Tigers Fall to UT Martin, 20-17
Sept. 2, 2012
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - In its first game under head coach Justin Fuente, the Memphis Tigers fell to the UT Martin Skyhawks on a late field goal, 20-17, in front of 39,076 fans at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.
Heavy rain and storms passed over the stadium shortly after halftime, causing a 2:40 delay. Play would resume at 10:38 p.m. with the Tigers up 10-7 in the third quarter.
UT Martin quickly moved down the field on its opening drive after a 52-yard rush by Jason McNair to the Memphis 11. The Skyhawks would later miss a field goal to keep the game scoreless. On the Tigers' opening drive, a fumble at their own 28 gave the ball back to UT Martin. The Tigers defense held strong yet again, forcing another field goal by the Skyhawks. A bobbled ball on a 20-yard field goal attempt led to a failed conversion on a pass to Corey Rogers in the end zone.
The Tigers took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter after a 3-yard run by Jerrell Rhodes to cap off a 12-play, 97-yard drive. The series was the longest for the team since 2007 when the U of M had drives of 97 and 99 yards against UAB. Quarterback Jacob Karam completed his longest pass of the night with a 36-yard throw to Alan Cross before giving the Tigers another first down after a 13-yard rush to the 3-yard line. The following play, running back Jerrell Rhodes gave Memphis its first touchdown of the season at the 5:43 mark in the first quarter.
The Tigers defense continued to put pressure on the Skyhawk offense early on as junior Lonnie Ballentine intercepted a pass to give Memphis the ball at the Skyhawk 34. A missed 36-yard field goal by the Tigers kept the score 7-0 with 2:46 left in the first quarter.
UT Martin tied the game at the 7:02 mark in the second quarter with a 9-yard touchdown pass capping a 97-yard drive that lasted 3:18. On the following drive, Memphis converted a fourth-and-1 with a 4-yard run by Rhodes to the UT Martin 45. The Skyhawks would then recover Memphis' second fumble of the game at the 2:35 mark. However, the Skyhawk drive would end as Ballentine tallied his second interception of the game. The score remained tied at 7 at the half as the Tigers would be unable to tack on another score before the half.
After both teams traded possessions to begin the second half, redshirt-freshman Tevin Jones partially blocked a UT Martin punt to give Memphis the ball at the Skyhawk 34. The Skyhawk defense continued to give the Tigers problems, causing another punt. On the Skyhawks' ensuing possession, senior Akeem Davis would get the ball back for Memphis, forcing and recovering a fumble at the UT Martin 17. After failing to get a first down, kicker Paulo Henriques gave the Tigers their second lead of the game at 10-7 with a 33-yard FG at the 9:03 mark.
After the rain delay, UT Martin took its first lead of the game when D.J. McNeil scored on a five-yard run to put the Skyhawks up 14-10 with 4:45 left in the third quarter.
The following possession, Rhodes passed 100 yards on the night with a 9-yard gain to the UT Martin 48. Rhodes would finish with 106 yards on 24 attempts.
In the fourth quarter, the Skyhawks missed their second field goal of the game with a 19-yard attempt going wide left to leave the score 14-10 in favor of UT Martin. However, UTM would later add a 26-yard field goal with 5:35 left to increase their lead to 17-10 after an 11-play, 64-yard drive.
With time running out, the Tigers stayed alive on a fourth-and-12 as Karam completed an 18-yard pass to Keiwone Malone with 3:30 to play. A 7-yard pass to Marcus Rucker and two rushes by Karam advanced the Tigers all the way to the UT Martin 27 with 1:52 left. Memphis evened the game up at 17 when Rucker sliced through the Skyhawk defense for a 20-yard touchdown reception with 52 seconds remaining in the game.
The Tigers would force a three-and-out before their third fumble of the game gave UT Martin the ball back at the Memphis 27 with 17 seconds to go. A 43-yard field goal with four seconds left would be good enough for the Skyhawks to pull out the win.
UT Martin held an advantage in total yards (392-359) and passing yards (211-157). The U of M totaled 202 yards on the ground compared to UT Martin's 181. Karam finished the game 12-for-28 for 157 yards and one touchdown while Rucker led the team in receiving yards with 45 yards.
The Tigers return to action Saturday at Arkansas State. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m. Memphis is back home on Sept. 15 to play host to Middle Tennessee.