- Associated Press - Sunday, November 8, 2015

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The whole debate about whether Memphis deserved to be higher in the College Football Playoff rankings became a moot point after Navy sent the Tigers to their first loss of the season.

The No. 15 Tigers, who have rallied from deficits through much of the season, were unable to snap out of a hole this time in a 45-20 loss to Navy on Saturday night.

Memphis (8-1, 4-1 American Athletic Conference) saw its perfect season, its 15-game winning streak and its shared spot atop the American Athletic Conference’s West Division vanish. The loss also jeopardized its No. 15 ranking and its No. 13 spot in the College Football Playoff poll. There was much debate over whether the Tigers were ranked too high or not given a fair shake.

“I think they are disappointed,” Memphis coach Justin Fuente said about his team. “I hope they are. My feeling in the locker room is that there is a group of kids that are disappointed they didn’t find a way to win the game.”

The Tigers trailed at halftime 17-10, but that was not unusual. Opponents have held halftime advantages over Memphis four other times this season.

And, Memphis pulled even at 17-all when quarterback Paxton Lynch connected with Anthony Miller for a 1-yard run in the third quarter.

But on Navy’s first play from scrimmage after the ensuing kickoff, quarterback Keenan Reynolds connected with DeBrandon Sanders for a 75-yard touchdown as Tigers defenders were sneaking up to protect against the Midshipmen rushing attack that ended the night with 389 yards.

“Those are plays that will hurt any team,” linebacker Wynton McManis said about the touchdown. “To have a win, you can’t let teams come out with big plays.”

After the Reynolds-to-Sanders score, Memphis never got untracked again, unable to comeback from deficits as they have throughout the season. Chris Swain rushed for 108 yards and scored on runs of 3, 2 and 40 yards. Calvin Cass and Demond Brown had rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Lynch struggled, connecting on 26 of 42 passes for 305 yards. The completion percentage was well below his 70 percent entering the game.

“It’s a tough loss,” Lynch said. “It’s been awhile since we lost, and no one is really used to that around here. But when you lose a game like this, you turn it around and you use it for good stuff.”

Miller scored both Memphis touchdowns on an 11-yard pass from Lynch on the Tigers first drive and his 1-yard run before Navy’s long touchdown pass to Sanders.

Kicker Jake Elliott converted field goals of 40 and 38 yards.

Fuente said he told his team to give credit to Navy because they played better and to get past the loss and move on to the next game.

“We don’t necessarily control our own destiny in the league race, but we can still be a factor in it,” Fuente said.

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AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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