by University of Memphis
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Memphis (1-6, 1-2 C-USA) turned the ball over three times and UCF (5-2, 3-0 C-USA) scored on all three turnovers to earn a 35-17 victory over the Tigers on Saturday at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
Memphis forced a three-and-out of the first UCF possession, but a nine-play, 81-yard drive netted the Knights a 7-0 lead with 7:05 left in the first quarter. Latavius Murray rushed for 71 yards in the scoring drive and a 50-yard run around the right side keyed the score. Murray punched it in from one-yard on the ninth play for the score.
The Tigers answered with a six-play 73-yard drive, but UCF forced a fumble inside the five yard line to keep the U of M off the board. During the drive, Brandon Hayes rushed for a season-best 36-yard run and Jai Steibran for 22 yards, but the turnover inside the five kept Memphis behind 7-0.
Steib finished with a career-best 88 rushing yards and Hayes also recorded a career-best with 83 yards on the ground. The Tigers rushed for a season-high 240 rush yards, the most since November 27, 2009 at Tulsa when the U of M rushed for 268 yards. Overall, Memphis finished with 361 total yards, the second-highest output of the season and third time this season over 300 yards.
UCF took over on their two yard line and wasted no time in driving the length of the field to take the 14-0 lead with 3:45 remaining in the first quarter. After Murray rushed to the four, Blake Bortles completed a third down pass to Breshad Perriman for a 13-yard gain. Murray did the rest as he rushed up the middle and down the right side of the field for the 83-yard touchdown.
After piling up 97 rushing yards in the first quarter, Memphis continued the ground game with 21 more yards to set up a 34-yard field goal by Tyler Spurlock. Spurlock split the uprights with the kick and Memphis trailed 14-3 with 12:17 left in the first half. On the 13-play, 60-yard drive Steib had a 20-yard rush and a roughing the passer penalty rescued the Tigers on a third-and-17 play.
A defensive touchdown got Memphis right back in the game as Robert Steeples scooped up a UCF fumble and returned it 27 yards to cut the Knights lead to 14-10. Knights tailback Storm Johnson rushed to the right, tried to back up and go to the left side, but Mitch Huelsingtackled him for a 16-yard loss and forced the fumble.
Memphis elected to run a fake punt midway through the third quarter as Tom Hormsey scampered for 21 yards to the left side on the fake. On the next play, quarterback Jacob Karamwas intercepted on a pass inside the 10 yard line and UCF returned it to the 39. The Knights increased the lead to 21-10 with a six-play, 61-yard drive after the Tigers turnover.
A third Tigers’ turnover was costly as UCF picked up a fumble on the UCF 29-yard line and returned it 79 yards for the score. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Karam found Keiwone Malonein the middle of the field for a 17-yard gain, but Clayton Geathers stripped the ball out and A.J. Bouye picked it up and took it to the endzone to give UCF a 28-10 advantage.
Memphis missed a 44-yard field goal with 11:24 remaining in regulation and UCF took over at their 27-yard line. The Tigers rushed the UCF punter on fourth-and-22 and nearly blocked the punt, but UCF punter Jamie Boyle tucked the ball and ran around the right side for 33-yards to keep the drive alive. Six plays later, Bortles completed a six-yard touchdown pass to hand UCF the 35-10 lead.
The Tigers added a touchdown with 39 seconds remaining to set the final score of 35-17. Memphis drove the ball 57 yards on 12 plays and Karam picked up his first career touchdown rush with the one-yard rush to cap the drive.
The Tigers hit the road to face SMU on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 2 p.m.