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Hear them roar: Memphis storms back to defeat Houston 42-38

42 second half points gave the Tigers a stunning win over host Houston.

NCAA Football: Memphis at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis came into TDECU Stadium ranked 25th on Thursday night, but that team didn’t show up for the first half. The Tigers had only 200 yards and zero points halfway through the game, and were down 17-0 against a Houston team that had a ton of momentum.

Houston finally went up tempo, and dominated the time of possession for the whole game. The Cougars stifled Memphis’ offense, and their offense gashed the Tigers defense as well. With Kyle Postma getting the start once again, the offense had its most balanced output of the year. The one concern Houston had was the status of their starting running back. Duke Catalon appeared to sustain a shoulder injury in the first half, and was brought to the locker room before halftime. While many expected him to not return, Catalon was in on the first play of the second half, and finished the game with 65 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively, the Cougars wouldn’t budge and kept forcing the Tigers to punt.

NCAA Football: Memphis at Houston
Ferguson’s first half struggles were replaced with clutch plays in the second.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Riley Ferguson couldn’t find receivers in the first half, and the Tigers were held scoreless in the first half for the first time in 64 games. They even lost starting running back Darrell Henderson, and coach Mike Norvell had some major adjustments to make. And boy did they make them. Whatever team went into the Memphis locker room at halftime never came back, and their offense could not be stopped. Anthony Miller continued his tear by torching the Houston secondary 10 times for 178 yards. Miller now has 35 catches for 492 yards and six touchdowns in his last three games, and could have added to his touchdown total if not for his teammate in the backfield. Patrick Taylor Jr. took over in Henderson’s absence, and finished with just 39 yards rushing but a game-high four touchdowns.

Memphis’ first second half touchdown was answered by another solid drive by Houston’s offense, but the Tigers were just getting started. An answer to Houston’s answer emerged in the form of another kick return touchdown by Tony Pollard, his third of the season. The third quarter was a quarter of answers because Houston followed that score with another score of their own, and Memphis would respond again to make the score 31-21. Neither defense could get a stop until Houston’s fourth drive of the second half, when Tito Windham forced the ball out of Kyle Postma’s hands for their first turnover of the game.

Riley Ferguson conducted another scoring drive to bring the score to within one score at 31-28 after a controversial call. Ferguson threw an interception to Jeremy Winchester but video review showed that Winchester dropped the ball. Before the replay, Garrett Davis was called for taunting. So instead of Houston getting the ball at their own 10 yard line, Memphis got the ball at the one yard line and a first down. Postma shook off that previous turnover, and drove down the field to put Houston up 10 with a pass to Steven Dunbar. Memphis continued a half of answers with another Taylor touchdown run, leaving the score 38-35 with 5:14 left.

With four-and-1 at their own 41 yard line, but Major Applewhite decided to punt. You could argue that punting was the worst decision he could make, but Memphis ended up getting the ball at their own 20 on the punt. I’ll take my chances stopping an offense with 80 yards to go versus 40. Still, Riley Ferguson and the Memphis offense carved the Cougars defense, and ended the drive with a 21 yard pass from Ferguson to Sean Dykes. With their first lead of the game, the Tigers defense took their place in the spotlight.

With Postma trying to gain extra yardage, TJ Carter stripped Postma and Jonathan Cook recovered. Houston would end up getting Memphis to punt with 42 second remaining and gave their offense another chance. Three plays later, Carter made another huge play by intercepting Postma’s pass to seal the game.

Final Thoughts

  • Darrell Henderson did not see the field in the second half after sustaining his leg injury in the first half. While Patrick Taylor Jr did a great job filling in, the Tigers are already without Doroland Dorceus, and losing Henderson could be problematic.
  • Memphis’ defense continues to make phenomenal plays in the clutch, and TJ Carter is going to be a stud someday.
  • Even while on different teams, Anthony Miller and Ed Oliver continue to be the two best players in the conference. Miller has been unguardable, and Oliver continues to destroy the opposition. Miller gave Houston’s secondary fits, and Oliver finished with six tackles, a sack, and 2.5 tackles for loss.
  • Memphis is in firm control of the AAC West.
  • This game was easily one of the best games in college football this weekend.