If the Tigers had any hope at a winning season and a bowl bid, the squad needed a win today.
So they went out at the Liberty Bowl against the Black Knights of Army and got one.
And in the process, the Tigers broke records for a freshman quarterbacks numbers and the number of touchdowns in a game by a quarterback. Also, the Tigers tied the numbers for number of tackles in the season by a defensive back.
Tiger QB Danny Wimprine led the way, accounting for five touchdowns and 203 yards of offense. Wimprine found receiver Bunkie Perkins for a 38 yard touchdown pass, receiver Ryan Johnson for a three yard pass, and receiver Antoine Harden twice for touchdown passes from 12 yards and 67 yards out. Wimprine also ran in one of his own from the Army one yard line. Rounding out the score was running back Dante Brown with a six yard run to the end zone. Brown ended the day with 80 yards on 18 carries.
Wimprines performance broke two Memphis records, for the number of touchdowns by a quarterback in a game, and also for overall performance by a freshman quarterback for the squad.
In response, the usually affluent Army (2-8, 2-5) offense had little to offer in the way of scoring. Though the Black Knights racked up 321 yards of total offense (only fifty yards less than the Tigers), the only scores came from a 41 yard kick by Derek Jacobs and a one yard run from running back C.J. Young.
Army was without the services of starting quarterback Chad Jenkins, who sat with injuries. Back-up Curtis Zervic filled in with 16 pass completions on 33 attempts for 154 yards. Zervic was replaced in the game by Reggie Nevels who threw for no completions but did run for 65 yards.
The Tigers (5-5, 3-3) stopped Army from scoring on any number of occasions, most notably stopping a 13 play, 85 yard Army drive that resulted in no points. Tiger defensive back Glenn Sumter took a share of his own record with his seven tackles on the day. The Memphis coaches will officially grade the tape tomorrow, but if Sumters numbers stand, he has officially tied Jeremy Williams for overall tackles by a defensive back for a season with 123. Also, Sumters pulled in an interception and a fumble for the game. The interception ties Sumter for third in career interceptions for the Tigers.
Head coach Tommy West said that his team responded to his call early in the week. Im really proud of our guys, he said. If we look back from where were coming from, the win becomes important for us. The coach is alluding to the Tigers dismal offensive performances earlier in the season where such heroics by the quarterback would be unheralded.
On the Tigers success in the air, West said that the Army squad didnt play defense in a way that he had expected. They walked up and pressed us, he said. We didnt anticipate that. Weve been pretty successful against press defenses and we got some balls past them.
However, West also attributes his teams success to an improving receiving corps. Were running routes, West said, noting that the margin of error is only two yards. These routes have to be precise. So now your quarterback knows where [the receivers] are going to be.
On the defensive end, West said he wasnt surprised of Sumters performance. Sumters a guy who does his job all the time, West said. I think hes got great vision. Hes sees [the field] well. And he understands the defense. He studies it.
The win places Memphis just one shy of a winning season, the first for Memphis since 1994, and bowl eligibility. The Tigers face the University of Cincinnati at the Liberty Bowl, Saturday, November 24, at 1 p.m. West says that his squads biggest challenge is to play consistently throughout the game. We played really well in spurts, West cautioned. Well have to do that for sixty minutes next week in order to win.