With coaching rumors swirling and Paxton Lynch in the top 10 of NFL Draft boards, there’s a decent chance Saturday afternoon’s contest between Memphis and SMU was the final game at the Liberty Bowl for Lynch and Tigers’ coach Justin Fuente.
If it was, then they both went out with a bang, lighting up the scoreboard and the record books in a convincing 63-0 annihilation of the Mustangs.
During the game news broke from multiple sources, including ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, that Fuente is accepting the head coaching job at Virginia Tech, and an announcement is expected to be made next week.
In his post-game press conference, Fuente spoke on the rumors and called the reports “premature.”
“There’s a time to address those things and that’s not right now,” the Memphis coach added. “The focus needs to be on our kids and the performance that they put on.”
SMU (2-10, 1-7 AAC) has endured a tumultuous season so far, but had shown improvement in recent weeks with a blowout win over Tulane and an impressive 40-point outing in a loss to Temple. The Mustangs looked to have finally turned a corner at the end of their season. However, all of that was seemingly erased when the two teams kicked off.
The Tigers (9-3, 5-3 AAC) wasted no time getting on with the destruction, scoring 28 points in the game’s opening quarter. Memphis added 28 more in the second period to take a commanding 56-0 lead into the halftime break. Memphis continually capitalized on SMU mistakes to take control of the contest, forcing four Mustang turnovers and also blocking a punt in the first half.
Memphis cooled off in the second half, with mostly backups taking the field. The Tigers’ only second half score came at the end of the third quarter, when Jackson Dillon recovered a fumble in the end zone.
Lynch only played half the game, but that didn’t stop him from making history. The junior quarterback broke both the Memphis and American Athletic Conference records for touchdown passes in a game with seven. He was also hyper efficient, completing only nine passes to reach the seven TD mark. And if Lynch’s day wasn’t already impressive enough, he spread the wealth around to seven different receivers, each one notching a score.
“We just had good athletes against their guys, they were kind of pressing us up, and our play action, we run the ball really well as well, so when we ran play action we just had guys running wide open down the field and they were making great plays,” Lynch said. “I’ve never thrown seven touchdowns in a half, let alone a whole game — I mean in my first year here I barely even threw seven touchdowns.”
Lynch’s future with the Tigers is also unknown. He is currently projected to be a first round NFL Draft selection, and could be taken in the first 10 picks.
“I’m moving on to the bowl game, and then after that I’ll see what happens after that,” Lynch said.
While Lynch had a monster day, SMU quarterback Matt Davis faced nothing but disaster on the opposite end of the field. Davis completed only 4-of-18 of his passing attempts for 28 yards and an interception. The Mustangs’ offense was non-existent throughout the game, gaining only 97 yards to Memphis’ 483.
For the Tigers, the victory caps off a second straight season in which the program won nine games and will play in a postseason bowl game. An announcement for a bowl game has not yet been announced. Last season Memphis traveled to Miami, defeating BYU 55-48 in overtime of the Miami Beach Bowl.
Tigers tight end Daniel Montiel walks into the end zone after catching one of Paxton Lynch's seven touchdown passes in Memphis' 63-0 victory over SMU.