Tigers Outlast Blue Raiders 24-17 in 2010 Home Opener
Sept. 18, 2010
By: Preston McClellan, Student Assistant
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Tiger Nation not only witnessed history made Saturday night at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, but also celebrated it. Behind Gregory Ray's 121 yard rushing and two touchdowns, Memphis recorded win No. 1 of the Larry Porter era with a hard-fought 24-17 victory over Middle Tennessee.
The Tigers held two 14-point leads in the game at 17-3 midway through the second quarter and 24-10 with 8:10 left in the third period. The Blue Raiders, though, cut the Memphis lead to seven points both times, and had two chances to tie the game in the fourth quarter when they started drives in Memphis territory.
The Tiger defense, however, forced punts both times and then held the Blue Raiders on downs with under two minutes to play to secure the win.
In the most-anticipated home opener in years with the unveiling of the tailgater's paradise, Tiger Lane, Memphis didn't disappoint the 27,975 fans in attendance with its first win of the 2010 campaign.
After taking a 17-10 advantage into halftime, Memphis padded its advantage on its second series of the third quarter. Defensive back Mohammed Seisay set up the Tiger offense in Middle Tennessee territory when he picked off Logan Kilgore and ran the interception back to the Blue Raider 44. Three plays later, Ray pushed the Tiger lead to 24-10 on his second nine-yard rushing score of the game.
The Blue Raiders changed quarterbacks on the next possession, substituting Jeff Murphy for Kilgore. Murphy made an immediate impact, finding a streaking Sancho McDonald for a 53-yard pass play that set up the visitors inside the Memphis 10. On 3rd-and-goal from the 1, Murphy found the pay dirt on a quarterback keeper to bring Middle Tennessee within seven at 24-17.
The Tiger offense stalled on the ensuing possession, allowing the Blue Raiders to take over in Memphis territory. A pass deflection by Marcus Ball followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the Blue Raiders out of field goal range, preserving the Memphis lead.
Middle Tennessee's final chance to tie the contest came with 2:59 remaining and the ball on its own 26. After three plays picked up nine yards, the Blue Raiders faced a 4th-and-1 at the 35 yard line. The Memphis defense, though, stepped up one last time.
Senior linebacker Winston Bowens busted through the line on the 4th-and-1 play and tackled in the backfield for a two-yard loss, halting the hopes of the Blue Raiders. The Tigers took over with 1:45 left and ran out the clock for the victory.
Tiger freshman quarterback Ryan Williams made his first collegiate start and was 15-of-28 passing for 129 yards and one touchdown toss. Tannar Rehrer and Jermaine McKenzie each had 37 yards receiving.
The Middle Tennessee Kilgore-Murphy tandem combined for 22-of-39 passing for 248 yards and one touchdown. Kilgore threw three interceptions. The Memphis defense held the Blue Raider ground game in check, allowing only 67 yards on 34 carries.
Middle Tennessee drew first blood in the contest, receiving the opening kick and completing two consecutive passes to move into Memphis territory. The Tigers' defense, though, held strong and forced the Blue Raiders to settle for a 32-yard field goal. Alan Geantry knocked it through the uprights to make it 3-0 just 2:25 into the game.
Two drives later, Memphis freshman defensive back Todd Washington intercepted Kilgore for the first time in the game, setting up the Tiger offense in great field position at the Blue Raider 39. Memphis drove the ball 34 yards in 4:16 to set up a 22-yard field goal from Paulo Henriques to tie the game 3-3 at the 5:12 mark of the first quarter.
The two teams traded possessions, and Middle Tennessee started at its own 34. On the third play of the series, Washington picked off his second interception and returned it to the Blue Raider 36.
Memphis took advantage of the Washington pick. The Tigers moved the ball 36 yards in six plays, and Ray polished off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run to put Memphis up 10-3 with 11:52 left to play in the first half.
The Tiger defense continued to apply pressure on the Blue Raider offense, as Dasmine Cathey stripped Middle Tennessee running back Phillip Tanner of the ball. Tiger strong safety Tremaine McKenzie recovered the ball at the Blue Raider 43.
For the second-straight time after a Blue Raider turnover, Memphis cashed in. Williams hooked up with Jermaine McKenzie over the middle on the ensuing drive for a 22-yard score that pushed the lead to 17-3. It was McKenzie's first career touchdown reception.
It didn't take long for Middle Tennessee to respond as the Blue Raiders scored a four-play, 62-yard drive that was capped by a 52-yard touchdown pass from Kilgore to Malcolm Beyah. The 63-second drive cut the Memphis lead to 17-10 with just over eight minutes left in the first half.
Jamon Hughes led the Tiger defense with nine total tackles and one TFL. Frank Trotter and Winston Bowens each added eight total tackles. Darin Davis led the Blue Raider defense with eight hits, one sack and one TFL.
Memphis continues C-USA play next weekend, as they travel to El Paso, Texas for a match-up against UTEP. The game is slated for 8:05 (CT).