Tigers drop conference opener at Navy

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – During a rainy American Athletic Conference opener at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium Saturday, the University of Memphis dropped a 22-21 decision to Navy.

The culprit wasn’t the wet conditions – the Tigers outgained the Midshipmen in total yardage, 378 to 316. Memphis was undone by four turnovers leading to 10 Navy points.

Despite grabbing a 21-9 lead late in the third quarter, the Tigers (1-1, 0-1 AAC) were damaged by a fourth-quarter fumble that led to a Navy score and gave the Midshipmen (1-1, 1-0 AAC) momentum they had lost.

The fumble by UofM running back Patrick Taylor eventually led to a 19-yard touchdown run by Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry that trimmed the Tigers’ lead to 21-16.

With 9:28 left, the Midshipmen regained possession following a Memphis punt and put together a time-consuming drive of nearly seven minutes, culminating on a 3-yard touchdown run by Navy quarterback Zach Abey with 2:37 to go. Abey’s two-point conversion run failed, but Navy had a 22-21 lead.

The Tigers drove from their 32 to the Navy 35 on their final possession, but quarterback Brady White’s fourth-down run came up inches short allowing Navy to run out the clock.

Darrell Henderson led the Tigers with a career-high 212 rushing yards on 13 carries and scored on touchdown runs of 2, 59 and 78 yards. The three touchdowns also represented a career-best. White completed 15 of 25 passes for 145 yards with an interception.

Perry led Navy with 166 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 36 carries.

In the opening half, the Tigers amassed 179 yards – thirty more than Navy – but were slowed by two fumbles. The first turnover came on the UofM’s opening series leading to a Navy field goal of 23 yards.

Memphis eventually put together a scoring drive late in the second half going 86 yards in 12 plays and getting the 2-yard touchdown run by Henderson. Riley Patterson’s point-after kick made it 7-3 Tigers with 4:01 to go in the half.

The Tigers were unable to stop the Midshipmen in the closing minutes of the first half as Navy drove 75 yards in 11 plays. Perry scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 7-yard run with seven seconds remaining. The Midshipmen were unable to convert the extra point as the snap was mishandled.

As is the case with most Navy games, the Midshipmen had a huge edge in time of possession in the first half (19 minutes to 11 minutes). But each team had 10 first downs.

Memphis regained the lead on Henderson’s 78-yard run midway through the third quarter and extended it to 21-9 by converting a fumble recovery by Tyrez Lindsey – that was forced by JJ Russell — into points. Henderson’s 59-yard TD run gave the Tigers a 12-point lead in the closing minutes of the third quarter.

Memphis returns home Friday night to host Georgia State in a non-conference game at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.