White Leads Memphis As Tigers Topple Houston

The Memphis defense gave up 17 first quarter points to the Cougars, but allowed just 10 points the rest of the way. Brady White lead the Tigers offensive attack by throwing 5 touchdown passes to four different receivers and using his legs for an additional score. Memphis proved to be too much for the decimated Houston roster, winning on the road 45-27.

The First Quarter

On just the sixth play of the opening drive, Houston quarterback Clayton Tune hit speedster receiver, Marquez Stevenson, on the sideline.  Memphis safety La’Andre Thomas couldn’t bring Stevenson down and the junior receiver went 53 yards for the opening score of the game.

After all, this was homecoming for the University of Houston so maybe we should have expected a hot start from the squad who came into the game with a 3-6 record after some of the best players decide to redshirt the remainder of the regular season after a tough start.

But Memphis would respond with Brady White finding senior WR Kedarian Jones for a quick 20 yard pickup that was followed by a Kenneth Gainwell gashing run that accumulated 27 yards. White did the rest, going 5-5 on the opening drive and finding his biggest target, tight end Kameron Wilson who stands at 6 feet 7 inches tall, in the end zone for the first Memphis score of the afternoon.

Just two plays later, Tune torched the Tigers defense on a designed QB draw play that he took 68 yards for his second touchdown of the day. On the ensuing Memphis possession, facing 3rd down and 22, White hit receiver Damonte Coxie in the hands (short of the line to gain), but the ball ricocheted off the talented receiver’s hands and fell into those of Cougar linebacker Zamar Kirven.

The Memphis defense began to find it’s groove following the turnover, but a 3rd down pass interference penalty on Jacobi Francis extended Houston’s drive, allowing them to add a field goal and take a 17-7 lead with 2:16 remaining in the first quarter.

Memphis Takes Over

Before the first quarter came to an end, Patrick Taylor got his first carry since the season opener against Ole Miss, which he took for a gain of 4 yards. As the 2nd quarter opened, Brady White continued his hot start, as he found Coxie for a 23-yard redemption touchdown from the previous drop.

The Cougars responded with a 17-play drive that encapsulated nine minutes and twenty-two second of the game’s 2nd quarter. Tune went 7-8 as UH picked up five first-downs, but the Memphis defense once again forced a field goal attempt, which was converted for a 20-14 lead.

That would be Houston’s final lead of the game and Memphis would actually outgain the Cougars with 191 yards of offense compared to just 64 for UH in the second quarter. The Tigers defense would give up just 49 yards of total offense in the second half.  They kept Memphis in the game early, and allowed the team to dominate the rest of the way. 

Zay Cullens, who started in place of the injured Austin Hall, led the way with a team-high 9 tackles. Bryce Huff and Thomas Pickens both contributed 2 Tackles for Loss, with Pickens forcing a fumble on one of his sacks that was recovered by teammate O’Bryan Goodson.

The rest of the afternoon belonged to Brady White. He found playmaking senior receiver, Antonio Gibson behind the line of scrimmage before Gibson made five would-be tacklers miss and was finally caught by the sixth defender 56 yards down the field. White followed with a 14-yard touchdown scamper of his own, putting the Tigers ahead 21-20.

The Memphis defense forced a punt, which Cougar punter Dane Roy landed on the Tigers 2-yard line. White then connected with Calvin Austin III, who has quickly become more than just a deep threat for Mike Norvell’s offense, four times on the drive for a total of 66 yards, ending in a 16-yard reception for the score.

According to reports, Austin was informed of being granted a scholarship following the game, which is freaking awesome.

Coming out of halftime with a score of 28-20, the teams traded punts to open the half before the Memphis offense got back on track. Star freshmen running back Kenny Gainwell had a couple of chunk runs, as White continued to connect with multiple receivers, this time hitting Gibson who was able to float his way into the end zone for his 8th touchdown on the year.

Houston’s only score of the second half came late in the 4th quarter when the Cougars special teams unit delivered the Tigers a dose of their own medicine. Houston blocked punter Adam Williams attempt and recovered the football in the end zone for their lone touchdown after the first quarter.

Gibson and Coxie both finished with 4 catches for 93 yards, with Coxie hauling in 2 of his receptions for scores. Austin finished with 5 catches for 81 yards and a TD, while Jones had a team-high 6 receptions for 60 yards.

White was of course the reason for those gaudy numbers from multiple receivers. The signal caller finished with 22 completions on 33 attempts that went for 341 passing yards and 5 touchdowns.  He also had the rushing touchdown, raising his daily total to 6. He almost assuredly will be named the American Athletic Conference’s Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.

Gainwell finished with 99 yard on 17 attempts and no scores on the day. The Houston defense was forcing White to make plays, which he was able to do on a consistent basis, but Gainwell was still able to have a nice day running the football picking up chunk plays when called upon.

Memphis moves to 9-1 on the season, with games at USF and hosting #17  Cincinnati remaining on the regular season schedule. Should Memphis win those games, they will play for the AAC title.

The Tigers still have dreams of winning the AAC Championship and playing in the Cotton Bowl as the best Group of Five team in the country, and today only improved their chances of accomplishing that goal.

-Mason (@BarnBurnerSlim)

[Top Photo: AP Images]

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