Navy uses fourth-quarter rally to beat Memphis 22-21 in rain
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) Because Navy relies so heavily on the run, comebacks are not exactly its specialty.
So when the Midshipmen found themselves in a driving rain and trailing Memphis by 12 points in the fourth quarter, only two options remained in play.
"You can fold and accept the loss, or line up on the ball like every play counts," quarterback Malcolm Perry said.
Perry got Navy within striking distance with a sensational 19-yard run , and backup Zach Abey scored from the 3 with 2:37 left for a 22-21 victory on Saturday.
The last time the Midshipmen won when trailing by double digits in the fourth quarter was in 2008, against Temple.
"It just shows you the resolve of our young men," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "I am just really proud of the way our guys fought. We did just enough at the end on offense to get the `W.' That's all that matters - one more point than them. Great win."
Navy trailed 21-9 before Perry followed the Tigers' third lost fumble with a right-and-then-left, tackle-breaking, touchdown run with 11:07 remaining.
"It was a designed pass," Perry said. "I didn't like what I was seeing, so I make a play with my feet."
After a Memphis punt, the Midshipmen (1-1, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) moved 56 yards in 13 plays in a drive that Abey ended standing up in the end zone.
The Tigers (1-1, 0-1) got to the Navy 34 before Brady White was tackled on a fourth-down scramble with 1:26 remaining.
"Hats off to Navy," Memphis coach Mike Norvell said. "They did a great job, especially late in the game. It was the mistakes that cost us."
A steady rain turned a projected shootout into a conservative game of ball control. After scoring 66 points in its season opener against Mercer, Memphis struggled offensively until Darrell Henderson peeled off touchdown runs of 78 and 59 yards in the third quarter.
"The rain definitely messed up our offense because we couldn't get into the playbook and run the plays we wanted to run," said Henderson, who finished with 212 yards and three TDs on just 13 carries.
In the end, Memphis simply couldn't overcome the rain, four turnovers and a sub-par performance by White, who went 15 for 25 for 145 yards and an interception.
"On the offensive side, you've got to own the ball," Memphis linebacker Austin Hall said.
Perry ran for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
"Overall, I'm not happy how I executed, but I'm happy how the team played overall," Perry said. "Whatever the situation, we just kept coming back."
Abey played occasionally in short-yardage situations, carrying five times for 6 yards and that very important touchdown.
It was an uplifting victory for the Midshipmen, who were coming off a 59-41 blowout loss at Hawaii.
The Tigers trailed 9-7 at halftime after losing possession of the wet football three times and punting twice.
John Williams fumbled on the Tigers' first play and Sean Dykes coughed up the ball later in the first quarter. Between the turnovers, Navy kicked a field goal.
White finally got the Memphis offense on track with an 86-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by Henderson.
Perry answered with a 7-yard score with 7 seconds left.
Memphis: It's hard to get a read on Memphis, which led 56-0 at halftime last week and rolled up 752 yards. Not to confuse Navy with Mercer, but the Tigers looked awful on offense with the exception of Henderson's two long runs.
Navy: The offense remains one-dimensional, which is to be expected, but the defense came up big when it counted. And, the winner of the Navy-Memphis game has earned at least a share of the West Division title in each of the last three years.
WAIT A SECOND
Navy's defense had to return from its locker room to finish the first half after a replay determined there was one second remaining with Memphis in possession at midfield. The payoff for the Midshipmen was an interception as time expired.
Navy safety Sean Williams forced both Memphis fumbles in the first quarter. The last time a Midshipman caused two fumbles in a game was against Air Force in 2015.
Memphis: Hosts Georgia State on Friday night in the first meeting between the teams.
Navy: Hosts Lehigh on Saturday in a series that began in 1889, but has been dormant since 1987.
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Updated September 8, 2018