Tigers dominate UConn for first conference win

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The University of Memphis left no doubt.

One week after a disappointing American Athletic Conference loss at Tulane, the Tigers picked up their first league victory Saturday night at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in convincing, and overpowering, fashion.

The Tigers overwhelmed UConn, 55-14 before 27,581 by scoring on their first six drives – and seven of their first eight – to win their 12th straight regular-season game at home. Defensively, they limited UConn to 327 yards and forced four turnovers, including three interceptions.

“I thought we came out and played with great passion and intensity,” said Memphis coach Mike Norvell. “I challenged them throughout the week (saying) I wanted to see a 60-minute battle.

“I wanted to see a response (after the Tulane loss). I thought our guys did a nice job. It was still not the cleanest of games, but we were able to get takeaways and we had 100 percent ball security. We played like Memphis Tigers and that’s what I was most pleased with.”

In their one-sided victory, the Tigers (4-2 overall, 1-2 in AAC play) amassed 634 yards, mostly on the ground and almost exclusively behind Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor. Henderson and Taylor combined for 335 of the team’s 378 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns apiece. Both surpassed 100 yards in the first half, one in which the Tigers rushed for five touchdowns.

Henderson, who had 134 yards rushing at the half, finished with 174. Taylor, who had 116 at halftime, finished with a career-high 161.

Quarterback Brady White flirted with perfection. He was 16-of-18 passing for 239 yards and a touchdown. His incompletions included a drop in the end zone and a pass he intentionally threw out of bounds.

White, however, spent much of the postgame praising the work of his backfield mates.

“We have two beasts at the running back position, who can tag-team like they did (against UConn),” White said. “It wasn’t a surprise to us. It’s awesome to see those guys have the day they had. We know that’s what they are capable of and that they can do that consistently.”

For UConn (1-5, 0-3), quarterback David Pindell was 22-of-37 passing for 190 yards.

In the first half, the Tigers struck often and quickly, building a 41-14 lead by halftime. Memphis needed four or fewer plays to score on four of its six first-half touchdowns. Henderson had touchdown runs of 2, 26 and 61 yards, while Taylor had 35-yard touchdown runs on consecutive possessions.

The Tigers gained 440 yards, 250 on the ground, and held UConn to 180 yards, and only 40 on the ground, in the opening half. The UofM’s other first-half score was its first: a 44-yard TD pass from White to tight end Joey Magnifico. White was 11-of-11 passing for 190 yards and the TD to Magnifico in the opening half.

In the second half, Taylor added a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to extend the Tigers’ lead to 34 points – 48-14. Freshman quarterback Connor Adair added the final TD, a 17-yard pass to Antonio Gibson in the fourth quarter.

In addition to the four turnovers the Tigers forced, they finished with nine tackles for lost yardage.

“I thought we came out with a purpose,” Norvell said “I thought there was a purpose to everything we did.”