Brady White helps Tigers to season opening win in Memphis debut

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If the debuts by several former record-setting University of Memphis quarterbacks serve as an indicator, Brady White’s Tiger career could include a similar assault on the record books.

Ex-Tiger quarterback Riley Ferguson passed for 295 yards and three touchdowns in his debut in 2016.

Paxton Lynch, now in his third NFL season, tossed for 148 yards in his first game in 2013.

And Martin Hankins had 211 yards and two TDs in 2006.

Lynch, Ferguson and Hankins rank 2, 3 and 4 on the school’s career-passing chart.

White impressively began his run in Saturday’s 66-14 season-opening victory over Mercer at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

He completed 22 of 28 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns, all in the first half, to lead the UofM to the lopsided win. His first half produced numbers no Tiger quarterback had approached in a debut.

Behind his accuracy and leadership, Memphis, at the half, led 56-0 (tying a record for most points in half). The Tigers also amassed 530 yards in the opening two quarters and 752, or two shy of a school record, for the game.

“To play as well as (we) did, especially in the first half, is a thank-you to Memphis,” Tigers coach Mike Norvell said. “You walk in that locker room and it’s special. Things are progressing here. I’m very proud of the way the guys represented our city and our university. It was a great victory.”

White, a graduate transfer from Arizona State, won the starting job in preseason camp and promptly showed why he got the nod from Norvell. White led the Tigers to touchdowns on each of their seven first-half possessions. Defensive back TJ Carter got the other first-half TD by returning a first-quarter interception 35 yards.

White, who played in three games at Arizona State, sat out the second half after a near-flawless first half.

“The level of work that went into his preparation (from when he arrived in January), the way he’s learned the offense, the time he’s spent building the relationships with his teammates, he’s a great young man,” Norvell said. “I had a great deal of confidence going into it that he would play well. But I was glad to see he went out and proved it on the field.”

Henderson, who finished with 76 rushing yards — all in the first half, helped the Tigers to 324 yards on the ground. Freshman Calvin Austin III led the Tigers with 83 yards, all on his late fourth-quarter touchdown run.

But the spotlight was on White, who picked where the nation’s No. 2-scoring offense left off a year ago.

“I wasn’t nervous,” he said. “And I think that was a credit to how we prepared. We were ready to go.

“I was just trying to come out here and do what I prepared to do this week. When you have weapons like we do, you just want to get them the rock.”

White’s first snap under center came at the Memphis 7-yard line, but he was undaunted by poor field position. He directed the Tigers 93 yards in 13 plays, completing each of his six pass attempts during the drive. Patrick Taylor got the touchdown on a 5-yard run.

The ensuing possession required only three plays to reach the end zone as White found Damonte Coxie for a 45-yard score. Coxie led the Tigers with 79 receiving yards.

Carter’s interception – the sixth of his career – came next to give the Tigers a 21-0 lead. Memphis followed by scoring on its next five possessions.

The TDs were:

  • a 22-yard run by Darrell Henderson to cap an 87-yard drive
  • a 75-yard White-to-Taylor pass play that saw Taylor turn a short screen into a score
  • a 62-yard pass play from White to Henderson
  • a 5-yard pass from White to Sean Dykes
  • a 3-yard pass from White to Kedarian Jones on the final play of the first half.

Memphis added a 21-yard field goal by Riley Patterson and Austin’s long run in the fourth quarter to end the scoring. Freshman Brady McBride handled the quarterback duties in the second half and finished 6-of-10 for 70 yards.

Defensively, the Tigers were dominant against the Football Championship Subdivision Bears. Mercer managed only 37 yards on 24 first-half plays and was limited to one first down.