TULSA, Okla. — Memphis turned up its defense and put away Tulsa for another runaway win.
The Tigers are rolling.
Riley Ferguson passed for 298 yards and four touchdowns, and No. 22 Memphis shut down Tulsa’s rushing attack on its way to a 41-14 on Friday night.
“Very proud of our football team,” Tigers coach Mike Norvell. “We knew that was one of the keys to the game, stopping the run, and our guys did a great job in doing that. We put some pressure on our defensive backfield, they played a lot of man coverage and we were able to attack, trying to load the box and trying to make them one-dimensional.”
The Golden Hurricane rushed for 97 yards in the first quarter and then just 48 the rest of the game. While Tulsa sputtered offensively, Darrell Henderson ran for 123 yards on 14 carries and contributed six receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown in Memphis’ fifth straight victory.
“Tough game,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery. “I thought we played a pretty good first half. Got to be more consistent. … I’ve got to do a better job coaching, and we’ve got to come out and do a better job in the second half.”
Luke Skipper completed 18 of 31 passes for 157 yards and ran for a score for Tulsa (2-8, 1-5 American), which has dropped three in a row.
D’Angelo Brewer gained 119 yards on 21 carries, but the Golden Hurricane’s ground attack was held in check after beginning the day ranked 12th in the nation with 260.2 yards rushing per game.
Chad President’s 7-yard touchdown run for Tulsa tied it at 14 just 2:20 into the second quarter, but the Tigers (8-1, 5-1, No. 23 CFP) surrendered just 69 yards of total offense — 32 rushing — over the entire second half.
“I think our relentless effort played a role, we practice being a physical team,” said linebacker Austin Hall, who led the Tigers with six tackles. “Tulsa, they got a good running offense and we held them under 150 yards, so that’s great. We talk about pursuing the ball and that’s what we did tonight.”
Memphis: Four different receivers had touchdown grabs for the Tigers. On his 59-yard touchdown catch that put Memphis up 14-7 late in the opening quarter, Tony Pollard evaded several defenders, managing to tip-toe down the sideline about 20 yards, barely staying inbounds, before avoiding another tackler and finally reaching the end zone. Anthony Miller’s touchdown reception, on an 18-yard pass that gave the Tigers a 21-14 lead with 6:42 left in the second quarter, came on a spectacular catch in the end zone. Miller also threw a 35-yard pass to Roderick Proctor in the first quarter, a key play on the Tigers’ first scoring drive.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane definitely missed backup running back Shamari Brooks. The freshman rushed for 687 yards and 10 touchdowns before suffering a season-ending broken collarbone last week.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The opening possession of the second half was a key stretch in deciding the game. Holding a 21-14 lead, the Tigers methodically drove 90 yards in 17 plays, chewing 6:29 off the clock, before scoring on Patrick Taylor’s 1-yard rush on fourth-and-goal with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter.
“That was huge for us, confidence-wise,” Ferguson said. “We talked about it at halftime, that we had to come out and had a chance to put them away and we did that.”
With a convincing victory, the Tigers have a shot to possibly move up into the top 20.
Both teams committed a lot of penalties, some of them costly. Memphis was flagged 10 times for 77 yards, with one penalty nullifying what would have been a 95-yard kickoff return touchdown by Pollard in the second quarter. Tulsa was penalized 14 times for 103 yards, and had what could have been a momentum-changing interception on the Memphis 32-yard line wiped out by an offside penalty late in the second quarter.
Memphis: The Tigers will have a bye week before taking on SMU at home on Nov. 18 in a showdown that could decide the American West Division title.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane go on the road to face another tough opponent, USF.
“Right now, we feel like the only team that can beat us is us,” Pollard said. “As long as we keep playing the way we’re playing and staying focused and playing together, we’re unstoppable.”