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Jack Stephens Field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland
Memphis, Navy ready for Saturday, but COVID looms
As has been the case with so many games this college football season, the big question for Memphis and Navy entering their scheduled Saturday afternoon game at Navy is whether the game actually will take place.
As of Tuesday, the matchup was on, but some uncertainty remained.
Two days before Navy's scheduled game against Tulsa on Nov. 7, the contest was postponed due to several positive COVID-19 cases on Navy's team.
If Saturday's game is played, it will be a battle between two teams that want to keep winning records in the American Athletic Conference.
The Tigers (4-2, 3-2 AAC) and Midshipmen (3-4, 3-2) enter the game tied for fourth in the league standings.
Memphis can relate to Navy's issues with COVID, given the Tigers had games against Houston (rescheduled) and UTSA (canceled) nixed earlier in the year due to positive tests on the Memphis roster.
Memphis has won three of its past four games, with the only loss being at unbeaten Cincinnati.
Memphis is coming off a 34-33 home win over South Florida but is 0-2 on the road this year, with defeats at SMU and Cincinnati.
The Tigers have one of the league's best quarterbacks in senior Brady White, who has completed 62 percent of his passes (155 of 250) for 2,128 yards and 22 touchdowns, with five interceptions.
However, Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield came away from the South Florida game concerned about the running game, given the Tigers only had 98 rushing yards on 33 carries.
"I do think we are getting teams that are loading the box, but no excuses," Silverfield said. "We've got to find better ways to run the football, for sure."
Speaking of running games, Navy traditionally features one of the country's top rushing attacks with its triple-option offense.
The Midshipmen are averaging 187 yards rushing per game this year, and Silverfield said extra preparation was done throughout the offseason by his defensive staff to try and familiarize the team with Navy's offense.
"If you are not exactly where you need to be, Navy can make you look silly," Silverfield said. "Those are the challenges it presents. It's just constantly harping on where you need to be at this point, and here's where you need to be on your assignments. If we do that, we'll be just fine."
Leading the way for Navy offensively is senior running back Nelson Smith, who has rushed for 447 yards and seven touchdowns on 76 carries. Junior running back Jamale Carothers has 337 yards and two touchdowns on 88 carries.
Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said before the Tulsa game was postponed that his team is still striving for consistency.
"We have to be more consistent on both sides of the ball," he said. "We are very inconsistent everywhere. We are just flashes here and there. We can't string things together."
--Field Level Media
Updated November 10, 2020