Memphis tops 500 yards, whips ASU 31-7
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A quick start Saturday by Memphis with a 24-point output in the first half fueled the Tigers to a 31-7 over Arkansas State at the Liberty Bowl.
Memphis scored on both its first two possessions of the contest to build up a 24-7 halftime advantage in the rivalry matchup before a crowd of 36,279 fans.
"We are disappointed in the result of the game," said A-State head coach Bryan Harsin. "First of all, give credit to Memphis. They made plays and some explosive plays, and we didn't do that enough. They started fast. We knew they would have an intensity level that we had to go out there and match early on.
"Our guys played hard and didn't quit. We fought out there. In games like this, it comes down to making plays, and that's the bottom line. And they made more plays. Each and every week we are going to get everybody's best," added Harsin.
With the loss, A-State falls to 2-2 overall while Memphis picks up its first win of this season in improving its overall record to 1-2. The Red Wolves came into the game having won four of the last five series meetings and hadn't lost to the Tigers since 2008 with a 29-17 setback at Memphis.
The opening quarter saw Memphis score on its first two possessions with a pair of touchdowns to take a 14-0 lead eight minutes into the game. A 6-yard TD run by senior running back Brandon Hayes put Memphis up 7-0 at the 12:01 mark and the Tigers would hit paydirt again on their next possession as a result of freshman quarterback Paxton Lynch hooking up with sophomore tight end Alan Cross for a six-yard TD scoring strike.
Arkansas State sliced Memphis' lead in half at 14-7 on its next possession as sophomore wide receiver J.D. McKissic caught a 15-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Fredi Knighten and vaulted from 4 yards out into the Tigers' end zone followed by senior kicker Brian Davis' successful point after kick with 5:03 to go in the quarter. The A-State scoring drive took six plays and covered 59 yards.
Three straight pass completions from senior quarterback Adam Kennedy to senior wideout Julian Jones, including the first of 22 yards, along with a 38-yard kickoff J.D. McKissic return help set up the Red Wolves' lone first-half score.
Memphis maintained the upper hand against A-State in the second quarter as the Tigers accounted for all of the stanza's scoring with 10 unanswered points to lead 24-7 at halftime. The Tigers' points came on freshman kicker Jake Elliot's 23-yard field goal with 9:52 left in the half and a five-yard TD run from freshman back Sam Craft at the 5:25 mark.
In the second half, Memphis tallied the game's final points as the Tigers increased their margin to 24 points (31-7) with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter following freshman running back Marquis Warford's 16-yard touchdown run.
Overall, Memphis rolled up 505 yards of total offense with 329 coming on the ground while Arkansas State produced 255 yards, 181 yards in passing and 74 in rushing. Adam Kennedy completed 20-of-37 balls and one TD for 166 yards despite facing constant pressure by the Tigers throughout the contest. A-State's Julian Jones caught six passes for 59 yards in the game to lead all receivers. For Memphis, Paxton Lynch hit on 17-for-26 of his passes for 176 yards while the Tigers also featured a pair of 100-yard rushers in the game, Marquis Warford with 173 yards on 11 carries and Brandon Hayes with 18 rush attempts for 114 yards. Both also recorded a touchdown in the non-league decision as the hosts converted five-of-seven chances in the red zone.
Freshman linebacker Xavier Woodson paced Arkansas State with nine tackles (five solos). Junior free safety Sterling Young finished with seven stops (seven solos) and had a fumble recover while sophomore cornerback Rocky Hayes (five solos) and sophomore rover Chris Humes (four solos) also supplied seven tackles apiece. Humes also had a quarterback sack for eight yards. Junior defensive end Martin Ifedi spearheaded the Memphis defense with a game-high 10 tackles (seven solos), including 2.5 sacks for 11 yards and 4.5 tackles for loss. Memphis finished with seven sacks for 31 yards in addition to three quarterback hurries and two pass breakups.
A bright spot for A-State was sophomore Luke Ferguson, who punted five times for 231 yards to post a 46.2 yards average which also included a long of 58 yards.
The Red Wolves will visit the Missouri Tigers next Saturday, Sept. 28, in a 6:30 p.m. (CT) non-conference tilt in Columbia, Mo. The contest, which will be held at Faurot Field in UM's Memorial Stadium, is to be broadcast on Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS) and Cox Sports Television (CST).