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Memphis Defense Shines As Tigers Devour Bears

The Memphis Tigers started their season strong with dominating performances in all areas of the game.

Tiger defenders swarm Missouri State offense
Tiger defenders swarm Missouri State offense
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Tigers flexed their defensive muscles Saturday night as the Tigers dominated the Missouri State Bears, 63-7.

With just over 12 minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter the Tigers defense finally shown themselves as human.  Up until that point Missouri State had yet to move the chains.  The Tigers first string defense still held strong and kept the Bears out of the end zone for the first half.  The first team Tigers held the Bears to 8 punts and 2 lost fumbles on the Bears 10 first half drives as the Bears running attack was effectively shut down.

On the offensive side of the ball the Tigers came strong with the run game.  Junior running back Sam Craft started the game carrying the bulk of the Tigers early run duties.  Craft rushed 12 times in the game for 78 yards but kick started a Tiger run game that would wind up being dominated by sophomore Jarvis Cooper.  Cooper led all Memphis rushers with 18 carries for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The Tigers would primarily lean on Cooper and Craft in the first half before resting starters and allowing freshman Jamarius Henderson to carry the ball.  In all, the Tigers dominated the rushing game as the team would rush for 317 yards and 5 touchdowns.

With a strong running attack the Tigers found room to open up the passing game.  In the first half Paxton Lynch looked calm and poised as he completed 8 of 12 passes for 78 yards and one touchdown.  Wide receiver Phil Mayhue joined the passing party as he connected with fellow wide out Mose Frazier for a 44 yard touchdown on a gimmick play in the first quarter.  The Tigers would take a 42-0 lead heading in to the second half.

With the game effectively over at halftime Justin Fuente took advantage of free practice time and played the second half with his 2nd and 3rd string teams on the field.  Sophmore QB Clay Holgorsen led the team well in place of Paxton Lynch but the Tigers second string defenders left plenty to be desired.  On multiple occasions the Tigers defenders allowed frustration to show and kept drives alive, including the Bears only scoring drive, by costly penalties.  When all zeros hit the clock the Tigers would start the season 1-0 after the 63-7 victory.

Of note

  • Memphis DT Ricky Hunter was ejected in the 3rd quarter for a targeting penalty.  Coach Justin Fuente stated in his post game interview that, per NCAA rules, Hunter would be suspended for the first half against Kansas. 
  • Roderick Proctor returned a punt 63 yards for touchdown in the second quarter.  The punt return for touchdown was the Tigers first since 2004 against Tulane.
  • Attendance for the game was announced at 41,730.


Justin Fuente when asked if he was pleased with the game, "I'm concerned in how we play, not the score.  In my opinion we did some things that if we don't get corrected or get to play better, they're going to rear their head."

By the numbers

Matchup Missouri State Memphis
1st Downs 10 27
3rd down efficiency 2-14 9-14
4th down efficiency 0-0 1-1
Total Yards 125 519
Passing 107 202
Comp-Att 15-25 16-21
Yards per pass 4.1 9.6
Rushing 18 317
Rushing Attempts 30 60
Yards Per Rush 0.6 5.3
Penalties 5-58 9-92
Turnovers 3 0
Fumbles lost 3 0
Interceptions thrown 0 0
Time of Possession 26:10 33:50
Score 7 63