The annual Battle of the Bones rivalry between the Memphis Tigers (5-2, 2-1) and the UAB Blazers (2-6, 1-3) kicked off for the first time since 2012. This matchup saw the Tigers defeat the Blazers 45-21 in Birmingham and take home the Bones Trophy.
The win was a much-needed bounce-back for Memphis after a season-changing loss to Tulane last Friday. Turnovers proved to be the deciding factor in the game in Memphis’ win.
The game started off rough for the Tigers as UAB drove down the field in three plays, scoring the game’s first touchdown in 56 seconds to go up 8-0. Memphis retaliated with a touchdown drive of their own as Brandon Thomas took it in from two yards out to make it 8-7.
Each team scored on their second drive to even the score at 14. However, the game's first turnover came midway through the second quarter. Memphis’ Malik Feaster took a pick-6 36 yards to the endzone to put the Tigers up 21-14.
UAB would come back on the next drive and even the score as quarterback Landry Liddy hit Bryce Damous for 29 yards. The Blazers would threaten to score before halftime, but Jaylon Allen stuffed UAB on 4th-and-2 to end their scoring hopes.
The score was 21-21 at halftime.
The score shocked many as UAB, who were without starting quarterback Jacob Zeno, shredded the Memphis defense. The Tigers' defense gave up 332 total yards with 190 coming off the ground.
Memphis started the second half with a solid opening drive resulting in a 42-yard field goal from Tanner Gillis to put them up 24-21.
The switch would flip on defense as in the next possession, CorMontae Hamilton would get the team’s first sack of the game. On the very next play, Simeon Blair intercepted the ball and returned it 41 yards to the UAB 8-yard line. On the next snap, Blake Watson rushed it in for a touchdown from 8 yards out to put Memphis up 31-21.
After forcing a UAB punt, the Tigers drive 82 yards down the field and cap the drive off with a Seth Henigan 4-yard touchdown throw to tight end Anthony Landphere.
In the ensuing UAB drive, Chandler Martin forced a fumble that was recovered by Simeon Blair. After making nothing of the turnover, Cameron Smith would intercept Landry Liddy for the team’s fourth forced turnover of the game.
The Memphis offense would then kill the clock with a 9-minute and 28-second drive, resulting in the dagger by Brandon Thomas to put the score 45-21 in favor of Memphis.
Memphis walked out with the Bones Trophy thanks to a beautiful second-half defensive effort to clinch their second conference win of the season.
Seth Henigan went 19-28 for 159 passing yards, 36 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Blake Watson rushed for 125 yards and 1 touchdown, his third 100-yard rushing game this season.
Malik Feaster led the defense with the game’s only pick-six. Cameron Smith and Simeon Blair each intercepted a pass. Chandler Martin forced a fumble that was recovered by Simeon Blair.
A win like this goes a long way for the Tigers as it shows their resiliency even in a shootout, whether they were favored or not.
Despite a very slow start from the defense, fans have to be positive about the offense as they gave up zero turnovers and kept the team in the game. The main point of the season has been the defense starting off hot and the offense starting off slow.
Memphis has all the potential to run the table and get that AAC Championship game spot despite a devastating loss to Tulane.
The Tigers will stay on the road and travel to Denton, Texas to face conference foe North Texas, the hometown of quarterback Seth Henigan.
Kickoff is set for Saturday at 2 p.m. CT on ESPN+.