Memphis captains for the UCF game were LB Akeem Davis, DB Mitch Huelsing and WR Marcus Rucker. UCF won the toss and elected to receive. The Tigers elected to defend the south goal to begin the game.
Saturday’s game marked homecoming at the University of Memphis as the school celebrated its 100th anniversary. With the 35-17 loss, Memphis’ record in homecoming games is now 45-32-1. The last time Memphis won a homecoming game was 2009, a 35-20 win over UTEP.
On the Tigers’ second offensive series, Brandon Hayes carried down the left sideline for 36 yards, the longest carry of the season. Later on the same drive, Jai Steib ran for 22 yards, also a career-long long.
The Tigers had 74 rushing yards on the game’s second offensive series and would rack up 97 yards on the ground in the first quarter – more rushing yards than in two full games during the season.
Junior receiver Jamere Valentine caught a career-high three passes for 23 yards in the game.
Jai Steib rushed for his second-highest total this season, most since the season-opener against UT-Martin, finishing the game with a career best 88 yards on 13 carries.
Brandon Hayes finished the game with a career high 83 yards rushing on 17 carries.
Jacob Karam scored his first career rushing touchdown on a one-yard run with 39 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Karam finished with nine rushes for 36 yards.
With four receptions for 37 yards, Marcus Rucker moved into a tie for eighth in school history in career receptions with 110 and into ninth in receiving yards with 1,528.
The Tigers’ 240 yards on the ground are the most by the team since the season finale in 2009 against Tulsa on November 27, 2009 when the Memphis had 268 yards.
Memphis outgained UCF in total offense, compiling 361 yards to the Knights’ 351. It is the second highest offensive total for the Tigers this season and third time in seven games over 300 yards.
For the second time this season, Memphis’ defense held an opponent to three-and-out on its opening drive of the game. The other time came against Rice two weeks ago (a 14-10 Memphis victory).
Mitch Huelsing stripped Storm Johnson of the ball when Johnson tried to get back to the line of scrimmage on a rushing play and Robert Steeples recovered, returning the ball 27 yards for a touchdown to get the Tigers back in the game, 14-10 with 5:30 to play. Fumble recovery was the third in the last four games for Steeples while Huelsing forced a fumble for the second game this season.
After having 182 yards of total offense in the first quarter, Memphis held UCF to just 31 yards in the second quarter. The Tigers held the Knights to 169 yards in the final three quarters.
One of the key plays before halftime came in on a late UCF drive when Kendrick Golden and Terry Redden tackled Latavius Murray for a three-yard loss on a pass reception. The play brought up a third-and-13 for UCF and the Knights threw an incompletion on their next play.
Tank Jakes and Cannon Smith led the defense with seven tackles. The seven stops are a career best for Jakes who also had a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
Tom Hornsey ran for 21 yards and a first down in the third quarter on a fake punt. It was the second run for a first down by Hornsey. He had a 27-yard run against Marshall in 2011.
Tyler Spurlock connected on a 34-yard field goal with 12:17 left in the second quarter. It marked his second made field goal in three attempts.
Tom Hornsey became the third Memphis player to punt for 9,000 or more yards in their career. Hornsey is third in school history with 9,200. He is 105 yards away from second place and 739 yards from first.