TAMPA, Fla. — Brady White threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns as No. 18 Memphis shrugged off two early turnovers to beat South Florida 49-10 and retain a share of first place in the American Athletic Conference West Division on Saturday.
The Tigers (10-1, 6-1, No. 18 CFP) have won five straight since their only loss, at Temple, and they can clinch a third straight appearance in the AAC championship game with a home win over No. 17 Cincinnati next week.
White was intercepted twice in the first half when USF (4-7, 2-5) led 10-7. The graduate transfer settled in and took control of the game with help from a bevy of playmakers.
Memphis rushed for 325 yards, with Patrick Taylor gaining 95 on 17 attempts and scoring on runs of 3, 5 and 10 yards. Leading rusher Kenneth Gainwell averaged 9 yards a carry and finished with 128, with most of his production coming while the Tigers were building a 28-10 halftime lead.
White completed 18 of 22 passes, including second-quarter TDs of 50 yards to Kedarian Jones and 23 yards to Damonte Coxie. He only threw once after halftime, leaving the game late in the third quarter after Antonio Gibson and Taylor ran for scores that increased the lead to 42-10.
USF, playing without injured running back Jordan Cronkrite, sputtered offensively after rushing for 67 yards on its first drive to take a 7-0 lead. Dave Small scored on a 1-yard run. Kelley Joiner led the Bulls with 115 yards rushing on 13 attempts.
With the loss, USF’s streak of four consecutive bowl appearances comes to an end.
Memphis: The offense outgained USF 560 yards to 170, including a 325-126 edge on the ground. The defense was dominating, too, after yielding a 75-yard TD drive to begin the game. USF managed just 44 yards the rest of the first half, with 22 of that coming on the last play.
South Florida: The Bulls have lost three straight after playing their way into a position to become bowl eligible following a 1-3 start. They fell to 11-27 against teams ranked in the Top 25, including 0-6 under coach Charlie Strong, who is 21-15 in three seasons at USF.
The Tigers are 18th in the latest CFP rankings. Satuday’s victory leaves them in a position to overtake Cincinnati (No. 17 CFP) as the highest rated Group of Five team if they can beat the Bearcats next week. Of course, that would also ensure a rematch between the teams in the AAC championship game the following week. Memphis remained tied with Navy, which defeated SMU 35-28 Saturday, for first in the AAC West.
Memphis: Host No. 17 Cincinnati next Friday.
South Florida: Close the season at UCF on Friday night.