Memphis Offense Stalls in 2nd Half, Tigers Fall 31-30 To UCF

This was the iconic tale of two halves, as the Memphis offense scored on all 6 first-half drives before failing to score a point in the 2nd half, while blowing a 30-17 halftime lead to #9 UCF. The Knights rallied behind 296 passing yards from McKenzie Milton and 128 rushing yards for Greg McCrae to overcome the halftime deficit and escape Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium with the 31-30 victory.

As The Game Turned

Following a first half that saw Memphis star RB Darrell Henderson run the ball 21 times for 172 yards and a touchdown, the Memphis offense was held in check throughout the second half. The Tigers gained just 151 yards of total offense in the final 30 minutes, in a complete downpour to be fair, while the Knights gained 224 yards with 134 coming on the ground along with both of UCF’s second half scores.

After the teams traded 5 punts to open the 3rd quarter, Josh Heupel decided to go for it on 4th down and 1 from the Knights own 29-yard line when Taj McGowan broke off a 71 yard touchdown run behind some great blocking. Just two plays later, Darrell Henderson fumbled at the end of the run as the Knights recovered. On the very next play, McKenzie Milton dropped back to pass when he lost control of the ball and John Tate recovered the fumble.

Memphis was then gifted two huge penalties by UCF that advanced the Tigers just shy of the red zone. Brady White then mishandled a handoff attempt on a jet sweep attempt to Kedarian Jones, resulting in a costly turnover for the Tigers.

McKenzie Milton and the Knights drove 74 yards in just 8 plays, highlighted by a 3rd down and long conversion to tight end Michael Colubiale for 24 yards, before a Greg McCrae run moved UCF inside the Memphis 10. Milton then scampered in from 7 yards out in what would prove to be the final score of the game, putting UCF ahead 31-30 with 12:14 remaining in the game.

Final 5 Possessions

The Tigers responded with 2 straight first downs before their drive stalled out and Adam Williams was called on to punt once again and he pinned UCF inside their own 10 yard-line. Following two false start penalties, Milton found receiver Gabe Davis open on the sideline, but the ball slipped through his fingers forcing another Knights punt.

Memphis began with the ball on the UCF 41, and Henderson ran the ball 3 consecutive times, appearing to break a 35-yard TD run on 3rd down. However, the refs called a holding call on Dylan Parham, and well, I’ll let you be the judge from the video below. White was sacked on the following 3rd down and long, forcing the Tigers to punt yet again.

On the penultimate drive of the game, UCF faced a 3rd and long with just under 2 minutes left to play. Milton found Davis yet again, but the receiver was just shy of the 1st down marker, setting up 4th and 1 from the Knights’ own 40 yard-line. McGowan once again converted the crucial 4th down play gaining just enough yardage on the play.

Milton was then injured on the following 1st down play, and a bobbled snap forced UCF into another 3rd in long that ultimately resulted in Mac Loudermilk punting to the Tigers  15.

On first down, White hit Coxie for a gain of 31 yards and was able to hit tight end Sean Dykes on 3rd and 10 for a gain of 19 yards, with Memphis sitting on the UCF 35. However, instead of getting to the line and spiking the ball, Memphis tried to run a play but senior offensive tackle Trevon Tate was flagged for a false start. This penalty forced a 10-second clock runoff, and the Tigers had already extingusihed all of their timeouts earlier in the quarter. Brady White hit Tony Pollard for a gain of 9 yards, but the pass found Pollard in the middle of the field and the offense was unable to do anything else as time expired.

Pollard appeared to be getting tackled as the ball was in the air on the way to him, but once again the Tigers didn’t get the benefit of the call. The phantom holding call and no call on Pollard makes you think a little harder about Mark Giannotto’s article in The Commercial Appeal, which brings up why the conference needs UCF to remain unbeaten.

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First Half Recap: Memphis Scores On All 6 Drives

The Memphis defense got off to a good start to open the game. After allowing UCF to pick up an initial first down on the opening drive of the game, John Tate sacked McKenzie Milton on 3rd down and 8 to force the Knights to bring out punter Mac Loudermilk. The Memphis offense responded with a nice drive that ended with Damonte Coxie dropping a 1st-down catch from quarterback Brady White inside the Memphis Red Zone. Memphis settled for a 43-yard field goal from sophomore kicker, Riley Patterson.

As expected, UCF responded with a quick score on the ensuing drive as Marlon Williams took a handoff for 32 yards before catching a first down pass on the very next play. A 22-yard gain on the ground by Greg McCrae set up Taj McGowan to punch the pigskin in from 2 yards out to put the Knights up 7-3.

Memphis would then score on 3 consecutive possessions before allowing UCF to score again, behind big gains from Darrell Henderson, efficient passing from Brady White, and costly penalties from the UCF defensive unit. White scrambled in for a 11-yard TD to put the Tigers up 10-7, before a one-handed sack by John Tate forced another Loudermilk punt.

White came out and hit Pop Williams as he rolled out to the right for an 8-yard gain on 3rd down that extended the Tigers next drive. Darrell Henderson then ran the football the rest of the way, culminating in a 25-yard TD scamper as time expired in the 1st quarter with the Tigers leading 17-7.

Chris Ball’s defense once again forced a 3-and-out, even after UCF’s speedy return man and returning First Team All-AAC Running Back Adrian Killins returned the ball to midfield setting the Knights up with great field position. Austin Hall responded with back-to-back tackles on 3rd down, which forced Josh Heupel to go for it on 4th & 2 from the Memphis 43. Bryce Huff swatted down a Milton screen pass attempt that looked sure to go for a big gain if Huff had not been able to get his big paw on it.

On the ensuing drive, White hit Coxie for a 3rd-down conversion, before the Tigers were the beneficiaries of a personal foul call against UCF. Riley Patterson capped the drive off with a career-long 45-yard FG to put Memphis up 20-7 with 10:58 remaining in the 2nd quarter.

Milton responded with a 1 play, 75-yard quick strike to his leading receiver, Gabriel Davis, as his inside route proved to be too much for Tyrez Lindsey to keep up with. White responded with a completion to Kedarian Jones for a first down before finding Coxie down the middle of the field for a 39-yard gain. Memphis was forced to settle for yet another Patterson field goal, this time from 22 yards out, putting Memphis up 23-14 following a drive that lasted 5:36.

The Memphis defense forced yet another 3-and out, which was followed by a 16-yard punt return by Pop Williams. Darrell Henderson then ran the ball on 3 straight plays, picking up a total of 47 yards, before Tony Pollard was able to score basically untouched on a 19 yard run. This put Memphis ahead 30-14 with 1:50 remaining in the first half. UCF then drove down the field and was able to hit a 44-yard FG as time expired, following a miss in which the Tigers called a last second timeout to “Ice” kicker Matthew Wright. Memphis led 30-17 at the half.

Box Score

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[Featured Image: AP Photo/Mark Zaleski]

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