Sunday, August 31, 2014

Memphis Wins Big in Season Opener

The Memphis Tigers won a home opener for the first time since 2004 in explosive fashion, defeating Austin Peay 63-0 at the Liberty Bowl Stadium Saturday.
More than 23,000 fans were on hand as the Tigers set the fireworks off early and often. The Tigers' 63 points is the fifth most points a Memphis team has put up, and the most since a 1969 beating of Louisville.

This was also the first shutout of an opponent since 2000, when Memphis blanked the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

It was an ominous start for Austin Peay as the Governors' opening kickoff sailed out of bounds. An offside penalty was added to the initial penalty and the Tigers started their first possession at the 40-yard line.

The Tigers marched down the field in nine plays, taking up less than three minutes, capped off by a two-yard rushing touchdown from Sam Craft.

The first defensive play from the Tigers resulted in Martin Ifedi tackling the running back for a loss of two. Two plays later, Bobby McCain intercepted quarterback Trey Taylor and took it 29-yards back to the Austin Peay 15.

An illegal block penalty looked as if it might stall Memphis' drive, but a 19-yard rush from Brandon Hayes on third and 17 kept it alive. Hayes punched it in from the 3-yard line one player later for his 12th career rushing touchdown to make it 14-0.

A quick three-and-out gave the Tigers the ball back, and they wasted no time. Paxton Lynch found Daniel Hurd on the first play for 28-yards, and the Tigers finished the 3:21 drive with Doroland Dorceus taking it in from three-yards out for his first career rushing touchdown and Memphis' third of the quarter.

The Governors made a quarterback change, bringing in Darrien Boone, but it made no difference as they failed to make a first down. However, on the subsequent drive, Lynch threw an interception at the Austin Peay's two-yard line, ensuring the Tigers would not add another seven points by the end of the quarter.

The 21 point first quarter was the most for the Tigers since UAB in 2012.

If the Governors were hoping the second quarter would bring a fresh start, they were quickly disappointed as Boone fumbled on the opening drive. Lynch took it in himself from the five-yard line four plays later to make it 28-0.

Austin Peay's offense came out for three plays and then gave it back to Memphis at the Tiger 34 via punt. The U of M engineered a 66-yard drive highlighted by a 39-yard pass from Lynch to Keiwone Malone, and finished it with Lynch's second rushing touchdown of the afternoon, this one from nine-yards out.

It wasn't until Austin Peay's sixth drive that Memphis recorded its first sack. Leonard Pegues recorded his first career sack when he got to Trey Taylor, who had re-entered the game, for a loss of 10-yards on second and 10.

After an Austin Peay punt, Lynch got his first passing touchdown of the season when he found Alan Cross for nine yards to make it 42-0. This snapped a streak of five-straight rushing touchdowns to start the game.

Austin Peay looked as if they may get something started on their next drive as they got into Memphis territory, but a 14-yard sack on third down, one that sent Boone's helmet bouncing off of the turf, ended the threat.

At the half, the Tigers held a 42-0 lead and had scored on six of their eight possessions. Memphis amassed 329 yards, while the defense allowed only 47, which was the exact distance of Spencer Smith's lone punt in the first half.

In the second half, the Tigers picked up where they had left off. After giving up a couple of first downs, Memphis forced another punt and took over at its own 19. Nine plays and 81-yards later, Lynch connected with Mose Frazier to cap off the Tigers longest scoring drive and give Memphis a 49-0 lead. It was also the last drive in which Lynch would play.

The Tiger defense forced another three and out, and Joe Craig took the ensuing punt from his 39 all the way down to the APSU 8. One play later, Dorceus took it in and Memphis had a 56-point lead.

In the fourth quarter, Memphis put together another long drive, which was cut short because of a fumble at the Gov's eight-yard line.

With a little more than eight minutes remaining, Memphis got the ball at the APSU 41. It took the Tigers three plays to get to the six-yard line. On the fourth, Jarvis Cooper punched it in to make the score 63-0. Cooper was the fifth different Tiger to score a rushing total, matching the amount of different rushing scorers from all of the 2013 season.

In the end, the Tigers rushed for 303 yards and passed for 242, for a total of 545 yards. Defensively, Memphis allowed only 30 passing yards and 116 on the ground, holding Austin Peay to a net gain of 146. Cooper led all rushers with 101, while Hayes added 59 yards of his own.

Memphis returns to action next week when they travel to take on UCLA in Los Angeles.

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