With Memphis pro wrestling legend Jerry “The King” Lawler in attendance, the Tigers’ football team had its chance to unseat the king of the AAC but couldn’t make enough plays to beat Tulane.
The Tigers (4-2, 1-1 AAC) led by double digits in the second half, but ultimately got worn down en route to a 31-21 loss Friday night in front of 35,609 fans at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.
As it did against Boise State two weeks ago, Memphis’ offense took more than a quarter to get going. The Tigers fell behind 10-0, but battled back to take a 14-10 lead by halftime.
They extended the lead to 21-10, but it was Tulane’s turn to flip the game on its axis. The Green Wave reeled off a 21-0 run, taking a lead they never relinquished and denying Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield a signature win.
In a game of runs, Memphis fell short
Tulane (5-1, 2-0) jumped to a 10-0 run thanks to an inept Tigers offense, but they fought back, and the touchdown pass from quarterback Seth Henigan to receiver Koby Drake gave them a 21-10 lead midway through the third quarter and should have left them in total control of the game.
But Tulane answered with a 21-0 run of its own as its offense started to benefit from lopsided time of possession numbers and wear down the Memphis defense.
The Green Wave finished with more than 35 minutes of possession time, and running back Makhi Hughes rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
Seth Henigan raised his game against the AAC’s top QB
Henigan had an awful start to the game, but turned it around and powered the Memphis offense for most of the game. The running game was nonexistent against Tulane’s elite rush defense, so it came down to the third-year quarterback. And he delivered, completing 24-of-43 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns. But he also threw two interceptions.
Tulane’s Michael Pratt, considered the top QB in the AAC, finished 19-of-31 for 259 yards and a touchdown. He came alive in the second half and also rushed for a touchdown late in the third quarter.
It was déjà vu for the Memphis offense
The Tigers started with four drives that gained just 29 yards, with only one first down. Henigan couldn’t get anything going, starting 1-for-9, with the only completion coming on a wild catch by Drake. The slow start echoed a season trend.
Just like the Boise State game, it was a catch by Roc Taylor that finally jolted the offense awake. His 21-yard catch-and-run spurred an 89-yard drive capped by Demeer Blankumsee’s 17-yard receiving touchdown.
The Memphis defense was up to the challenge early
As the offense struggled, the Tigers’ defense kept them in the game. The Tulane offense moved the ball on just one of its first four drives, and Memphis came up with two key first-half stops in its own territory.
The defense bent but didn’t break on a 14-play Green Wave drive that ended in a field goal halfway through the second quarter. The next drive, Tulane took the ball to the Memphis 23 but failed on a fourth down, which helped the Tigers take a lead into halftime.
Next up? Two straight road games
Memphis heads on the road for games against UAB (2-4, 1-1) and North Texas (2-3, 0-1).
Reach sports writer Jonah Dylan at [email protected] or on Twitter @thejonahdylan.
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