Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Boca Raton Bowl: Western Kentucky 51, Tigers 31

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 10:16 PM

Mike Norvell's first season as coach of the Memphis Tigers ended Tuesday night in South Florida. Facing one of college football's top-scoring teams, the U of M was unable to answer with enough offense of its own. Western Kentucky tailback Anthony Wales carried the ball 35 times for 253 yards and three touchdowns (while also catching four passes for 84 yards) and Hilltopper quarterback Mike White passed for 336 yards and three scores to lead the Conference USA champs. Western Kentucky accumulated 598 yards of total offense, the seventh time this season Memphis has allowed more than 500 yards in a game.
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In scoring 31 points, Memphis finished with a season total of 505, only the second time (after last season's 522) the Tigers have topped 500 points in a campaign. Wide receiver Anthony Miller played a starring role (again) with 11 catches for 151 yards and three touchdowns, giving him season totals of 95 receptions, 1,434 yards, and 14 touchdowns, all single-season marks for the Memphis program. Tiger quarterback Riley Ferguson threw for 372 yards and four touchdowns, establishing a new Tiger record for touchdowns in a season with 32. But he also threw an interception, lost a fumble, and missed a second-half series after injuring his left ankle. (He returned after the injury and threw a 45-yard scoring strike to Miller.)

Memphis took an early 7-0 lead on a screen pass Tony Pollard took 45 yards down the right sideline. But the Hilltoppers scored touchdowns on their next four possessions to take a 28-17 lead into the halftime break. The Tigers' all-conference kicker, Jake Elliott, hit the left upright on a 43-yard field-goal attempt early in the second quarter, costing Memphis precious points in a game dominated by the two offenses.

White connected with Taywan Taylor for a 41-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to extend WKU's lead to 35-17. Taylor finished the game with nine grabs for 144 yards.

The Memphis offense turned the ball over on downs on its first possession of the second half then lost a fumble on its second, leading to a three-yard touchdown run by Wales that put the game out of reach (41-17) midway through the third quarter.

Western Kentucky thoroughly dominated the ground game, rushing for 262 yards to the Tigers' 73.

The loss drops Memphis to 8-5 for the season while Western Kentucky finishes with eight straight wins and an 11-3 record.

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