
RUSHING DEFENSE: B
The passing defense may have been giving up big yardage, but the rushing defense was stout against a Memphis squad that likes to keep other defenses off balance by mixing running elements into their spread. The rushing defense was especially important in a second-quarter goal-line stand that helped pave the way to victory. Memphis attempted a pass on first and goal from the Navy three-yard line (incomplete), before then running the ball on three successive plays and not getting into the end zone. The score here was 14-14 and a Memphis score would have completely changed the complexion of the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Navy won this game, but the special teams were anything but on Saturday. Memphis return specialist Tony Pollard took the second Bennett Moehring kick of the game 100 yards to the house to put the Mids down 14-7 at that stage. After the courageous goal line stand mentioned above, the offense stalled out and punter Alex Barta was only able to come up with a 24-yard kick that went out of bounds at the Mids own 20-yard line. Later in the game Moehring missed a 32-yard field goal that would have put the Mids up by 10 points late in the fourth quarter.
Ken Niumatalolo is quietly one of the best coaches in the country. The perfect example of this came at the end of the third quarter when he simply outcoached a very good young coach in Mike Norvell. On fourth down at the Memphis 14-yard line, Norvell took a timeout with two seconds left in the half so that the Mids would have to kick the field goal attempt into a stiff breeze at that end of the field. Niumatalolo responded by taking a timeout of his own, drawing up a play and one Will Worth pass to Tyler Carmona later the Mids has a 14 point lead.
OVERALL GRADE: A
The only reason this would be anything lower than an A is because of the Worth fumble at the goal line and a collection of special teams blunders. As it is the Mids now have tiebreakers over the two teams that are expected to be their challengers in the AAC West and this program continues to surprise and amaze under the leadership of Niumatalolo and his outstanding coaching staff.