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Despite the loss, Navy football had defensive bright spots against Memphis

Navy’s defense stumbled upon a potential dilemma when Michael McMorris, the Mids’ leading cover cornerback and the surefire candidate to cover one of Memphis’ main offensive weapon, did not make his start.

They found their replacement for McMorris in 5-foot-11 junior Jamal Glenn, a Laurel native who had the golden “Get 6” chain strung around his neck as a reward for his first career forced fumble late in the first half of Saturday night’s 10-7 loss to Memphis.

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While laboring to cover the Tigers’ top receiving target, Calvin Austin III, who entered the game with 46 receptions for 820 yards, Glenn zeroed in on Memphis wide receiver Tahj Washington racing toward the red zone. Admittedly, Glenn flubbed the play but he caught Washington from behind and stripped him of the ball. Derek Atwaters recovered it for Navy.

“It was just instinct at that point,” Glenn said. “It was a good feeling, but obviously, we didn’t get the win. That would’ve been a much better feeling.”

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Glenn’s one-season influence in the Navy defense has come in dribbles — a tackle here, two there. But just two years ago, Glenn served a leading role by anchoring the nearby Maret School football team on both sides of the ball. Glenn, who lived in the Anne Arundel County part of Laurel, chose to play for longtime coach Mike Engelberg over Archbishop Spalding or Meade, and went on to play for an undefeated Frogs squad that won a title in 2016. He led Maret in rushing, receiving and tackling as a senior, his coach said.

Watching from home, Engelberg saw a familiarity in his former star.

“That kind of play is Jamal’s personality. He’s going to outwork people and just do everything he can to help other people,” Engelberg said. “That’s the kind of a play a lot of other people would have just given up on. … I think making that play probably gave him a whole other level of confidence you could just see from there.”

On Saturday, Glenn, who stepped into this game to replace McMorris at corner, notched a career-best three solo tackles and five total.

Defensive coordinator Brian Newberry thought Glenn would play well just judging by the way the Anne Arundel native practiced. Though he’d be stepping into big shoes, Glenn didn’t alter much this week from his typical training.

“He’s one of those guys because of a situation with Mikey and some other things who has been given an opportunity — a guy that wasn’t even in the mix last year,” Newberry said. “He’s a great kid with a great work ethic. He’s paid his dues. … He’s a great example of when you get your opportunity, make it count.”

With the fumble, Glenn checked one box necessary for Navy to reach its coveted “Get 6” goal, Newberry’s barometer for a successful defensive performance achieved by adding turnovers, three-and-outs and fourth-down stops. Navy finished with five of those tallies.

That feeling was good. It wasn’t enough.

“It feels good to play and to start. I think, at the end of the day, the goal is to win games. They scored more than us,” Glenn said. “We could’ve done better. I think our effort was there, but execution on my end could’ve been a lot better.”

Newberry graded his unit with a word much warmer than the outcome: “exceptional.”

“I thought we played really well, and I don’t say that a lot. That’s a really potent offense. Some really good players,” Newberry said. “Holding them to 10 points, I’m really proud of our guys. Gave us a chance to win that game.”

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said there was not much “to hang our hat on,” but he credited the defense for its “lights-out” performance. The Tigers’ offense ranked 10th in the nation in total offense, ninth in passing offense and 28th in scoring, but on Saturday, was limited to 280 total yards — a mere 75 on the ground and 205 in the air. White completed a little over half of his passing attempts (18 of 32).

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“We stopped the run. That looked like us last year,” Niumatalolo said.

Junior Diego Fagot made eight tackles, followed by sophomore linebacker Tama Tuitele (7), striker John Marshall (6) and three Mids had five stops. Memphis punted three of its first five drives, converting just 4 of 14 third-down situations.

“At the end of the day, you play as hard as you can play,” Newberry said. “Sometimes it equals a W, and sometimes it doesn’t, but I was really proud of them.”

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