Memphis had 24 players make their first appearance as Tigers in the 2012 season opener against UT Martin.
Memphis shutout an opponent in the first quarter of a game for the first time since the Oct. 22, 2011 game at Tulane.
Game featured a 2:40 minutes delay for lighting (7:58 p.m. to 10:38 p.m.). The game was halted with 7:51 to play in the third quarter. At the time of the delay, UT Martin had the ball on the Memphis 35, facing second-and-10.
The lightning delay was the first at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium since the opening kickoff of the UTEP game on Oct. 1, 2005 was delayed by approximately 45 minutes. Last time a Memphis game was postponed due to rain was the Arkansas State game in 2007. The game was moved from Sept. 8 to Sept. 27 after almost a three-hour delay.
Attendance for the UT Martin v Memphis game was announced at 39,076. It was the biggest Liberty Bowl crowd since 39,742 were on hand for the Tennessee game on Nov. 6, 2010. The attendance for the UTM game marked the most for a Memphis opener since 45,207 was on hand for the 2009 opener against Ole Miss.
Memphis’ 97-yard scoring drive on its second offensive possession of the game marked the longest scoring drive since the 2007 UAB game (Nov. 17, 2007).
Sophomore Kevin Wright caught a pass on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage. Wright extended his streak to 13 games with a reception, every game of his career. For the game, Wright caught four passes for 29 yards.
Freshman Alan Cross set an early career standard with a 36-yard reception on the Tigers’ second offensive drive. The reception was part of a 12-play, 97-yard scoring drive to put Memphis on the scoreboard.
Jerrell Rhodes capped the Tigers’ first touchdown drive of the season with a three-yard scoring run, his fourth career rushing touchdown. It was his first since the UAB game last year.
Rhodes finished the game with a career high 106 rushing yards on 24 carries. It was the first 100-yard rushing game by a Tiger since Gregory Ray against Houston in 2010 (Oct. 30, 2010).
Marcus Rucker scored his 12th career receiving touchdown on a 20-yard reception with 0:52 seconds left in the fourth quarter. It is his first touchdown since the season opener against Mississippi State last year. The touchdown capped a 71-yard drive by the Tigers to tie the game at 17. It also marked Jacob Karam’s first passing touchdown at Memphis and the third in his career.
Rucker finished with three receptions for a team high 45 yards and a touchdown.
In his Memphis debut, Jacob Karam finished with 157 yards passing on 12-for-28 attempts with one touchdown and no interceptions.
UT Martin’s first two drives ended with Memphis’ Red Zone stops. The Tigers stopped UTM as the Skyhawks missed a field goal attempt on their first drive and then went out on downs after an errant snap and hold on a field goal attempt the team’s second series.
Lonnie Ballentine intercepted his first career pass, returning it 11 yards during the first quarter.
Ballentine also had a second-quarter pick to stop a late, first-half UTM rally. He became the first player since Marcus Ball (v UAB on Nov. 20, 2010) to intercept two passes in the same game.
Dating back to the 2011 season, Akeem Davis has forced fumbles in two straight games. His third-quarter force and recovery marked the fifth recovery and fourth force of the senior’s career. Davis’ play would set up a 33-yard Paulo Henriques field goal in the third quarter as the Tigers took a 10-7 lead.
Terry Redden led the team with a career best two tackles for loss, totaling four yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
After 175 punts through two seasons and entering the game as the NCAA active career leader in punts per game, Tom Hornsey did not come on the field for his first punt of the UT Martin game until the second quarter. Hornsey’s first punt went for 31 yards and was downed at the three-yard line. He went on to pin UT Martin inside the 20-yard line three times. For the game, Hornsey had four punts with an average of 44.2 yards and a long of 63. He had two punts over 50 yards.
Freshman Tevin Jones blocked a UT Martin punt on the Skyhawks’ first, second-half series to give the Tigers solid field position early in the third quarter. It was the first blocked punt by Memphis since Charles Harris blocked a punt against Marshall last year.