It did not start off pretty, but a win is a win. That’s what the Memphis Tigers got after bouncing back from a 20-14 deficit at halftime. They defeated Navy after getting just 98 yards in the first half, and the Tigers’ offense bounced back in a big way in the second half.
They improved after halftime and had 15 points and 203 yards compared to Navy’s three points and 81 yards.
Quarterback, Brady White, came alive in the second half. He threw for 167 passing yards. A significant improvement from the 29 passing yards, zero touchdowns and lost fumble he had at halftime.
Each of his touchdowns was to different receivers, with starting receivers Damonte Coxie, Antonio Gibson and Kedarian Jones each getting a touchdown.
White spoke with the media after the game about his poor first-half performance.
“In the first half I just missed some things and could have put my offense and this team in better situations,” White said. “Obviously the fumble can’t happen, but I just wasn’t playing like myself.”
Running back Kenneth Gainwell, who had the big 75-yard touchdown run to open the game, was quiet throughout much of the contest.
He had 104 rushing yards on 14 attempts and had a modest contribution in the passing game as well, with two receptions for nine receiving yards. Luckily, because of White’s efficiency, Gainwell did not have to play like a superstar like he had been in previous games this season.
Mike Norvell spoke with the media after the game and gave his take on his team’s overall resiliency.
“This was a program defining game,” Norvell said. “Navy does things the right way. For us to come out and not play our best ball in the first half and to see our guys respond and make our adjustments in the second half was remarkable.”
Though the offense’s improved performance was a big help, a lot of praise must be given to the defense, who played well against their toughest offensive challenge of the season.
They held the Midshipmen to 23 points, the lowest total they have had all season and despite allowing 291 total rushing yards, 217 of those yards came in the first half.
As far as pass defense? They have been doing what they have been doing all season, and that is stopping plays through the air.
In the first half, Navy’s quarterback Malcolm Perry threw the ball six times and had four completions for 75 yards and a touchdown.
In the second half, Navy’s passing game was practically nonexistent and had just two completions, 7 yards and an interception in the fourth quarter.
They had eight tackles for loss, led by defensive tackle O’Bryan Goodson, who led the team with two. They also had two sacks, courtesy of transfer players Wardalis Ducksworth and Morris Joseph.
They also held the opposition to completing just seven of their 17 third-down attempts.
Starting safety and the game’s leading tackler Sanchez Blake talked to the media about his group’s mindset after halftime and how they were able to improve.
“We knew that we had to stay focused,” Blake said. “We settled down from the first half because we knew that the game wasn’t over.”
Their resiliency has made them one of the most dangerous teams in the American Conference because they can never be counted out.
I was not sure that they would be able to pull this game through after their struggles in the first half, but they proved me wrong.
As they get deeper into conference play and match up against tougher opponents, the team hopes to keep up their momentum and finally rid themselves of the 2018 struggles that plagued them.