It’s been a tough month for the Memphis Tigers football program, who were losers of four-straight games heading into Thursday’s home contest against Tulsa. They were able to break that streak by downing the Golden Hurricane 26-10.
The victory marked Memphis’ 50th home win since 2014, putting them in the company of Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State as the only programs to hit that feat in that time span.
“It’s definitely a huge sigh of relief just because every week, we’re so close, so close, and finally to be able to come out here and get a win, it just feels good and feels good to be back on track,” sophomore quarterback Seth Henigan told reporters postgame. “Even if there was hiccups in the win, at the end of the day, the goal of the game is to get a win.”
Henigan finished this game 20-of-34 on passing attempts for 262 yards and a touchdown. Henigan has no thrown for a score in every career game, which makes for a streak of 21-straight contests.
While Henigan’s passing certainly helped things, it was the defense and special teams that pushed the Tigers over the edge to claim the victory.
Linebacker Xavier Cullens was a key performer in this regard, leading the team with eight tackles, plus a fumble recovery. Among other key performers were defensive lineman Jaylon Allen, who picked up two sacks, and linebacker Tyler Murray, who had an interception along with four tackles. The Memphis defense also had a chance to pick off several other passes, but were unable to reel in the ball.
“Really proud of the way that the defense came out and battled,” Memphis head coach Ryan Silverfield said postgame. “One of the best performances I’ve seen from a Memphis defense in a while. They did an excellent job throughout most of the game.”
The Tigers held Tulsa to just three third-down conversions on 15 attempts.
The Golden Hurricane scored a field goal on their first drive of the game, then didn’t score again until Keylon Stokes broke through with a catch and run for a touchdown with five and a half minutes left in the game.
Memphis kicker Chris Howard also had a perfect night, going two for two on extra point attempts. He also nailed all four of his field goal attempts, including two from beyond 40 yards. Punter Joe Doyle also had four punts land inside Tulsa’s 20-yard line.
All things considered, it certainly wasn’t a perfect night from the Tigers. They turned the ball over twice, punted six times, and totaled just 79 yards rushing.
The Tigers improve to 5-5 with two games remaining. They will host North Alabama on November 19. By Silverfield’s own admission, Thursday night’s win doesn’t mean anything if the Tigers don’t win at least one of their remaining games against North Alabama and SMU.
“We coach our guys harder after wins because they understand that all this work and all this reason, now it’s coming to fruition. It did for one night, but to make it happen over and over and over, we’ve got to continue to improve.”
The Tigers have qualified for a bowl game every year since 2014. Their appearance in last year’s Hawaii Bowl was cancelled at the last second when Hawaii withdrew due to a lack of available players.
Tulsa fall to 3-7 with the loss, eliminating them from bowl contention. They have games against South Florida and Houston remaining.