Tulane dominated Memphis early, and Tulane beat Memphis by holding on late. Tigers were outplayed early, especially on special teams, and Tulane held off a Tiger passing attack late.
Tulane Special Teams. With 9 minutes in the first quarter, the Jha’Quan Jackson 90 Yd Punt return for TD stunned the Memphis Tigers. Jackson came into the game with a great 12.2 punt-return average and this will put him high in the PR top 10. Lawrence had a 28 yard kick-off return for Tulane to set up good field position. The only returns Memphis had were three, being held to 17 yard average on the Sutton Smith returns. Later in the first quarter the Tulane punt pressure forced a muff by Memphis RB Jevyon Ducker on the punt return. Tulane recovered at the 12, and quickly scored to make it a 21-0 lead not even halfway through the first quarter. That Tulane special teams advantage proved the winning margin as the Tigers recovered late.
The Memphis Tiger’s road woes. During this year the only true road conference win is at Navy. In this game, just like at Mississippi State to start the year, the team was outmatched physically. But the road atmosphere this game was exacerbated by three Memphis turnovers, plus special teams failures. Even casual observers would note the body language of the Tiger team, that went down early quickly.
The Memphis Tigers ability to continue fight against inevitability. The Tigers hadn’t been down 35-0 at halftime since 2010 (Louisville). But instead of Tulane piling it on, Seth Henigan began making connections on passes he’d been overthrowing earlier in the game. The Tiger offense went with freshman running back Sutton Smith who carried six times for 28 yards, tops for any Tiger RB this game. Seth Henigan’s passed the most to WR Eddie Lewis, who caught two touchdowns, and Lewis finished with three catches for 94 yards. The Tiger offensive attack included runs by QB Seth Henigan who was the top runner; to go along with his passing. He threw for 312 yards on 26-41, and three touchdown passes.
The Tulane killer instinct. Running back Tyjae Spears ran for 125 yards on 24 carries, including a touchdown. Tulane QB Michael Pratt threw for 158 yards on 20-29 passing, and no interceptions. Pratt never looked uncomfortable in the pocket. When Memphis was driving late in the first half to try to cut into a 28-0 lead, Tulane intercepted a pass intended for Tiger Joseph Scates, they proceeded to extend the lead to 35-0 by halftime. You would never think, though Memphis racked up a lot of scoring and passing yards in the second half, that Tulane was in danger of losing.
The aura around the Memphis Tiger football program is not good. A promising 4-1 start has turned into three straight defeats. There are comparisons to the Tiger 2010 season, which is ludicrous. That season was 1-11 with seven (7!) losses giving up at least 49 points. This Memphis Tiger team has only one loss of more than 10, and that was a true road game (season-opener) to a sometimes-ranked Mississippi State bulldog team.
The body language is perceptible, though, as the injuries nibble at the depth, and the team looks ready for their bye week. The team is in play for a winning season, and maybe even a decent bowl game if they pull an upset. But something would need to change, and though it seems the team is ever-changing (4th running back with most carries in just 8 games) the right switch has yet to be pulled. Bye week next week — could be good or maybe just more time to think about the losing streak.
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