Tigers Edged at Arkansas State, 33-28
JONESBORO, Ark. - Arkansas State's clutch offense proved too mighty for Memphis as the Red Wolves outgained the Tigers by 326 yards on their way to a 33-28 victory in front of the fourth-largest crowd ever at Liberty Bank Stadium in Jonesboro, Ark.
Memphis came out strong with running back Jerrell Rhodes giving the Tigers a first down after two rushes that totaled 11 yards. Quarterback Jacob Karam then completed a 19-yard pass to receiver Keiwone Malone to give the Tigers the ball in ASU territory. Two plays later, Rhodes blew by the Red Wolves defense with a 28-yard gain to give the Tigers possession inside the redzone. Memphis put themselves on the board first with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Alan Cross to complete a 7-play, 77-yard drive in 2:42.
In ASU's opening drive, the Red Wolves quickly got down the field with 36 yards from quarterback Ryan Aplin and 39 yards on the ground from four different rushers. The Tigers defense held the Red Wolves inside the redzone, forcing them to kick a 23-yard field goal making the score, 7-3, in favor of the Tigers with 8:15 remaining in the first quarter. The Tigers would own a 7-3 advantage after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Anthony Watson blocked an ASU punt, while Tevin Jones recovered the ball in the end zone to give the Tigers a 14-3 lead with 10:45 left in the half. ASU responded with its first touchdown of the game on the following possession with a 75-yard, 14-play drive, in 4:48 to cut into the Tigers lead at 14-10 with 5:56 remaining in the second quarter.
Less than two minutes later, the Tigers answered with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Karam to Malone to put the Tigers up 11 with 3:46 left in the half. Malone finished the night with seven receptions for 90 yards, both career-highs.
The ASU offense continued to heat up as Aplin completed a 42-yard pass to Josh Jarboe 28 seconds later to cut the Tigers lead to 21-17. After a Tigers punt, the ASU offense had 1:35 to try and take a lead into halftime. As time expired, ASU kicker Brian Davis missed a 38-yarder to keep the score at 21-17.
In the third quarter, ASU took its first lead of the game after a 13-play, 89-yard drive that lasted 4:46 to go up 24-21 with 7:59 left in the third quarter. After a Tigers punt, an ASU fumble picked up by Wynton McManis in the corner of the end zone gave Memphis the lead back at 28-24 with 4:03 left in the third. With time winding down in the third, the Red Wolves made it down the field to the Memphis eight but were forced to kick a field goal to make the score 28-27.
In the fourth quarter, the Tigers converted on third-and-three as Karam's pass was caught by Reggie Travis for 27 yards to give Memphis the ball in ASU territory. The Tigers offense came up with another big play in the next series on third-and-11, as Karam gained 26 yards on the ground to get Memphis to the ASU 10. However, a missed FG by the Tigers would keep the score 28-27. The Red Wolves regained the lead on the next possession with a nine-play, 80-yard drive in 2:38. ASU would fail on the 2-point conversion to keep the score 33-28. After a Tigers punt, ASU would run out the rest of the clock to come up with the 33-28 win.
Karam was 14-of-24 on the night with 154 yards while Rhodes led the Tigers in the running game with 70 yards. Lonnie Ballentine led the defense with a career-high 15 tackles, while Charles Harris recorded a career-high 13 tackles for a second straight game with double-digit tackles.
Memphis will return home next weekend as the Tigers face Middle Tennessee State on Saturday. Game time is slated for 6 p.m. at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.