Ole Miss, here come the Tigers.
Memphis coach Mike Norvell and his team can hardly be accused of looking a week ahead. Coming off a pair of lopsided wins (over SEMO of the FCS and Big 12 bottom-feeder Kansas), the Tigers tied a program record with 56 first-half points on their way to a school-record 77 and will enter next Saturday's showdown in Oxford with a spotless 3-0 record. This week's sacrificial lamb happened to have played for the MAC championship each of the past three seasons.
"I'm proud of how we prepared, how we performed," said first-year Memphis coach Mike Norvell
. "We talked about starting fast, going up against a high-tempo offense. I liked our first drive. Then our defense came out, gave up a play, but got acclimated and held them to a field goal. It was a dominant performance all the way around. It was the best week of practice we had. I was hoping we'd see a complete game. We were plus-four in takeaways. My biggest disappointment were the nine penalties. That's not who we are."
Junior quarterback Riley Ferguson
accounted for seven touchdowns (one of them rushing) in the first half, completing 20 of 27 passes for 359 yards before being replaced by Jason Stewart after halftime. His touchdown passes went to six different teammates: Daniel Montiel
, Phil Mayhue
(40 yards), Sam Craft
(43 yards), Tony Pollard
, Anthony Miller
(60 yards), and Roderick Proctor
. The Tigers needed no more than 2:14 on any of their seven scoring drives in the first half and capitalized on three interceptions of Falcon quarterback James Knapke. Junior linebacker Genard Avery
returned a pick 28 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter.
And the onslaught continued after halftime, Doroland Dorceus
adding a touchdown (the 19th of his career) and the Tigers reaching 70 points for the first time since a win over Tampa on September 23, 1949. Eleven different Tigers scored the 11 touchdowns (a total not reached over the first six games
of the 2011 season).
For the contest, Memphis totaled 635 yards of offense (8.2 yards per play) and held Bowling Green to 294 (3.9). Dorceus ran for 117 yards as the Memphis ground game gained some traction (240 yards). In addition to Avery's pick-six, Chris Morley
and Dontrel Nelson
had interceptions for the U of M. A crowd of 38,713 witnessed the scoring display.
Norvell acknowledged growth in his quarterback, Ferguson adjusting nicely in his first year at the FBS level. "He was calm, patient, and went through his full progressions," said Norvell. "His confidence . . . he's improving, and we need to continue to have that to accomplish what we want to accomplish. Every week, they're going to get bigger and get better."
With 11 extra points, Memphis kicker Jake Elliott now has 357 for his career, 12 shy of Stephen Gostkowski's Tiger record. The Memphis offense was so surgical, so precise that Elliott did not attempt a field goal the entire game.
As for next week, Norvell noted that even in two losses (to Florida State and Alabama), Ole Miss had big leads. "They are arguably the most talented team in the country," he said. "It's going to be a great challenge. We'll come to work in the morning and focus on us." Memphis will be aiming to beat the Rebels in consecutive years for the first time since 2003 and 2004. Ole Miss beat Georgia handily earlier Saturday.
NOTE: Linebacker DeMarco Montgomery was ejected for targeting early in the second half. He will not be eligible to play in the first half at Ole Miss.