On December 23rd, Memphis Football headed down to Dallas after receiving their 9th straight bowl invitation. The First Responders Bowl was located at Gerald J. Ford Stadium where SMU plays— ironically the last place Memphis ended the regular season with a loss against SMU.
The Tigers were ready for redemption. The First Responders Bowl honors all first responders who risk their lives for the lives of others.
Utah State and Memphis last played each other in 1977. Both teams went into this bowl game 6-6.
“We have yet to play a good complete 4 quarter-game this season. So hopefully we can go out tomorrow and show that we can do that,” said Koby Drake, wide reciever.
In a bowl game, it comes down to who wants the win more.
The game started rather roughly, as Seth had two sacks in the first. However, things quickly started to turn around.
With just a minute left in the first, Chris Howard puts the first set of points on the board for the Tigers— a smart choice by Silverfield to kick a field goal.
Utah State then managed to kick a 53-yard field goal tying the game up 3-3.
Memphis recovers the ball in the second and Seth threw a beautiful 15-yard pass to Eddie Lewis for the first touchdown of the game. Tigers-10, Aggies- 3.
With just under three minutes remaining in the second, Eddie Lewis did it again, scoring his second touchdown and bringing the score 17-3.
Image via Zach Wall
That wasn’t the end of the second just yet. With 33 seconds remaining, Silverfield called a timeout. That timeout was game-changing for the Tigers. Immediately following, Seth throws a three-yard pass to #86, Caden Prieskorn, for the third touchdown of the game.
Memphis led at the half, 24-3.
After the first quarter, Utah's defense looked tired and lost momentum. Utah State quarterback, Cooper Legas, left in the second after what appeared to be a severe leg injury.
The Aggies put in their backup QB, Bishop Davenport, who played just his third time this season. The more Memphis scored, the more confident the Tigers became. Seth had a huge turnaround with 217-yards at the half.
The Tigers weren’t slowing down.
The third quarter began with the Aggies throwing an interception and Memphis picked it up on the 48-yard line. The third quarter was rather uneventful, Seth got sacked with 3:58 remaining in the third, and a fumble caused Utah State to recover the ball. The third quarter ended with a 42 yd completed pass to Skates, and Memphis gets the first down.
Utah State scores its first touchdown in the 4th with 11:12 on the clock. Memphis then goes for an onside kick recovered by Memphis and with 7 minutes remaining, Ducker scores a touchdown putting Memphis ahead 31-10.
To end the game strong, with just three minutes remaining, Ducker ran a 48-yard touchdown, ending the game, Memphis 38, Utah State, 10.
The Tigers are The First Responder Bowl champs.
After a long season, this is the win Memphis needed. Out of all games, this season this was one where Memphis appeared strong for all four quarters. Eddie Lewis and Seth Henigan had an incredible game. The MVP award of the game went to Henigan who gave the game all he had.
Post-game, Coach Silverfield thanked the support of all the Memphis fans and the city of Dallas for being such a great host.
Coach was asked, “How did it feel getting that first win in Dallas?”
Image via Zach Wall
He responded, ”You think about the last time in this stadium and that is the story of our season. I think the bounce back by guys like Seth shows you what resiliency is all about. It is all about the t eam and it is an honor to be their head coach.”
Post-Game, Seth Henigan also talked about the second quarter spark.
“I took a couple of sacks early that stalled out plays. We had a lot of penalties. Coming into the game we were one of the least penalized teams. We had a lot of flagged plays that stalled our drives. In the second quarter, the spark helped us win the game. The rest of the game and second half, we just wanted to maintain clock management.”
The Utah State coach also touched on their loss. “What do you attribute to the play against Memphis,” someone asked.
“Just the inability to create anything. Other than the first drive, and the one we got the touchdown there just wasn’t any rhythm. We looked confused at times. We struggled to protect at times and there was no consistency. We have to get better to compete at the level that we want,” said Coach Blake Anderson.
Silverfield was beyond proud of ending the 2022 season with a win.
“To get a bowl win and end as a champion, there are only so many teams that can end the year as champions.”
The Tigers will now go back to Memphis with another bowl victory and begin preparation for the 2023 season.