Memphis football fans have now worn two Halloween costumes since the Tigers last lost a game. In coming from behind to beat the Green Wave Saturday night at the Liberty Bowl, Memphis improved to 8-0 on the season and earned its 15th consecutive victory, a program record that's been growing for weeks now. Junior quarterback Paxton Lynch
passed for 343 yards (his seventh consecutive game over 300) and tossed his 18th touchdown pass of the season to lead a Tiger offense that gained 581 yards (compared with 270 for Tulane).
"We knew going into the game they were very good up front," said Memphis coach Justin Fuente. "They possessed the ball almost the whole first quarter. We felt our best chance was to lean on them a bit, and we weren't getting that opportunity. But once we got settled down, and found some rhythm, we were able to have success."
Behind third-string quarterback Jordy Joseph (making his first start), Tulane swallowed 11:13 of playing time on its opening possession before taking a 6-0 lead with a three-yard touchdown run by Dontrell Hilliard. (The PAT was blocked by Memphis linebacker Jackson Dillon
.) Hilliard scored again on a 43-yard gallop early in the second quarter to give the Green Wave a 13-0 lead, the fourth time this season the Tigers have allowed at least 10 points before scoring themselves. (Fuente considers a generally "over-anxious" group of players responsible for the trend.)
Memphis finally got on the scoreboard almost five minutes into the second quarter when sophomore Doroland Dorceus
completed a 76-yard drive with his seventh touchdown of the season, a two-yard run. Two Jake Elliott
field goals and a safety after a botched Tulane punt attempt game the Tigers a 15-13 lead at halftime. (Elliott added a third field goal in the second half to tie Joe Allison for second in Memphis history with 51 for his career.)
The score remained tight until a five-minute stretch late in the third quarter and bridging the fourth, when the Tigers put up 19 points. Freshman tailback Jamarius Henderson
took a screen pass and sprinted down the left side of the field for a 43-yard touchdown, and sophomore wideout Anthony Miller
took a handoff from Lynch on a reverse, changed directions, and followed a Lynch block into the left corner of the end zone for a 15-yard score.
completed the game's scoring with a one-yard touchdown run with 8:16 left in the contest. The Tigers have now scored at least 40 points in six of their eight games.
Fuente dismissed any notion of the Tigers looking past Tulane, the Green Wave having entered the game as heavy underdogs. "We don't talk about [the spread]," he said. " I don't know if they're aware of it or not. The kids felt like they should win the game. When things don't go well and you're supposed to win, how do you respond to that? That's a different feeling than when no one thinks you can win."
Lynch acknowledged some frustration at having to watch so much football after the game's kickoff as Tulane bled the clock on its opening drive. "It's very hard," he said. "You get warmed up for the game, you're ready to go in, and they take the whole first quarter. You just have to stay locked in and be ready when it's your turn." Lynch completed 26 of 42 passes without an interception.
led the Tiger receivers with seven catches for 107 yards. Mose Frazier
also caught seven passes for 75 yards. Dorceus led the Tiger ground attack with 45 yards while Lynch added 43.
The Tigers host Navy next Saturday in the first of three consecutive showdowns that will determine who plays in the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship. Navy beat USF Saturday to improve to 6-1 on the season. The Midshipmen, like the Tigers, are 4-0 in AAC play.