The Memphis Tigers defeated the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats convincingly 56-14 in their home opener. Memphis starts off the 2023-24 regular season with a 1-0 record.
The game was a defensive affair as the Tigers shut out the offense and held Bethune-Cookman to 91 total yards. Both Bethune-Cookman touchdowns came in the form of a pick-six and a fumble recovery.
"I thought the defense did a nice job," said head coach Ryan Silverfield. "The defense shut them out. The offense gave up two scores which is unacceptable. The defense played hard... I thought the effort was there. I think they played with a higher motor than what we needed to."
The defense totaled four sacks and two fumbles, with one being recovered. Andres Fox led the way with five tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Memphis led in every category as they dominated the first downs 27-to-4 and the total yardage 551-to-91.
Junior quarterback Seth Henigan went 27-for-36 and threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns. However, he did have some hiccups as he threw two interceptions with one being returned for a touchdown. Besides that, Henigan's night was highlighted by a 47-yard touchdown to Toledo transfer Demeer Blankumsee.
Blankumsee led the team in receiving with six catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. Junior receiver Roc Taylor caught six passes for 78 yards with four catches and 66 yards coming in the first quarter.
The motor of the offense was the run game as Sutton Smith and Blake Watson combined for nearly 200 yards on the ground. The two rushers each made a name for themselves by conquering some feats.
Old Dominion transfer Blake Watson carried the ball 10 times for 75 yards and a game-high three touchdowns in his Memphis debut. Watson is the first Memphis running back to score three touchdowns in a single game since Darrell Henderson back in 2018. The grad transfer also caught five passes for 37 yards.
Sophomore running back Sutton Smith took 18 carries and rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Smith became the first 100-yard single-game rusher for Memphis since Brandon Thomas back in 2021.
Memphis looked very comfortable on both sides of the field. Unfortunately, the turnovers early by Seth Henigan were not a good sign, especially with one coming in the red zone. Also, the Tigers were held back by penalties which caused them to settle for a field goal twice in the first half. Despite that, they bounced back and took control as good defense turned into good offense.
Coach Silverfield emphasized his team making sure they do not commit silly penalties such as Brandon Thomas' roughing the kicker penalty before halftime. Overall, he gave his team around a B minus performance as there is room for improvement, but he is impressed with the effort that his guys gave in front of the 26,632 fans in attendance.
Next up for Memphis is a road trip to Jonesboro next week in a rivalry matchup versus Arkansas State. Last year, the Tigers defeated the Red Wolves 44-32 in a thriller at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.
Kickoff for the game will be Saturday at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN+.