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Navy vs. Memphis football preview: Everything you need to know about Mids vs. Tigers

The Midshipmen will play at Memphis on Thursday on ESPN in a crucial AAC clash.

NCAA Football: East Carolina at Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Navy does not get primetime mid-week games very often, so when they happen it’s a pretty big deal. It’s probably a little too bold to say this is Navy’s opportunity to let the college football world know they’re back in 2019, but we’re feeling pretty good about this season so far, so we said it anyways.

This has been quite the matchup for the AAC West the last four seasons; it all started when Navy traveled to Tennessee and defeated then #13 ranked Memphis en route to arguably the greatest Navy Football season in decades. The Mids hold the record advantage to date at 3-1 all time, including a 22-21 victory last season in Annapolis.


Navy appears to have found their mojo this season with Malcolm Perry executing the option to perfection so far averaging nearly 500 yards and 6 touchdowns a game. That breaks out to about 370 yards on the ground and nearly 130 yards through the air. When the passing becomes a factor, good things open up for the option. Perry has been Navy’s leading rusher (184 yards; 5 TDs), but 15 other Midshipmen have also carried the rock at least once through the first two games of the season with Nelson Smith (148;3) and CJ Williams (102;1) also eclipsing the century mark. Williams is also the only Mid with over 100 receiving yards so far this season with 117 yards and 2 touchdowns.

NCAA Football: East Carolina at Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We’re so thrilled to have the triple-option humming again, but let’s not lose sight of the real good news story so far this season: that Newberry Defense. This defense is ranked 4th in the country in total defense allowing just 226.5 yards per game and 2nd (SECOND!) in scoring defense at 8.5 points per game. I do not care who the opponents have been, or that it’s only two games, when most other schools have played three or four times this year, that stat is impressive, especially considering where the defense is coming from compared to last season. This defense is not forcing a ton of turnovers but they are forcing opposing offenses to make poor decisions under duress and getting the ball back in Perry’s hands quickly. Linebacker Elan Nash, safeties Diego Fagot and Evan Fochtman, and cornerback Cameron Kinley have been the playmakers to watch so far.


Memphis is 3-0 so far this year including a big win over Ole Miss to kickoff the season. The Tigers boast a great defense that has allowed the 3rd fewest yards per game (226.3) and the 14th fewest points (13.3) in college football. Linebacker JJ Russell, DB Sanchez Blake, and Lineman Joseph Dorceus are all players to watch on the 40th ranked rushing defense in the country, which has allowed just 116 yards per game on the ground.

The Tigers are led by quarterback Brady White who has put up 718 passing yards and a completion percentage of more than 70% while throwing 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Memphis also has a great running game despite being without their starting running back Patrick Taylor who hasn’t played since the first game of the year. Taylor put up 128 yards and a touchdown on the Rebels before exiting with an injury; but he was just ruled out against Midshipmen. The backup Kenneth Gainwell is not exactly a break for Navy, however, as he has put up 322 yards on 48 carries with three touchdowns and another 88 receiving yards through 3 games. Damonte Coxie is a terrific receiver who has 237 yards on 15 receptions this year, and is White’s primary target down field.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

How To Watch:

Time: 8:00 p.m. (EDT) on Thursday, Sep 26

Watch: ESPN, AFN

Listen: WNAV; or online here

Location: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium; Memphis, TN

Rankings: Navy enters week five on the Massey Rankings at 64; Memphis is at 34

Betting Lines: Memphis is favored by 10.5 points at home.

Keys to Success

Just do exactly what they’ve been doing so far this season? I don’t know. That last game against ECU was about the most perfect Navy game I can remember seeing in a very long time. Even Coach Niumatalolo, the most humble guy on the planet, said they executed in all three phases as well he’s ever seen.

Memphis is a different beast no doubt, and it will definitely take the same kind of performance as the last game, but assuming this squad hasn’t just rested on their laurels (unlikely, knowing what these guys went through last season), the Mids seem set to have a pretty good year.

I have broken it down to three key elements: 1. rollin’ rollin’ rollin’, keep that option rollin’ 2. When the defense gives you the opportunity, drop a long bomb to the slot who has slipped behind the DBs 3. Chaos from the defense; keep the opposing offense off balance.

The Hype

This is all we need this week:


I already said it: it’s the 2019 Navy Football coming out party! What better time to show the Men of Ken are back than a primetime road game against a divisional foe?

The Memphis defense is no slouch and will keep the triple-option under control with the exception of a few big plays that really hurt the Tigers. Put me down for 270 yards on the ground and another 80 through the air.

The defense will stand firm, but won’t be perfect, I expect at least two touchdowns and a few field goals. I expect Brady White to put up about 200 yards through the air and the rushing game will add another 125 on the ground.

It will come down to a field goal as time expires from Navy Freshman Bijan Nichols who will come through in the clutch to give Navy the victory!

Navy wins 23-20.