Memphis Tigers vs. Southern Jaguars Recap
After a competitive effort by Southern to keep Memphis from running away with the game, the Tigers were able to withstand Southern’s offense to earn the 55-24 victory. This is the Tigers’ second of the season and gives them their first 2-0 start since 2017.
The Tigers’ offense bounced back from their underwhelming performance against Ole Miss, most notably with their scoring where they had 27 points in the first half, as opposed to the 15 they had all of last week.
Quarterback, Brady White had the biggest improvement from last week and finished the game completing 17 of his 21 pass attempts for 337 yards and two touchdowns.
He was aided by his receiving corps and running game who consistently made plays when the ball hit their hands.
Receivers Damonte Coxie, Antonio Gibson, and Kedarian Jones all had 50-yard plays in the game. Coxie had a 52-yard reception that helped set up the team to get its first points of the game with a 23-yard field goal. He would continue to have a big impact and finished with six catches and 112 receiving yards, his first 100-yard receiving game of the season.
Gibson had one catch, but it was a big play. On the team’s second drive, he took a pass from White for 55 yards to score his first touchdown of the season. Jones had two catches for 75 yards with a bulk of them coming on a 65-yard pass in the third quarter.
With starting running back, Patrick Taylor Jr., out for the game with an injury, it meant that the younger backs were forced to step up to the plate.
Redshirt freshman, Kenneth Gainwell got the start and after a rocky first quarter, where he had three carries for just nine yards, exploded for a 46-yard rushing touchdown to make the Tigers’ lead 21-14. In the second half, he continued to make big plays and led all rushers with 85 yards and two touchdowns (he also had a receiving touchdown).
When asked by the media if he’d gotten frustrated by his slow start, he said he had not and just understood.
“It’s just apart of being a running back,” Gainwell said. “You know that you’re going to get more touches in the game and so you just have to be patient on your runs.”
Defensively, the first half made it look like the Tigers were going to be taking a step back from their dominant first game performance. They couldn’t stop the run and the Jaguars passing attack managed to stretch the field.
Southern rushed for 157 yards on 31 carries, led by quarterback LaDarius Skelton who had 17 carries and 74 rushing yards. Through the air, they had 86 yards, but wide receiver Hunter Register had a big 36-yard reception to put his team into scoring position.
Luckily for the Tigers, they looked like a completely different unit in the second half. They allowed just 11 rushing yards, four passing yards and no offensive touchdowns.
When head coach, Mike Norvell, was asked about the importance to stop the run in the second half, Norvell said that it was a priority because of the success of Southern’s game plan.
“Stopping the run is always going to be a focus of ours,” Norvell said. “Obviously, we didn’t start the way that we wanted to, but it’s a credit to Southern and their game plan. They showed us a lot of things that we weren’t ready for. Because of that, we had to respond and our defense did what it needed to do in the second half.”
Even with the good performances on both offense and defense, the credit went to the special teams unit who blocked two of Southern’s punts, with one that was returned for a 27-yard touchdown by linebacker, Keith Brown Jr.
Norvell took time early in the post-game press conference to praise his special teams group and staff for having such a good performance.
“I think Coach Lembo had an outstanding game plan,” Norvell said. “We challenged our guys to show up in every phase and they did. Our punt pressure team was incredible. We blocked two punts but we also forced quicker kicks and short punts that allowed us to have great field position.”