Auburn pulls away from Memphis for the Birmingham Bowl victory
It took Auburn about three and half quarters to get going, but three straight touchdown drives in the second half puts Memphis away. Auburn wins the 10th annual Birmingham Bowl 31-10.
The Memphis Tigers never seem to get going or have a rhythm. Their game plan didn’t seem aggressive and receivers were dropping balls. Paxton Lynch only had 104 yards on 17-of-38 passing. Going into the game, many thought that Lynch would be able to gash the Auburn secondary, but that was not the case. The SEC defense showed up and shutdown the Memphis attack.
Auburn did come out aggressive with a successful fake punt on 4th & 4 from the 36 on their first drive. The drive would stall out inside the five and Auburn settles for a field goal. That SEC defense roughs up Memphis on their first drive after picking up one first down. Auburn would strike back with a 10 play, 74-yard drive ending with a Kerryon Johnson 8-yard touchdown. The next Memphis drive was a three & out. The first quarter was all Auburn, leading 10-0. Auburn had 146 total yards to Memphis’ 17. Time-of-possession was 11:46 to 3:14. Auburn had 9 first downs to Memphis’ 1.
Another Memphis drive fizzles out to start the 2nd quarter but Jake Elliot nails a 53-yarder to get Memphis on the board. Auburn leads 10-3 with 10:03 left in the half. A Memphis pick six by Regis Ball ties the game up at 10 and the 2nd quarter is all Memphis with 3 interceptions and 10 unanswered points. The story going into the locker room was the health of Paxton Lynch.
Lynch sprained his left wrist before halftime but came back out to start the 2nd half. Memphis survived 4 dropped passes on the first drive of the 2nd half, but eventually turned it over on the 13th play of the drive when a pass popped up in the air, and was intercepted in the end zone. Auburn eventually breaks the tie with a Jason Smith 11-yard TD reception from Jeremy Johnson, after an 8 play drive with 3:12 left in the 3rd quarter. Auburn leads 17-10 heading into the 4th quarter.
The 4th quarter starts with a 5-yard Jeremy Johnson keeper for the touchdown. Auburn leads 24-10 after scoring 14 unanswered on back-to-back drives. After a 56 yard punt return, Auburn scores 2 plays later on a 4-yard Jovon Robinson run. Auburn scores 21 unanswered points on 3 straight drives and puts the Birmingham Bowl away 31-10. Auburn finishes 7-6 on the year, while Memphis finishes the season 9-4.
A win for the Memphis Tigers would have been huge. They would have swept the SEC, and more importantly swept Power 5 teams this year after beating Ole Miss and Kansas. The program now moves forward with Mike Norvell taking over for Justin Fuente, who was not available to coach Memphis in the bowl game.
Norvell will have his hands full trying to replace Paxton Lynch, who has without a doubt been the most successful Memphis Tiger quarterback ever.
There are many questions looming over the Tigers 2016 campaign. Will Norvell pick up where Fuente left off? Will Paxton Lynch declare for the NFL? How much of the Tigers success has been the combination of Fuente and Lynch? Did Memphis do enough to impress the BIG 12, in hopes of landing a Power 5 conference bid?
One thing is certain…the Memphis football program has won respect and given it’s fans a reason to be excited about the future of blue and gray football.
Brandon Reid covers NCAAF and the Memphis Tigers for MyFantasySportsTalk.com, you can follow him on Twitter @New_Breid
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You can follow Brandon on Twitter @New_Breid