Tigers Topple Tulane, Become Bowl Eligible

In what we’re referring to as a “double bounce back game” here at The BarnBurner, Memphis responded to last week’s disappointing loss at Temple to pummel the Tulane Green Wave  47-17 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Saturday evening. Gainwell had a historic day, compiling stats the FBS hasn’t seen since 1997.

Mike Norvell’s Tigers team was coming off a disappointing loss on the road to a solid Temple team as they prepared for their first Saturday evening home game of the season. This Tiger’s team also remembered the 40-24 ass whipping that was suffered last season at the hands of the Tulane Green Wave. This is why The BarnBurner decided to call this matchup a “Double Bounce Back Game” and the reason we had full confidence in Coach Norvell and the Tigers.

They always seem to bounce back.

And that’s exactly what would be needed of the 2019 Tigers, as the Memphis defense gave up 3 big plays on the opening drive- a Justin McMillan first down pass, a Corey Dauphine first down run, and a 41-yard scamper by McMillan, the quarterback, to put Tulane inside the Memphis red zone after just 3 offensive plays.

However, Bryce Huff responded with a big tackle for loss on a McMillan run play, and La’Andre Thomas closed in quickly on wide receiver Amare Johnson, as the Tigers defense performed their usual bend but don’t break act and held the Green Wave to just 3 points. A huge sigh of relief as Memphis fans had flashbacks to New Orleans last year.

Then the Memphis offense came out and went 3 and out, before being the beneficiary of an illegal hands to the face penalty that extended their initial drive. Brady White promptly went 2 for 2 on 4th down conversion attempts, connecting with Damonte Coxie for a first down, before finding Kenny Gainwell wide open for not only a first down, but the Tigers first score of the day. This was great to see following White’s 4-turnover performance last week.

On the ensuing Tulane possession, Austin Hall was able to read McMillan just enough to get his outstretch paw on the football for a magnificent 1-handed interception. The INT was Hall’s 1st of the year and 4th of his career. This one may show up on SportsCenter.

White would respond by hitting Gainwell for a 30-yard gain, before finding Calvin Austin III, a Memphis track athlete, for his first TD of the season. The Tigers would fake the PAT attempt, but Preston Brady’s pass would fall incomplete leaving Memphis with a 13-3 lead.

Tulane would march down the field behind 68 passing yards from McMillan to go along with 26 rushing yards, as he ran one in from 7 yards out to bring Tulane within a field goal at 13-10.

That would be as close as the Green Wave got, as Brady White and the Tigers offense set off for a historic day.

On the following drive, White found Antonio Gibson for huge 3rd down conversion with 16 yards to gain. This was followed by 20 rushing yards from Gainwell and then Memphis appeared to score as Gibson waltzed into the end zone off a pass from White, but fellow receiver Coxie was flagged for holding. White then found tight end Joey Magnifico on the sideline for a fantastic catch, before Mike Norvell drew up a nasty shuffle play which allowed Magnifico to go untouched for the score. Poetic justice for poor Joey from last week.

The Green Wave would lose running back Corey Dauphine to a hand injury on the next drive which ended with a punt, after already being without fellow top rusher, Darius Bradwell. Smelling blood, Norvell alternated rushes between Gainwell and Kylan Watkins while Coxie hauled in 2 first down catches on the ensuing drive. Then, from 46 yards out, White once again found Austin, this time on a go route that saw the speedster blow by the Tulane defender for an easy 6 points to put Memphis up 27-10 capping off a 90-yard drive.

The Tigers defense then received a pre-halftime gift from Justin McMillan, as he hit linebacker Thomas Pickens between the numbers for his 2nd interception of the game and Pickens’ 2nd of his career. Memphis responded with 3 straight Gainwell runs, resulting in a TD just before the half and a 34-10 Tigers lead.

Gainwell had 71 rushing yards at the half to go along with 66 receiving yards and 2 TDs. White was an efficient 15-20 for 200 yards and 4 TDs to Austin (2), Gainwell, and Magnifico.

The 2nd half was a mere formality and for record-breaking purposes for the Tigers. The Memphis defense held Tulane to just 86 yards in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, before the starters gave way and the Green Wave collected 106 in the 4th quarter.

Memphis had 2 big chunks plays on the first two drives of the second half, but both would end with Riley Patterson field goals from 29 and 34 yards, respectively. Tulane tried to respond, but Everitt Cunningham sacked McMillan for a 13-yard loss on 3rd down, before Quindell Johnson picked his 2nd interception of the season on McMillan’s 4th and 23 pass attempt.

After the team’s traded punts, history was made as White found Gainwell for a 27-yard touchdown pass. The play gave Gainwell 203 receiving yards on the day to pair with 104 rushing yards, making him the first FBS player since Lousiana Tech’s Troy Brown to record 200+ receiving yards and 100+ rushing yards in the same game. According to Memphis Football’s Twitter account, the Tigers had never before seen a 100 yard receiving and 100 yard rushing game in program history and Gainwell became just the 4th player in program history with 300+ all purpose yards. White’s 5 TD passes also tied a career high.

To top it off, punter Adam Williams boomed a 76-yard punt, to give him a career average of 44.8 yards per punt, which is sits atop the Tiger record books.

White would finish with 358 passing yards, going 21-29 and his 5 scores. Tulane quarterback, Justin McMillan was held to just 187 yards going 15-28 and was picked off 3 times. McMillan was able to add 89 yards on the ground.

Zay Cullens lead the Memphis defense with 8 tackles, while La’Andre Thomas and Pickens both finished the game with 5. Bryce Huff had 2 tackles for loss. Magnifico, Gibson, and Coxie each recorded 3 catches.

Memphis will travel to Tulsa (2-5) to play the Golden Hurricane next week. Tulsa fell to #21 Cincinnati 24-14 earlier Saturday.

-Mason (@BarnBurnerSlim)

[Top Image: Kyle Okita/CSA via AP]

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