Anthony Miller

Associated Press

No. 13 Memphis sees 15-game winning streak snapped in blowout loss to Navy

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It’s been a dream season – heck, a dream calendar year – for Memphis football. Winners of all eight games this season and 15 in a row, including a massive win over Ole Miss last month, the Tigers worked their way into the College Football Playoff conversation. But Navy has a way of nullifying past success, pulling opponents into one week seasons where defending the triple option is the only thing that matters.

The 13th-ranked Tigers learned that lesson the hard way Saturday night, falling to Navy 45-20.

Memphis opened the game in vintage fashion, slicing through the Midshipmen defense with a four-play, 75-yard drive punctuated by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Paxton Lynch to Anthony Miller.

But Navy quickly gained control of the contest, immediately mounting a 16-play, 75-yard march that consumed more than nine minutes of the first quarter, tying the score while at the same time signaling the game would be played on its terms.

After a Jake Elliott 40-yard field goal gave Memphis a 10-7 lead, Navy stole the lead when Chris Swain rumbled in for his second touchdown of the game with 3:07 left in the second quarter. A late interception allowed Navy to tack on a field goal, pushing the lead to 17-10 as time expired in the second quarter.

Memphis tied the game with a one-yard Miller run at the 6:53 mark of the third quarter, but then Navy went on a run of its own, starting with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Keenan Reynolds to DeBrandon Sanders. The Middies followed that score with Swain’s third scoring dash of the night, this time from 40 yards out, pushing the lead to 31-20 after three quarters.

Calvin Crass, Jr., added to the lead with an eight-yard scoring jaunt with 10 minutes remaining, and the capper came nearly seven minutes later when Demond Brown rumbled in from one yard out with 3:20 remaining.

Reynolds entered the night needing just one rushing touchdown to snap Montee Ball‘s FBS career record and saw his quest extend one more week as he carried 17 times for 38 yards and no touchdowns to go with 3-of-5 passing for 85 yards and a score. Overall, Navy rushed 65 times for 375 yards and five touchdowns, led by Swain’s 18 carries for 108 yards and three scores. It was the most rushing yards by a Memphis opponent in eight seasons.

Lynch most likely saw his darkhorse Heisman candidacy end  with a quiet (by his standards) 26-of-42 night for 305 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Navy’s win spoils what could have been the biggest game in the short history of the American Athletic Conference, as no-longer-undefeated Memphis (8-1, 4-1 AAC) visits undefeated and 25th-ranked Houston next week.

Instead, it perhaps just prolongs it. The Midshipmen move to 7-1 overall for the first time in 11 years and 5-0 in the AAC which, with only a loss at No. 5 Notre Dame on the wrong side of their ledger, should be good enough to vault them into the rankings. The Middies face SMU and Tulsa the next two weeks before visiting Houston on Black Friday for a game that should have the AAC West title and perhaps a Group of Five bowl berth on the line.

No. 13 Memphis in a tussle with Navy through one half

Associated Press
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Navy leads unbeaten and 13th-ranked Memphis 17-10 at the half at the Liberty Bowl.

The game opened with each team trading punches in their respective styles. Memphis accepted the opening kickoff and moved 85 yards in only four plays and 81 seconds, capped by an 11-yard strike from Paxton Lynch to Anthony Miller. Navy then accepted the ball at its own 25 and scored 16 plays later, consuming nine minutes and two seconds off the clock, on a three-yard Chris Swain run.

Memphis grabbed a 10-7 lead with a 40-yard Jake Elliott field goal with 29 seconds remaining in the first quarter, but Navy surged ahead with a two-yard Swain run with 3:07 remaining before the half.

Memphis could have accepted a 14-10 deficit at the break after taking over at its own 20 with 26 seconds remaining before the break, but Justin Fuente called for a pass, which Navy’s Daniel Gonazles intercepted at the Tigers’ 27. The Midshipmen missed a chance at a touchdown when Thomas Wilson dropped a sure touchdown pass from Keenan Reynolds, forcing them to settle for a 44-yard Austin Grebe field goal as time expired in the half.

Lynch completed 15-of-25 passes for 198 yards with a touchdown and the pick (plus two rushes for 11 yards).

Needing only one rushing touchdown to break Montee Ball‘s FBS all-time record, Reynolds recorded a quiet first half with 10 carries for only 23 yards and one complete pass on three attempts for five yards.