ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Zach Abey ran for a 3-yard touchdown in a driving rain with 2:37 left, capping a fourth-quarter comeback that lifted Navy past Memphis 22-21 on Saturday.
Navy trailed 21-9 before Malcolm Perry followed the Tigers’ third lost fumble with a right-and-then-left, tackle-breaking, 19-yard run with 11:07 remaining.
After a Memphis punt, the Midshipmen (1-1, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) moved 56 yards in 13 plays in a drive that Abey ended standing up in the end zone.
The Tigers (1-1, 0-1) got to the Navy 34 before Brady White was tackled on a fourth-down scramble with 1:26 remaining.
A steady rain turned a projected shootout turned into a conservative game of ball control. After scoring 66 points in its season opener against Mercer, Memphis struggled offensively until Darrell Henderson peeled off touchdown runs of 78 and 59 yards in the third quarter.
Henderson finished with 212 yards and three TDs on just 13 carries.
But Memphis just couldn’t overcome the rain, four turnovers and a sub-par performance by White, who went 15 for 25 for 145 yards and an interception.
Perry ran for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Abey played occasionally in short-yardage situations, carrying five times for 6 yards and that very important touchdown.
It was an uplifting victory for the Midshipmen, who were coming off a 59-41 loss at Hawaii.
The Tigers trailed 9-7 at halftime after losing possession of the wet football three times and punting twice.
John Williams fumbled on the Tigers’ first play and Sean Dykes coughed up the ball later in the first quarter. Between the turnovers, Navy kicked a field goal.
White finally got the Memphis offense on track with an 86-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by Henderson.
Perry answered with a 7-yard score with 7 seconds left.
The winner of the Navy-Memphis game has earned at least a share of the West Division title in each of the last three years.
Navy safety Sean Williams forced both Memphis fumbles in the first quarter. The last time a Midshipman caused two fumbles in a game was against Air Force in 2015
Memphis hosts Georgia State on Friday night in the first meeting between the teams. Navy hosts Lehigh on Saturday in a series that began in 1889 but has been dormant since 1987.