For a team that has lost three straight conference games, entering a short week against a team that runs the triple option is less than ideal. That is the exact predicament the Memphis Tigers (3-3, 0-2) will find themselves in when they host the Navy Midshipmen (1-4, 1-2) Thursday night.
The Midshipmen offer a unique set of challenges with their triple option attack and are never easy to prepare for. In just the past three weeks, they have upset UCF in a 34-30 thriller and lost close games against both Houston and #24 SMU. Regardless of who they line up against, they are capable of causing problems for opposing defenses. Memphis cannot afford to fall into that same trap at home.
“We have to find a way to stop this bleeding,” head coach Ryan Silverfield said. “They are frustrated, they’re hurt. They’re angry. They should be. I am too. We can't sit there and hang our hats. We have to find a way to get this done and ultimately, it starts with me.”
It is no secret how the Navy offense will try to attack Memphis. The strategy for the visitors is simple: run, run, run and run some more. They never stray too far away from their formula and they should not suddenly be expected to either. The same offense has given the Tigers issues in recent seasons. It will be interesting to see how they handle it this time.
After dropping two straight in the American Athletic Conference, the season is in danger of getting away from Memphis here. While potential bowl eligibility certainly would still be on the table, a fourth-straight defeat after a 3-0 start would have a bit of a “wheels falling off” type of vibe to it. Still, there are plenty of positives at the halfway mark of the 2021 season.
Freshman quarterback Seth Henigan leads the league in passing with 1,938 yards through six games and his fourteen touchdowns are good for second behind SMU’s Tanner Mordecai. Redshirt running back Brandon Thomas’ 586 rushing yards are good for second in the AAC behind East Carolina’s Keaton Mitchell, who paces all rushers with 639 yards. Receiver Calvin Austin leads all receivers in both yards and touchdowns with 837 and eight.
Despite the losses, the offense has had no problem putting up numbers. However, they have been bogged down by mistakes on both sides of the ball. Against a disciplined team like the Midshipmen, those mistakes will be costly. It will be pivotal that they play a clean game Thursday night and avoid giving the visitors extra opportunities to get their run game into a rhythm.
Kick-off against the Midshipmen is set for 6:30 Thursday night at the Liberty Bowl.