Tennessee hasn’t been kind to the Greenies for over two decades and Saturday night was no different.
That’s right, the Wave hasn’t won a game in the Liberty Bowl since 1998 when they won... well, the Liberty Bowl. Thanks to Memphis quarterback Brady White, that dreadfully long streak will now continue for Tulane.
It was the Tigers that came out of the gates firing, outscoring Tulane 13-3 in the first quarter. After surrendering an opening field goal to the Green Wave, Memphis answered with a long drive that featured two fourth down conversions to take an early 7-0 edge thanks to White’s first touchdown pass of the night. Shortly following, Memphis linebacker Austin Hall made a circus interception off an errand McMillan pass that set up another score. The Tigers were unable to convert their impromptu two-point try but still took the ten-point advantage.
As he has done so many times since being named the starter however, McMillan used his arms and legs to respond. He led the Greenies on a 12-play, 75-yard drive that he capped off with a seven-yard scoring scamper to cut the Memphis lead to a mere three.
The Tigers quickly traded blows again. White found senior tight end Joey Magnifico on a shovel pass to put Memphis back up by ten. Magnifico... who now is only the second tight end in school history to now have over 1,000 yards on his career... finished the night with 31 yards on three receptions.
Green Wave fans got a scare later in the second when running back Corey Dauphine went down on a run-of-the-mill running play. With their normal workhorse Darius Bradwell out, Dauphine’s injury was extremely untimely to say the least (not that there would ever be a good time to lose the speedster).
To make matters worse for Tulane, White tossed his fourth TD of the game and his second to receiver Calvin Austin III on a deep 46-yard bomb before the break. The Green Wave defense learned why Austin is also a track star for Memphis. Going into Saturday night’s contest he had only notched three catches in his entire career. He finished the game with 57 yards and two scores.
Another McMillan interception that led to a fifth touchdown put Tulane in a daunting 34-10 hole at halftime and they were unable to overcome it. The Tigers went on to win the all-important AAC West matchup 47-17 thanks in large part to the play of White. He was masterful, slicing the Green Wave defense for 358 yards and five touchdowns along with no interceptions.
While Memphis grabs a strong hold on the division, Tulane is left to lick its wounds and regroup.
The Good: The Tigers offense was a finely tuned machine on Saturday evening. They compiled nearly 500 yards and dominated a Green Wave team that’s only loss prior had been to top-ten Auburn. White seemed untouchable as did running back Kenny Gainwell. His 104 yards (18 carries) led the team. If they continue to play at this level then SMU is certainly isn’t a shoo-in for a berth in the conference title game.
We had to dig pretty hard to find some good for Tulane in this one but it was there, just not much of it. The Wave’s D was somewhat solid on third down, allowing just a 46.1 conversion percentage. Other than that isolated stat, though, it was bad.
The Bad: The Tigers need to cut back on penalties. They were flagged eight times for 65 yards against Tulane. If those numbers aren’t backed by such a dominant performance, the results could be much uglier.
Where do we start for the Green Wave? They lost the time of possession battle, the turnover margin, the third and fourth down head-to-head, the total yardage battle, etc... The whole night was just a wash.
The Ugly: For Memphis this is a big N/A.
McMillan has to play better for Tulane. He threw three interceptions and had only tossed two on the entire season going into this game. He still led the team in rushing (89 yards) but Wave fans are hoping Saturday night was a fluke and not the new norm.
Up Next: Memphis (6-1) now turns its sights to Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane put up a good fight against No. 19 SMU and could spell a sneaky challenge if the Tigers aren’t ready. A road game doesn’t make things any easier.
Tulane will be looking to play bounce back against Navy in Annapolis next Saturday. The Midshipmen drubbed USF by over 30 so Willie Fritz will need to make sure his squad has a short memory.