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VOL. 132 | NO. 205 | Monday, October 16, 2017

Tigers Top No. 24 Navy to get Back in AAC West Race

Defensive Lineman Ernest Suttles Arrested for Rape

By Don Wade

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By reputation, Navy was the more efficient team. The team that didn’t make many mistakes and didn’t commit many penalties.

That was a main reason that Navy was undefeated and the No. 24 team in the country when the Midshipmen lined up against the University of Memphis Saturday, Oct. 14, at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

But the oft-maligned Memphis defense held the vaunted Navy rushing attack to 314 yards – they averaged well above 400 yards per game – and helped the Midshipmen to five turnovers in a 30-27 Memphis victory.

“Every player bought into what we were trying to accomplish to slow down that Navy offense,” said Memphis coach Mike Norvell.

“They played well,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said of the Tigers defense. “If we take care of the ball … we lost five drives. You can’t have five turnovers; that killed us.”

Navy bested Memphis on number of offensive plays – 76 to 69 – and in time of possession: 37:04 to 22:56. But otherwise the Tigers won every area. Navy even had more penalty yards (65) than Memphis (39).

Zach Abey, Navy’s quarterback, rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a hand in three lost fumbles and threw two interceptions despite attempting just eight passes on the day. He had one completion for 20 yards.

Safety/linebacker Austin Hall was in the middle of all the action with 10 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Now 5-1 (3-1 in the American Athletic Conference) the Tigers regained some control in the West Division with their victory and Houston’s loss to Tulsa. The Tigers play at Houston this coming Thursday night.

“(This) was a big win for us,” Hall said. “It motivates us to get even better. That’s all we want to do, is be the best team we can be. It’s going to be a great match-up. It’s going to be a fight.”

While the defense stole the spotlight Saturday as the Tigers defeated their second Top 25 team in a season for the first time in school history (they beat then-No. 25 UCLA in September), the offense and special teams contributed as well.

Memphis had just one turnover and quarterback Riley Ferguson, though taking a sack for a safety, passed for 279 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. Wide receiver Anthony Miller hauled in 10 of those passes for 90 yards and two scores. Ferguson led the Tigers on a 99-yard TD drive in the third quarter.

“We talked about it on the sideline,” Ferguson said, “this was going to be the statement drive. We took the momentum.”

Freshman kicker Riley Patterson missed his first attempt of the day but bounced back with three field goals, including a 42-yarder in the fourth quarter that gave Memphis a 30-19 lead with 11:08 left in the game.

“He didn’t hold his head,” Norvell said. “He came back and ended up making a couple of critical kicks that ended up being the difference in the ballgame.”

Unfortunately, all the news was not good on Saturday. First came an official UofM statement saying defensive lineman Ernest Suttles had been dismissed from the team for an off-the-field incident. Then right around kickoff the official twitter account of the Memphis Police Department delivered the news that Suttles had been arrested for rape. According to multiple media reports citing MPD documents, the alleged victim had been in a relationship with Suttles.

Several weeks ago, safety Shaun Rupert was dismissed from the team after allegedly being part of an armed robbery last spring. Both Rupert and Suttles were already in the program before Norvell was hired. And they had been sent packing from their previous schools. Suttles had been let go by Nebraska after getting into some kind of altercation with a teammate.

Norvell, when asked about the incidents involving Rupert and Suttles, said in his postgame press conference that his program is as open to media and the community as it is because he believes in how they do things, adding, “I can tell you by no means have we arrived.”

Norvell added: “We’ve had some guys that have made some mistakes. We’ve had things come out that obviously are embarrassing to our football team, but at the end of the day we stand for the right things. We’re working to build the character of the young men we have and I’ve seen that all throughout our program … Those guys that are sitting in our locker room right now our phenomenal young men.”

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