For a series that goes back all of two games, Navy-Memphis sure feels lopsided. A year after the Midshipmen gashed an undefeated (8-0) Memphis team for 459 yards in a 25-point beatdown at the Liberty Bowl, quarterback Will Worth led the nation's 24th-ranked team in a 14-point victory that was that close only because the Navy quarterback fumbled a ball as he entered the end zone in the second quarter.
Ignore that miscue and Worth was flawless in steering Navy's triple-option offense down the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. He rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries and tossed two touchdown passes despite going to the air only four times the entire game. Overall, Navy gained 532 yards, 447 on the ground. The victory gives Navy sole possession of first place in the American Athletic Conference's West division with a 4-0 record (5-1 overall), while Memphis falls to 2-1 in the AAC (5-2 overall).
The Tigers missed a pair of chances to swing the score. They drove to the Navy 1-yard line following Worth's second quarter fumble, the game tied at 14. But on fourth down, Tiger quarterback Riley Ferguson
took the snap in shotgun formation and attempted to run the ball into the end zone, coming up two yards short. A three-yard run by Worth late in the quarter gave Navy a 21-14 lead at halftime.
With Navy leading 35-28 and just under six minutes to play in the game, Navy kicker Bennett Moehring missed a 32-yard field goal attempt, drilling the left upright. But after converting on fourth down in Navy territory, the Tigers gave up the ball when receiver Roderick Proctor
fumbled after taking in a Ferguson pass near midfield. (Proctor limped off the field with a lower-body injury.) Worth tumbled into the end zone for the third time with 1:38 left to play to clinch the victory.
Ferguson completed 25 of 40 passes for 333 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He gave the Tigers an early lead with a 33-yard connection to Anthony Miller
just 2:34 into the game. But Navy answered on its first possession, culminating in a four-yard run by Shawn White. The Memphis defense was only able to force two punts, one in each half. The Tigers punted but twice themselves, but held the ball for only 20:12, the result of Navy's ground game chewing up (and rather digesting) the game flow.
Miller caught nine passes for 134 yards while senior Daniel Hurd pulled down five passes for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Two weeks after returning a kickoff for a touchdown to end a Memphis drought of almost 20 years , freshman Tony Pollard
returned a Navy kick 100 yards to pay dirt in the first quarter. Like the Tigers' initial lead, it was short-lived, Navy scoring on its next possession with a Worth-to-Jamir Tillman touchdown pass.
The Tigers return to the Liberty Bowl next Saturday to face Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane beat Tulane, 50-27, today to improve to 5-2 on the season.