Big fourth quarter pushes Tigers past South Alabama

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The game was designated Military Appreciation Day, but after the University of Memphis outlasted South Alabama, 52-35, for a hard-fought win Saturday at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, South Alabama had earned a level of respect as well.

The Jaguars battled from the start, scoring first to take a 7-0 lead, recovering from a 14-point deficit to tie the game at 21 at the half and getting a touchdown late in third quarter to trim the Tigers’ lead to four points.

Eventually, the UofM delivered a knockout punch – 21 fourth-quarter points on rushing touchdowns by Tony Pollard, Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor.

“That was not a stress-free evening, but that’s college football,” Tigers coach Mike Norvell said. “All in all I’m so proud of this team because we needed that game. To see our guys battle adversity . . . our guys rose to the challenge.

“It was a great chess match, back and forth. (South Alabama) is a well-coached team.”

The Tigers improved to 3-1 behind yet another productive effort from the trio of Henderson, quarterback Brady White and receiver Damonte Coxie. Henderson, the nation’s leading rusher, finished with 188 yards and two touchdowns; White passed for 292 yards and two TDs and Coxie caught eight passes for 113 yards and a TD.

South Alabama (1-3) was led by quarterback Evan Orth, who passed for 360 yards and three touchdowns and receiver Jamarius Way, who caught 10 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown.

Memphis displayed balance on offense, getting 292 passing yards and 271 rushing yards. South Alabama finished with 467 yards.

The Tigers put the game away early in the fourth quarter when Henderson did what he does best – breaking free a lengthy score. His 54-yard touchdown run allowed Memphis to take a 45-27 lead, its largest of the game.

After South Alabama cut the deficit to 10 (45-35) four minutes later on a short Orth-to-Way TD pass, Taylor gave the Tigers a 17-point cushion on an 11-yard run with 2:35 to go.

“Give credit to South Alabama,” said Tigers linebacker Curtis Akins. “They did a good job on both side of the ball. Every week you have to go out and play four quarters of football and we played four quarters of football.”

Memphis resumes American Athletic Conference play Friday night in New Orleans against Tulane.