The Memphis Tigers and Mike Norvell improve to 2-0 Saturday as they cruised past the Kansas Jayhawks 43-7.
The Tigers played well on both sides of the ball, but it was the defense who came up big, displaying their ability to force turnovers.
Shareef White and defense forced 6 takeaways – three of which led to scores and another two that came late in the game as Memphis was trying to run out the clock.
The Tigers started the game running the ball well when Anthony Miller broke off a 41-yard run followed by Darrel Henderson’s 20-yard run.
After Riley Ferguson was sacked, the Tigers were forced to attempt a field goal, but Jake Elliot missed wide right.
On the ensuing Kansas possession, the Jayhawks were forced to punt after three plays and pinned Memphis inside their own 20 yard-line.
On the first play after the punt, Riley Ferguson found Anthony Miller for an 84-yard touchdown. Miller beat the corner on a streak and made the safety miss on his way to the end zone, putting the Tigers up 7-0.
Two fumbles in a row by Kansas led to two field goals by Elliot, 41 and 42 yards, to stretch the lead to 13-0.
Michael Edwards forced the first fumble after Genard Avery stripped the quarterback. The second fumble, forced by Shareef White, was picked up and returned 50 yards by Jonathan Cook.
Memphis started the second quarter with a quick score as Doroland Dorceus rushed for a six-yard touchdown. Norvell elected to go for the two-point conversion but Miller was stopped short of the goal line to keep the score 19-0.
Kansas responded with a 66-yard touchdown run by Khalil Herbert, who found a hole and outran the Tiger defense, cutting the Memphis lead to 19-7
Both teams traded punts until John Williams returned one 31 yard to the Kansas 29 yard-line. Ferguson took advantage of the good field position finding Phil Mayhue on a fade route for the 6-yard score, stretching the Tigers lead to 26-7.
Edwards recovered his second fumble of the game, but the Tigers’ offense struggled and lost 33 yards after getting to the Jayhawks 13 yard-line. Memphis was forced to punt but a bad snap resulted in a loss of 16 yards.
Jonathan Wilson intercepted a pass on the next play and returned it 61 yards for a touchdown, giving Memphis a 33-7 halftime lead.
The third quarter remained scoreless until Jake Elliot made a 50-yard field goal with 35 seconds left to make the score 36-7.
After a turnover on downs gave Memphis the ball at the Kansas 33 yard-line, Tony Pollard beat the defenders to the corner of the end zone for and 8- yard touchdown. Elliot made his fourth extra point of the game to give the Tigers a 43-7 lead.
Kansas threatened to score again midway through the fourth quarter, but White intercepted a pass inside the Memphis 15 yard-line.
The Tigers’ offense struggled at times throughout the game, but the defense always stepped up.
“The defense had to step up after an offense and special teams miscue,” head coach Mike Norvell said, talking about Wilson’s pick-six.
Wilson’s touchdown was the first of his career.
“It surprised me; he threw it right to me,” Wilson said. “I thought I was going to get caught.”
Along with playing well defensively, Memphis was able to run the football for 205 yards. Freshman Patrick Taylor Jr., who’s leading the Tigers in rushing through two games with 174 yards, led the way with 88 yards on the ground.
“I knew coming in that I had to play with a chip on my shoulder,” Taylor Jr. said. “I’m just playing my role that they want me to play.”
For the second year in a row, Memphis has started 2-0. Next week, the Tigers will try to keep the momentum going as Bowling Green comes to the Liberty Bowl. The game will be shown on ESPNEWS at 7 p.m.