Memphis traveled to Jonesboro and dominated the Red Wolves 37-3 to win the 62nd Paint Bucket Bowl and their fifth straight versus the cross-state rival. The win moves the Tigers to 2-0 on the season.
The Memphis defense stood out as they held Arkansas State to just 235 total yards and forced four turnovers. J.T. Shrout had nowhere to go with the football and went 12/23 with 79 yards and two interceptions. Jaxon Dailey subbed for him in the 2nd half, but he was also ineffective in relief. Arkansas State’s running game offered no support against Matt Barnes' defense as the running back core was held to just 2.3 yards per carry.
The Tigers' secondary has been the bright spot of the 2023 season, and Memphis fans should feel ecstatic about the quality of talent in the room.
First, defensive back Cameron Smith forced an interception in the 1st quarter. Then, redshirt freshman DJ Bell got a pick-six off of Strout in the 2nd quarter. Additionally, redshirt sophomore DeAgo Brumfield had a standout game with a near pick-six followed up with a fantastic defensive play on a deep ball.
Memphis has already forced seven turnovers this season, with a defensive touchdown after DJ Bell returned a pick-six off Strout in the 2nd quarter. Through two contests, the Tigers' defense has yet to allow a touchdown. They’ve been dominant in all aspects so far, allowing a combined 330 yards in both of their matchups.
Quarterback Seth Henigan had a strong outing going 21-for-29 with 239 passing yards and two touchdowns, including a seven-yard scramble for a score. The decision-making was sharp all day, and he flexed the deep ball with two passes of 45+ yards. One deep ball connected with receiver Tauskie Dove for a 52-yard touchdown in the 2nd quarter. A definite improvement from last week's outing versus Bethune-Cookman.
Eight different receivers caught passes today as the Tigers incorporated nearly the entire wide receiver room. Senior receiver Joseph Scates stood out from this group today, with a 45-yard catch early in the 2nd quarter and an 8-yard touchdown reception the next drive to give Memphis a 10-0 lead.
However, that is not to say this was a perfect game for Memphis.
The rushing game struggled all day long with only 3.7 yards per carry on the night. The Red Wolves were simply the better team at the line of scrimmage. This is a worrisome sign as the rushing game has been a big concern for the Tigers the past few seasons under head coach Ryan Silverfield.
Overall, Memphis handled business in a rivalry game versus a team that gave them trouble last season. As heavy favorites, the Tigers put away any hope of a contest midway through the 2nd quarter.
This is a sign of progress as Memphis found itself in many close contests with struggling teams last season. Imposing their will on a beaten-down Arkansas State team shows the Tigers can play four quarters of great football. Plus, it always feels good to beat up on a rival.
Memphis will have a short week of rest as they battle Navy on Thursday at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6:30 PM central time on ESPN.