Photo: via Twitter (@memphisfb_fanly)

 

Memphis hadn’t beat a ranked opponent since 1996. That was the number 6th ranked Tennessee Volunteers of the SEC. Today, the number 13th ranked Ole Miss Rebels, of the SEC, came to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. They left with their second loss of the year, and left Memphis with a 13 game winning streak. Memphis beats Ole Miss 37-24 in front of 60,241 fans, one of the largest crowds ever at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

The game started out rough for Memphis. Ole Miss came out with a full bag of tricks, scoring on the second play of the game. A wide receiver screen pass from Chad Kelly, to Laquon Treadwell, to Quincy Adeboyejo for a 68 yard touchdown. Penalties killed the Tigers first drive and Ole Miss took advantage. This time with a 90 yard drive that ended with a 23 yard Kelly to Damore’ea Stringfellow touchdown. Rebels lead 14-0 just over five minutes into the game.

The Tigers settled down, limited mistakes, and got on the board with a 70 yard drive. Paxton Lynch to Alan Cross for a one yard touchdown. The game also settled down a bit in the second quarter as well. The first score of the second quarter didn’t come until 3:49 left when Jake Elliot hit a 23 yard field goal to cut the Ole Miss lead to four. After a Chad Kelly interception, the Tigers score three plays later as Sam Craft punches in a four yard touchdown. Tigers claim the lead, 17-14.

After a huge four down stop by the Tigers where they held Chad Kelly to no gain on a 4th & 1 keeper play, the Tigers take advantage of the short field and add to their lead before the half. Lynch completes four straight passes for 42 yards, culminating with a six yard touchdown pass to Anthony Miller. Tigers take a 24-14 lead into the locker room.

Memphis has all of the momentum, in front of an exhilarated Liberty Bowl crowd, at the halftime break. They got into a huge hole early on, but responded with 24 unanswered points. Also, it was determined at halftime that the Rebels star defensive end, Robert Nkemdiche, would be out the rest of the game with a concussion.

Memphis got the ball to start the third quarter and took just 3:29 to strike again. Lynch to Mose Frazier for 31 yards, giving Memphis a 31-14 lead. The rest of the quarter belonged to Ole Miss. A six yard Kelly to Treadwell touchdown, and a 24 yard Gary Wunderlich field goal. The Rebels settled down, stopped Memphis on enough plays, and scored ten points of their own to cut the lead to a touchdown heading into the fourth quarter.

The two teams come out and trade punts to start the fourth quarter. Paxton Lynch then leads Memphis on a 9 play drive where he threw for 31 more yards. The drive stalled out, but Memphis kicker Jake Elliot added three more on a 42 yard field goal. The Tigers hold Ole Miss to a three and out, then proceed to run 7:57 off the clock on a 16 play, 70 yard drive that ended on another Jake Elliot field goal with just 55 seconds left. The Memphis Tigers beat #13 Ole Miss 37-24!

Photo: via Twitter (@uofmemphis)

As of this moment, this is the biggest win in school history. Not only does Memphis’ school record winning streak stay intact, they are now 6-0, bowl eligible once again, the win came against a ranked SEC opponent, and it just happened to be their biggest football rival, Ole Miss.

Photo: via Twitter (@memphisfb_fanly)

The line on the game was 10.5 points, Ole Miss. Memphis was ranked 106 in defensive yards allowed per game. Today, they gave up 480 yards to Ole Miss but had the ball 15 more minutes and got 31 first downs, allowing their defense to rest for when they were needed the most. Ole Miss had 40 yards rushing on 24 attempts. Chad Kelly had as many picks, as he did touchdowns. The defense held in the fourth quarter while the offense salted the game away with 48 more rushing yards.

Paxton Lynch finished 39-of-53 for 384 yards and 3 touchdowns. Chad Kelly finished 33-of-47 for 372 yards and 2 touchdowns. Laquon Treadwell for Ole Miss had 14 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown. Anthony Miller, a local Memphis kid and Tiger receiver, had 10 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. Mose Frazier had 8 catches for 83 yards and a huge 31 yard touchdown to start the third quarter.

A lot of credit has to be given to the Tigers coaching staff. It feels like Justin Fuente was one step ahead of Hugh Freeze all day and that his coordinators, Darrell Dickey and Brad Cornelsen, were calling plays one step ahead of Ole Miss’ defense today. And Galen Scott’s defense picked a hell of a time to play their best game of the year. The Tigers simply made enough plays on defense, to let the offense stay on top. That was always going to be the obvious key to victory, but the Tigers did it convincingly.

I will admit the loss of Robert Nkemdiche made this a different game. Ole Miss was getting pressure around Paxton Lynch, but were unable to collapse on him the majority of the time. One more rusher flying through there, not to mention one as good as Robert is, and Lynch is going to have a lot tougher day. However, Ole Miss was the ranked team coming in, #13 team from the mighty SEC. Not the Memphis Tigers, from the American Athletic Conference, unranked, looking to go 6-0 and win their 13th straight game. The loss of one player shouldn’t make that big of a difference when you’re a team ranked as high as Ole Miss playing Memphis. Right?

 

My Final Take

This win leaves Memphis in a very good position. They deserve to be in the Top 20. Not only are they bowl eligible, they are 6-0, on the longest winning ride in school history, and aligning themselves for what could be a season that produces their most prestigious bowl game ever. Almost as important, this win was on national television. The stadium was rockin’ and the Big 12 was watchin’. The stadium being full, and everyone having a good time in Memphis, on national television, was the key today. In a city that needs positive things right now, outside the Grizzlies, Memphis football has provided that new fall energy that the city isn’t use to. Five years ago, the Memphis football program was literally one of the worst programs in the FBS. The true fans would have settled for 6-6 in those days. But this is something that beats all expectations. This is the moment that the nation opens it’s eyes to Memphis football.  For most die-hard Memphis fans, this has to be surreal. But they will also tell you, this was a great win, over a rival school, but we play at Tulsa on Friday night. Tulsa…you’re #14.

 

 

What bowl game do you see the Memphis Tigers making this year? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Brandon Reid covers NCAAF and the Memphis Tigers for MyFantasySportsTalk.com, you can follow him on Twitter @New_Breid

Brandon ReidAmerican AthleticAnalysisFootballNCAAFNews and UpdatesRecent PostsSEC#football,AAC,ABC,American Athletic Conference,Anthony Miller,Chad Kelly,Hugh Freeze,Justin Fuente,Laquon Treadwell,Memphis,Mose Frazier,NCAA,Ole Miss,Paxton Lynch,Robert Nkemdiche,SEC  Memphis hadn't beat a ranked opponent since 1996. That was the number 6th ranked Tennessee Volunteers of the SEC. Today, the number 13th ranked Ole Miss Rebels, of the SEC, came to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. They left with their second loss of the year, and left Memphis...Why go anywhere else for sports and entertainment?