Defensive Effort Lifts Memphis Over Rice 14-10
Oct. 6, 2012
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A stout defensive effort and 14-points in the third quarter lifted Memphis (1-4, 1-0 C-USA) to a 14-10 victory over Rice (1-5, 0-3 C-USA) at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Rice averaged 445 yards of offense and 30 points coming into Saturday's game, but Memphis held the Owls to 221 total yards and just a field goal offensively. Rice put up 104 rushing yards and 117 passing yards, the fewest yards allowed by Memphis since Nov. 22, 2008 against UCF. The 104 rush yards allowed by the Memphis defense are the fewest since last season against Tulane had 82 yards, while 117 passing yards is the fewest since Nicholls State had 47 passing yards on Sept. 20, 2008.
After forcing Rice to a three-and-out to start the game, Memphis took over at its own 11-yard line. Fumbles have hurt the Tigers all season, and it continued on the first possession as defensive end Jared Williams forced a fumble at the 12-yard line that was scooped by cornerback Phillip Gaines for the touchdown. The fumble was Memphis' 13th on the season and seventh one lost.
Memphis again fumbled away a possession later in the first quarter. After six plays and 30 yards gained, Jaquise Cookrushed for one yard, but lost control of the ball as he was going down. Rice took possession, but their drive stalled at the Memphis 42-yard line.
The Tigers' defense held Rice to 154 total yards in the first half, but the Owls added a 36-yard field goal with 10:34 to play in the second quarter to hold a 10-0 halftime lead. Memphis produced 97 yards of offense in the first half.
Following a 17-minute weather delay around the halftime break, Memphis went three-and-out on its first drive, but a fumbled punt return gave the Tigers the ball at the Rice 27-yard line. The U of M went backwards on the possession and was forced to punt, but Tom Hormsey pinned Rice on their one-yard line.
The Memphis defense forced Rice three-and-out and took over at the Rice 44-yard line. Seven plays later, the Tigers got on the board with a five-yard reception in the back of the endzone by Keiwone Malone. With Jacob Karam'scompletion to Malone, Memphis cut the lead to 10-7 with 7:50 remaining in the third quarter.
The Tigers kept the momentum on defense as three consecutive Owl passes fell incomplete. Rice elected to try a 53-yard field goal, but the kick by Chris Boswell came up short, giving Memphis the ball at the 36-yard line.
With a chance to take the lead, the Tigers' offense marched down the field with an eight-play, 64-yard drive to take the 14-10 lead. Memphis rushed the ball four times on the drive for 53 yards and capped the drive with an 11-yard fake pass from quarterback Eric Mathews to Alan Cross. Mathews' touchdown pass was his first completion and first touchdown pass in his Memphis career.
Rice started a potential go-ahead drive at their four-yard line with 3:55 to play. The Owls completed two passes to advance to the 20-yard line, but a sack by Martin Ifedi put Rice in a third-and-long situation. Rice was forced to punt it away and Memphis converted a fourth-and inches with a two-yard rush by Jai Steibto set up in the victory formation.
Memphis wins its' C-USA opener for the fourth time since joining the league and improves to 10-7 in the home opener. Saturday's win is the first C-USA win at home since Oct. 10, 2009 against UTEP.
The Tigers hit the road to face East Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 13 at 3:30 p.m. (CT). That game will air on CSS.