The Memphis Tigers roared.
The players roared on the field. The cheerleaders and dance squads of both teams roared on the sidelines. The legion of fans in blue and the smaller cadre of fans in red roared in the stands along the sides of their sharply dressed bands. Even Govs’ head coach Rick Christophel roared.
Everyone in the Liberty Bowl on Saturday, Sept. 17, roared except the Govs’ offense. Turnovers and missed opportunities left the Govs at the mercy of the Tigers. The result was the Govs 10th straight loss, 27-6.
The Govs improved from the questionable performance against the Bearcats in the season opener. They outrushed the Tigers 123-113 yards and produced 368 total yards of offense. In addition, the defense forced three Memphis fumbles, although the Tigers only lost possession of one.
“I thought the effort was great, it was an absolute great effort,” Christophel said. “Defensively, I thought we tackled better, we got after the ball carriers better. Offensively, I thought we executed better in the passing game. There are a lot of things, though, we can improve, but we are getting closer and closer.”
Senior tailback Ryan White led the offense with 87-rushing and 37 receiving yards. He scored the Govs’ only touchdown on a 13-yard catch and run in the last five minutes of the third quarter.
Junior quarterback Jake Ryan completed a career best 23 passes for 245 yards. His favorite target was junior wide receiver Devin Stark. Stark pulled down nine catches for 107 yards, also a personal best. However, Ryan spread the wealth too, by completing passes to seven different players.
The problem was two of Ryan’s passes went to the other team and only one went into the end zone. The Govs failed to complete long-offensive drives.
Uncharacteristically, junior kicker Stephen Stansell finished the game 0-2, missing both 33-yard and 43-yard field goals.
The first miss came at the end of the Govs’ first offensive drive that went 10 plays for 46 yards. The second came at the end of the first quarter after the Govs recovered a Tiger fumble and drove 59 yards on 11 plays.
Conversely, the Tigers scored 10 points in the second quarter and never looked back.
Tiger quarterback Taylor Reed completed 20 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns.
The last touchdown was a short pass from his own 6-yard line to Billy Foster. Foster broke a tackle and sprinted 93 yards for the score with only two minutes left in the game.
The Govs only score came at the end of 12-play, 80-yard drive with just under five minutes left in the third quarter.
After White’s 13-yard touchdown reception, the Govs’ frustrations continued on a botched snap that prevented Stansell from even attempting an extra point.
This was the seventh time the Govs played Memphis, the first time they played in the Liberty Bowl. The last time they played was in 1957.
After this loss, the Govs return home to play their first conference game against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, Sept. 24, in Governor’s Stadium.
The following week the team will stay at Governor’s Stadium to play their first game in the Sgt. York Series against Tennessee e State. TAS