Memphis uses 5 turnovers to hand No. 25 Navy 1st loss, 30-27
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Riley Ferguson didn't throw one, but he was certainly enjoying seeing a late-game interception Saturday.
The Memphis quarterback was watching helplessly on the sidelines as Navy took over on its 10 with 1:51 to go and an opportunity for a second-straight, last-minute victory. But Tigers defensive back Austin Hall picked off Zach Abey at the Midshipmen 33 to end the threat and secure a 30-27 upset of 25th-ranked Navy.
"I knew our defense was going to make a play," Ferguson said. "That was something I felt good about."
Ferguson threw three touchdown passes and Memphis took advantage of five turnovers to hand the Midshipmen their first loss of the season.
"We did not play a perfect game, but I'm so proud of this football team," Memphis coach Mike Norvell said.
Abey ran for 146 yards for Navy (5-1, 3-1 American Athletic Conference), but the Tigers held the nation's leading running game 100 yards below its 416-yard average.
"I've never been so proud to hold a team to 314 yards," Norvell said. "But we went out and competed for 60 minutes."
Abey surpassed 1,000 yards rushing this season with a 28-yard run late in the fourth quarter, but was responsible for all five turnovers.
"I can't remember the last time we had five turnovers," said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. "You aren't going to beat anyone with five turnovers."
Memphis (5-1, 2-1) beat a Top-25 opponent for the third straight time, including two this season.
Ferguson passed for 279 yards and Anthony Miller had 10 receptions for 90 yards and two TDs. Ferguson has 10 TD passes and no interceptions in his past two games.
"It's humbling and it's a blessing to be in this position, beating two Top 25 teams," Ferguson said. "It was just a matter of being disciplined and staying focused on the little details."
The Tigers took a 20-19 lead on a 42-yard field goal by Riley Patterson late in the third quarter, the game's fifth lead change. Memphis extended its lead to 27-19 by piecing together a 99-yard scoring drive early in the fourth, capped by an 8-yard TD pass to Miller.
After another 42-yard field goal by Patterson in the fourth made it 30-19, Navy trimmed to deficit to 30-27 with 3:25 to go and had one final opportunity in the final two minutes. But Memphis linebacker Austin Hall ended the comeback try with his second interception with 1:42 to go.
"The defense stepped up today," Hall said. "Everyone did their job."
Navy rushed 36 times for 155 yards in the first half and dominated time of possession. The Midshipmen controlled the ball for 20:06 minutes of the opening half.
Navy: The Midshipmen were looking to go 6-0 for the first time in almost four decades. The division loss puts them in a bind behind the Tigers in the American Athletic Conference West race.
We just have to move on. When you win, you have to move on. And when you lose, you have to move on. We are a leadership institution and this is what leadership is about. Hopefully, we'll bounce back," Niumatalolo said.
Memphis: The Tigers converted those takeaways into 13 points. The win, coupled with Houston's surprising loss to Tulsa, puts Memphis back in the thick of the West race.
Navy: The Midshipmen will drop out of the polls after accomplishing what hadn't been done in 57 years. By moving into the Top 25 a week ago, Navy was ranked for a third straight season, a first since 1958-60.
Memphis: The Tigers will gain some additional votes, but likely not enough to earn a Top 25 ranking.
TIGER SUSPENSION: A Memphis defense hit hard by injuries this season lost another starter before kickoff.
School officials originally announced defensive end Ernest Suttles, listed as the co-starter at one of the end positions, had been suspended "for a violation of team rules in an off-campus incident." Later, the school announced he had been dismissed following a Memphis Police Department tweet that Suttles had been charged with rape. He was booked into jail shortly before kickoff.
Navy: The Midshipmen play host to the surprise AAC team this season. No. 22 UCF, led by second-year coach Scott Frost, leads the league in scoring offense and scoring defense and owns impressive wins over Maryland and Memphis.
MEMPHIS: The Tigers will not have much time to recover. They are at Houston on Thursday in another key West division game.
Updated October 14, 2017