Photo: Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports

 

This game had everything! An early fumble, an early pick six, a QB gets knocked out, the freshman backup QB comes in and sets the school record, 12 lead changes and offense offense offense. ESPN picked a winner for their Thursday Night primetime game as the Memphis Tigers score with 53 seconds left to beat Cincinnati, 53-46, for their 11th straight win.

The game started out rough for the Tigers when Sam Craft fumbled on the second play of the game, setting up a Gunner Kiel rushing TD to put Cincy up 7-0. After a Tiger punt, Kiel goes to work again but this time throws a pick six to Arthur Maulet for 52 yards. The game is tied 7-7, less than five minutes in. Cincy would add a field goal and Memphis would again respond with an 82 yard bomb from Paxton Lynch to Anthony Miller. The Tigers lead 14-10 going into the second quarter.

Late in the first quarter, Cincinnati would have the ball and a play occurred that would change the course of the game, the tone of the game, and Cincinnati school history…

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Gunner Kiel would be taken into the locker, then eventually to a local hospital. Enter freshman quarterback Hayden Moore. Moore gets off to a quick start putting the Bearcats back on top with a 68 yard TD pass to Chris Moore. Three minute later, Mose Frazier would put the Tigers back on top with a nine yard TD run. In case you lost track, it’s now 21-17, Tigers lead. Cincinnati kicker Andrew Gantz would add his second and third field goals of the night to put Cincy back on top 23-21. Less than a minute later…BANG! That was the sound of Jarvis Cooper running a Cincinnati defender over in route to a four yard TD run. Tigers lead 28-23. That lead holds for about three more minutes until Hayden Moore strikes again with a 21 yard TD pass to Shaq Washington. The Bearcats head into the locker room to check on the health of Gunner Kiel with a 30-28 lead.

The pace would slow a bit and the defenses would step up as the two teams traded field goals in the third. After 8 lead changes to this point, we head into the fourth quarter with Cincinnati on top, 33-31.

Now that both teams got their rest in the third quarter, it was time for a shootout. Paxton Lynch versus the freshman Hayden Moore. Moore trying to put the team on his back and carry them out of Memphis with a victory. Lynch would strike first with an eight yard TD pass to Alan Cross to put the Tigers back up 38-33. Moore shows no signs of wilting under the pressure and fires right back with a TD pass of his own. A 40 yard bomb to Max Morrison. Bearcats back on top 39-38, after failing to convert on the two point conversion attempt. It was then time for Sam Craft to announce himself and make up for that early fumble. Craft puts the Tigers back up with a five yard run with 7:07 left in the game. Paxton Lynch would run in for the two point conversion, Tigers lead 46-39.

What a crazy game. For those of you having a hard keeping up, that is eleven lead changes at this point. And everyone in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, and watching live on ESPN, had the sense that this thing was far from over. And we were all right. Hayden Moore to Max Morrison once again, this time a 30 yard completion for a TD. We are now tied for just the second time in the game, 46-46.

Let’s recap everything up until this point, and show the highlights of how it all ended…

 

Sam Craft would indeed redeem himself and put the Tigers up for good, 53-46. Hayden Moore made one mistake all night, but it took the freshman until twelve seconds left in the game to finally hand the game to Memphis, and not before breaking the school record with 557 passing yards. All in just three quarters of play, as a freshman. He also helped Cincinnati set the school records for offensive yards (752), and first downs (38).

Twelve lead changes, 1,322 total yards, a freshman QB sets the school record in only three quarters, and another team survives at home to win their 11th straight game. I told you this game had it all…except defense.

  • Paxton Lynch was 24-of-36 for 412 yards and 2 TD’s
  • Lynch also had 11 carries for 52 yards
  • Sam Craft had 12 carries for 50 yards and 2 TD’s
  • Jarvis Cooper had 9 carries for 49 yards and a TD
  • Anthony Miller had 5 catches for 156 yards and a TD
  • Roderick Proctor, Tevin Jones and Phil Mayhue all had 3 or more catches for 50 or more yards

 

  • Hayden Moore was 31-of-53 for 557 yards and 4 TD’s
  • Gunner Kiel was 7-of-11 with 63 yards and had 4 carries for 28 yards and a score before being knocked out of the game
  • Hosey Williams and Tion Green both had 12 carries for 50 and 41 yards respectively
  • Max Morrison had 9 catches for 162 yards and 2 TD’s
  • Chris Moore had 5 catches for 153 yards and a TD
  • Shaq Washington had 9 catches for 120 yards and a TD

 

My Final Take-

Hayden Moore is a really good quarterback and if Gunner Kiel has to miss any time, Cincinnati will be fine. In fact, if Kiel is ready to go next week when the Bearcats play their second straight Thursday Night game on ESPN against Miami, Cincy may have a QB controversy on their hands.

Paxton Lynch is REALLY good. He could start for at least half of the schools in the SEC. Lynch is so good, he disguises Memphis’ worst problem, poor defense. Lynch is winning games in spite of the Tigers defense. The fact is, no matter how good Hayden Moore may or may not be, the Tigers let a freshman come in and set school records on them in their own backyard.

Memphis will travel to Tampa to take on South Florida this coming Friday night. This is a very winnable game that should send the Tigers to 5-0, and on a 12 game winning streak, before hosting Ole Miss in the Liberty Bowl on October 17th. While I am excited about a showdown with Ole Miss and feeling confident about the Tigers chances, the defense concerns me. They will have two weeks off to prepare for the Rebels after the USF game, but it looks like the Tigers will HAVE to beat Ole Miss in another shootout and hope that the Rebels make enough mistakes for Memphis to squeak out the victory. This could be a showdown between undefeated rivals in the Liberty Bowl come October 17th.

However, not looking ahead, and staying in this moment, this was a huge win for the Tigers Thursday night on ESPN in front of 45,172 fans in the Liberty Bowl. It was their 11th straight win. They are now 4-0 for the first time since 1961, and almost assuredly going to their 2nd straight bowl game under head coach Justin Fuente. And looking at the bigger picture, Memphis is knocking on the door of the Big 12, and a win on October 17th against Ole Miss might be enough to kick that door down and announce themselves as ready contenders for Power 5 football.

 

 

What do you think Memphis’ chances are of knocking off Ole Miss in the Liberty Bowl on October 17th? We would like to hear your thoughts on Memphis football this year 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 PostsYouTube#Tigers,American Athletic,American Athletic Conference,Arthur Maulet,Big 12,Chris Moore,Cincinnati Bearcats,Gunner Kiel,Hayden Moore,Jarvis Cooper,Justin Fuente,Max Morrison,Memphis,Memphis Tigers,Mose Frazier,Paxton Lynch,Sam Craft,Shaq Washington,Tommy Tuberville,University of Memphis  This game had everything! An early fumble, an early pick six, a QB gets knocked out, the freshman backup QB comes in and sets the school record, 12 lead changes and offense offense offense. ESPN picked a winner for their Thursday Night primetime game as the Memphis Tigers score...Why go anywhere else for sports and entertainment?