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Preview & Predictions: Navy vs Memphis

The Navy Midshipmen will travel to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium on Thursday night to battle the Memphis Tigers. The Tigers hold a record of 5-3 against the Midshipmen and have won the last four matchups. This will be the first conference game for Memphis in the now division-less American Athletic Conference.  

Navy improved to a record of 1-1 after a 24-0 win against Wagner, and their loss on opening day against Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Memphis is riding high with a 2-0 start after two dominating wins against Arkansas State and Bethune-Cookman. Memphis comes into Thursday’s game as 14.5-point favorites. 

Last season, the Tigers handled Navy with ease to the tune of a 37-13 win. Junior quarterback Seth Henigan had a career day, throwing for 415 yards off 24 completions for two touchdowns. Overall, Memphis had a field day on both sides of the ball as they totaled over 500 yards of total offense and forced three turnovers.  

Navy Offense vs. Memphis Defense 

Devin LaTulippe: Offensively, we can expect a lot of under-center looks and a lot of option play, with an occasional pass and shotgun formation. With the addition of a new offensive coordinator, we can expect more passing than in previous matchups, but Navy will still be option-heavy. The spotlight will be on Senior quarterback Tai Lavatai, and his running backs Daba Fofana, Brandon Chatman, and Eli Heidenreich. Each of them played a massive role in Navy’s win over Wagner.  

Kenneth Miller: Expect the Memphis defense to load the box. The Tigers are going to play run first all game long and dare Navy to throw. Memphis allowed just 3.2 yards per carry last year and it prevented the Navy offense from controlling the game flow.

The game plan for Memphis should be to put the Midshipmen behind the chains and force them to throw the ball on the Tigers' secondary. This could be a huge game for senior defensive lineman Andres Fox, who recorded a tackle for loss in both of Memphis’ games. He and the rest of the front seven need a big day versus a Navy offensive line that hasn’t impressed much in 2023.  


Navy Defense vs. Memphis Offense 

Devin LaTulippe: Defensively, Navy primarily runs a 3-4 front, and we can expect a lot of quarters coverage with some man mixed in. From what we have seen so far with Memphis, we can expect a heavy dose of passing attempts, as the Tigers look to improve the run game.

Players to keep an eye on are defensive tackle Clay Cromwell, who is a run-stopping machine, linebacker Will Harbor, and ball-hawking safety Rayuan Lane III. All 3 were game wreckers in Navy’s win over Wagner. 

Kenneth Miller: Do not expect a ton of the vertical passing game from Memphis on Thursday. Navy’s defensive coordinator will have their secondary playing deep off the ball to prevent the big plays they gave up in the passing game last season.

That does not mean the Tigers won’t take their shots downfield as there will be chances for Joseph Scates or Tauskie Dove to get open for big plays. Although, this is going to be a game where receivers have to get yards after the catch to generate explosiveness in the offense.  


Keys to a Memphis Victory 

Devin LaTulippe: Put Navy in passing situations.

Navy wants to run the ball as the option is a perfect way to methodically move the chains without passing. Navy wants short 3rd downs that are easy pickups through the option. What Memphis should do is contain the option on first and second downs and make Navy throw the ball downfield. Navy is uncomfortable with this and it results in turnovers for the Midshipmen. 

Kenneth Miller: Control the game clock.

The new clock rules state that the game clock does not stop after a first down except for the last two minutes of the halves. Due to this, it makes it even more imperative to control the flow of the game.

In the four games Navy won last year, they held onto the ball for 15+ minutes in every single game. Navy’s game plan is to keep the ball for 40 minutes and give the Tigers as few chances as possible to score. Memphis cannot allow that to happen, otherwise, they will find themselves down late in the fourth quarter while having very little offensive rhythm. 


Devin LaTulippe: This game should not be a big challenge for the Tigers, as Navy is a one-trick pony. The Navy offense can be easily contained as it is a test of discipline for the Tigers to read the option and make the right play. Navy will not present a big challenge to the Memphis offense, but with limited possessions, the Tigers will not have a ton of opportunities to score. The Tigers will have to stay disciplined and take what the defense gives them to win the game. 

Devin's Score: 17-7 Memphis. 

Kenneth Miller: The Navy offense is always a tricky challenge, but this should be an easy win for the Tigers. The Midshipmen do not have the roster to make the option attack a nightmare, and the Tigers’ defensive line will be able to dominate the game. Memphis’ offense will be slow for most of the game, but Seth Henigan will be able to find a hole or two in the coverage to score enough to cover the spread. 

Kenneth's Score: 27-10 Memphis. 

Game time is set for 6:30 p.m. CT on Thursday and will be broadcast on ESPN.  

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