On the field and on the stat sheet, Navy dominated Memphis in the first half. The visiting Middies darn near ran the Tigers out of their own stadium, racking up 43 first-half carries for 217 yards while adding 75 yards on seven pass attempts — an even 50 plays. Memphis, meanwhile, ran 15. The Tigers totaled 69 first-half rushing yards on 10 carries, which sounds good until you realize their first carry went for 75.
But Memphis did get that 75-yard carry, a first-offensive-snap-of-the-game touchdown bolt from the aptly-named Kenneth Gainwell, and they got a 99-yard kickoff return touchdown from Gabriel Rogers. It was enough to keep the home team in the game, 20-14, at halftime, at which point the script completely flipped after the break, allowing the Tigers to pull away for a 35-23 win.
After throwing for just 29 first-half yards, Brady White came alive in the second, hitting 14-of-18 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns.
White put Memphis (4-0, 1-0 American) up for good when he found Kederian Jones for a 5-yard touchdown at the 9:05 mark of the third quarter, punctuating a drive in which the pair also hooked up for gains of 12 and 13 yards. White then gave Memphis control of the game with a 73-yard snatch-and-dash strike to Antonio Gibson, the Tigers’ longest passing play of the season. (They have three rushing plays of 70-plus yards thus far, the most in the country.)
When a 49-yard Bijan Nichols field goal pulled Navy (2-1, 1-1 American) within 28-23 with 12:17 to play, White provided the dagger, hitting Gainwell for a 13-yard gain (which turned into 28 when adding a Navy personal foul) and then Damonte Coxie for a 31-yard touchdown, capping the scoring with 11:27 to play.
After rushing for 217 first-half yards, Navy mustered just 74 yards on 23 carries after halftime. The Midshipmen entered the night as the nation’s leading rushers (371.5 yards per game) but ended 80 yards below their season average.
After Navy out-gained Memphis 292-98 in the first half, Memphis won the second 203-81.
Before it fell apart, though, everything started perfectly for Navy. The Middies opened the game with a 41-yard end around and scored touchdowns on three of their first five possessions, two on 1-yard Malcolm Perry keepers and on beautiful 17-yard Perry pass to Chance Warren on 3rd-and-9. But Perry, who battled injuries throughout the game, could not carry the offense when the running game dried up. He went just 2-of-4 for seven yards after the break, while backup Perry Olsen was intercepted on Navy’s final offensive play.