MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Every time Kansas seemed to have any momentum against Memphis, they gave the ball away.
Six times, as a matter of fact.
And the Tigers didn’t hesitate to seize the opportunities.
Memphis dominated the game defensively, grabbed an early lead and coasted to a 43-7 win over Kansas on Saturday, sending the Jayhawks to their 39th consecutive road loss.
“I’ve never been in a game where we even came close to having that many turnovers,” Kansas coach David Beaty said. “Man, that’s a bunch, and it continued to happen throughout the day.”
Riley Ferguson threw for 189 yards and two touchdowns and Jake Elliott kicked a trio of field goals — including a 50-yarder — as Memphis built an early lead and coasted to victory.
Ferguson completed 15 of 24 passes for Memphis (2-0), the bulk of his passing yards coming on an 84-yard completion to Anthony Miller for the game’s first score. In addition to his 50-yarder, Elliott converted kicks of 41 and 42 yards. Memphis showed no ill-effects of a bye week after winning its opener 35-17 over Southeast Missouri State.
“We talked a lot about starting fast, and we’re really pleased with our guys’ preparation,” Memphis coach Mike Norvell said. “I thought we started fast. Defense did an incredible job. They were completely dominant.”
The Jayhawks, (1-2) struggled offensively throughout, although they managed 314 yards of total offense. Any momentum, though, was thwarted by the Jayhawks’ four fumbles and two interceptions in the game.
A key swing came when Memphis reached the Kansas 13 in the closing minutes of the half. A sack and a tackle for loss, plus a couple of penalties put Memphis near midfield.
Then Memphis muffed the punt attempt, giving Kansas the ball at the Tiger 38 trailing 26-7.
On the first Kansas play, Memphis defensive tackle Jonathan Wilson intercepted the ball and returned it 61 yards for a touchdown and Memphis carried a 33-7 lead at the break.
“It shocked me big time,” the soft-spoken Wilson said of the play, adding he didn’t see any Jayhawks in front of him after he picked off the pass from Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart. “I was thinking: ‘Don’t let me get caught.'”
The Jayhawks never came close to Wilson and never came close to threatening the Tigers in the second half after Memphis added Elliott’s 50-yard field goal and a fourth-quarter 8-yard scoring run by Tony Pollard.
Kansas’ only touchdown came on a third-and-1 play when Khalil Herbert broke the first wave of Memphis defenders bunched at the line of scrimmage and went 66 yards for a second-quarter touchdown.
“That was good to see for our line, our guys up front, continuing to work and continuing to push,” Beaty said. “It was a short-yardage situation. He’s a fast kid, and it was good to see him get out.”
KANSAS: The Jayhawks again struggled to open the game. Kansas, which let Ohio build a 22-0 start last week early in the second quarter, trailed Memphis 19-0.
MEMPHIS: With the victory, first-year Memphis coach Mike Norvell became the first Tiger coach in history to start his inaugural campaign 2-0. Only two other Memphis coaches won the opener in their first season, and both — Rey Dempsey in 1984 and Lester Barnard in 1922 — dropped the second game.
ROAD UNKIND: No current Jayhawk has won a game away from Lawrence. The last road win was 34-7 at Texas-El Paso on Sept. 12, 2009.
IF YOU CAN’T JOIN ‘EM, BEAT ‘EM: The Tigers played a Big 12 Conference School for the first time since Memphis was eliminated two weeks ago from consideration as a possible expansion target for the conference.
FINAL WORD: “I still think that we actually have a pretty good football team, if we can just get out of our own way. .We’ve just got a lot of things that we’re having to learn right now that we should already know.” — Kansas coach David Beaty
KANSAS: The Jayhawks have a bye next week before returning to the road to face Texas Tech on Sept. 29. It will be the first Thursday game for the Jayhawks since a 59-7 loss to Kansas State on Oct. 14, 2010.
MEMPHIS: The Tigers continue a homestand next week facing Bowling Green.