Memphis' head coach Ryan Silverfield celebrates with his team after they defeated Iowa State 36-26 in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium on Dec. 29, 2023.

Memphis’ Ryan Silverfield receives 5-year extension

Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield on Tuesday agreed to a five-year, $12.25 million contract extension that spans through the 2028 season.

Per the university, Silverfield will receive $2.2 million for the 2024 season, $2.25 million the following year, $2.5 million in 2026, $2.6 million in 2027 and $2.7 million in 2028.

Silverfield, who earned $1.9 million in 2013, has posted a 31-19 record with the Tigers since replacing Mike Norvell as the team’s coach in December 2019. Norvell left for Florida State prior to the team’s game in the Cotton Bowl.

“We are extremely excited to make this commitment to Coach Silverfield to keep him leading our football program into the future,” said Laird Veatch, Memphis vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics.

“Coach Silverfield guided the team to one of the best seasons in program history in 2023 and we believe he’s laid the foundation to help Memphis ascend even higher in the expanded College Football Playoff era.”

Silverfield, 43, guided the Tigers to a 10-3 record last season, highlighted by a 36-26 win over Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be the head football coach at the University of Memphis,” Silverfield said in a press release. “I am excited and appreciative of the commitment to continue moving forward with the progress of our football program.”

–Field Level Media

Tigers' Seth Henigan (2) warms up before the game between University of Memphis and Boise State University in Memphis, Tenn., on Saturday, September 30, 2023.

Memphis takes on Iowa State in Liberty Bowl ‘home’ game

Iowa State’s solid defense will be challenged by the high-powered Memphis offense in the Liberty Bowl on Friday in Memphis, Tenn.

Memphis (9-3), making its ninth bowl appearance since 2014, won five of its last six games and scored at least 44 points in each victory over that span.

Iowa State (7-5) is making its sixth bowl appearance in seven seasons, including a 21-20 win over Memphis in the 2017 Liberty Bowl.

Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield was an assistant coach when the Tigers faced Iowa State in 2017. Silverfield also worked under Cyclones coach Matt Campbell as an offensive consultant at Toledo in 2014.

“Obviously it’s an honor and a privilege for us. Our football program and our university are so appreciative of the invite and to be able play in our home stadium,” Silverfield said. “We’re excited about the matchup. Obviously, we know what Iowa State brings to the table … Big 12 team that’s won a lot of football games.”

The Cyclones were second in the Big 12 in yards per game allowed with 349.3, behind only third-ranked Texas. Iowa State was third in points allowed at 21.7, trailing only Texas and Kansas State.

The opportunistic Cyclones have 16 interceptions and three fumble recoveries, tying for 18th nationally with a plus-8 turnover margin.

As of Tuesday, there was no word from Iowa State if defensive back T.J. Tampa, a third-team All-American, would play in the bowl game.

Iowa State, which won just one conference game last season and was 4-8 overall, has a much-improved offense. The Cyclones averaged 29.4 points per game in Big 12 play this season, compared with 16.3 a year ago.

Quarterback Rocco Becht, the 2023 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 2,674 yards with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Jaylin Noel is the fourth receiver in school history with back-to-back 60-catch seasons.

Two of the Cyclones’ top rushers, Eli Sanders and Cartevious Norton, entered the transfer portal and did not play in the season finale at Kansas State. But true freshman Abu Sama III rushed for 276 yards on 16 carries with touchdown runs of 77, 71, and 60 yards.

Memphis averages 39.7 points per game, seventh-best in the nation, while allowing 29.0 The Tigers have scored 20 or more points in 26 consecutive games — the longest active streak in the nation — dating back to the end of the 2021 season.

Seth Henigan has completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 3,519 yards with 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He had 15 touchdown passes to just two picks in the Tigers’ final six games.

“He’s got great confidence and they ask him to do a lot,” Campbell told the Des Moines Register about Henigan. “They ask him to put them in the right situation a lot. And he’s got such great playmakers on the outside that he’s able to find matchups and really deliver the football with great consistency.”

Roc Taylor has 61 catches for 981 yards and four touchdowns, and Dameer Blankumsee has 51 receptions for 825 yards and a team-high six scores.

Blake Watson leads the ground game with 1,045 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns, along with 50 catches for 458 yards out of the backfield.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Utah State Aggies running back Calvin Tyler Jr. (4) breaks a tackle against Memphis Tigers linebacker Geoffrey Cantin-Arku (9) during the first half of the 2022 First Responder Bowl at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Seth Henigan leads Memphis over Utah State in First Responder Bowl

Seth Henigan passed for 284 yards and three touchdowns to lead Memphis to a 38-10 win against Utah State at the First Responder Bowl on Tuesday in Dallas.

Henigan completed 10 straight passes during one stretch in the first half before finishing 20 of 29 with no interceptions.

Eddie Lewis caught five passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers (7-6), who qualified for their ninth straight bowl game, the longest active streak of any non-Power 5 team in the country.

Utah State quarterback Cooper Legas completed 7 of 12 passes for just 34 yards with an interception before he sustained a right leg injury on a sack by James Stewart with 10:47 left in the third quarter.

Bishop Davenport replaced Legas and the freshman was 7-for-9 for 100 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
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Calvin Tyler Jr., a 1,000-yard rusher this season, finished with 79 rushing yards on 16 carries for the Aggies (6-7).

Memphis built a 24-3 halftime lead as Henigan passed for 217 yards and three scores and the defense limited Utah State to 89 total yards.

The Tigers punted on their first two drives before taking a 3-0 lead on a 26-yard field goal by Chris Howard with 1:05 left in the first quarter.

Connor Coles kicked a 53-yard field goal to tie the score 3-3 with 12:13 left in the first half.

Henigan later found Lewis on a quick slant for a 15-yard touchdown pass and a 10-3 lead with 7:24 remaining.

After the Tigers forced a turnover on downs at the Utah State 49-yard line, Henigan connected with Lewis on a 22-yard touchdown pass, stretching the lead to 17-3 with 2:56 left.

Henigan tossed his third touchdown of the first half with 24 seconds left, finding tight end Caden Prieskorn for a 3-yard strike that made it 24-3.

After a scoreless third quarter, Davenport hooked up with Brian Cobbs on a 44-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 24-10 with 11:04 left.

The Tigers recovered an onside kick near midfield and Jevyon Ducker (13 carries, 83 yards) scored on a 1-yard run to make it 31-10 with 7:22 left.

Ducker added a 48-yard touchdown run with 3:16 remaining to make it 38-10.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Tigers running back Jevyon Ducker (8) runs the ball during the second half against the North Alabama Lions at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis visits SMU in battle of bowl-bound teams

Memphis and SMU, a pair of 6-5 American Athletic Conference teams, meet Saturday in Dallas hoping to finish the regular season strong heading into what have become annual bowl trips.

Looking to win its third straight game to cap the campaign, Memphis (6-5, 3-4) is coming off a 59-0 win over North Alabama to become bowl eligible for the ninth consecutive season.

SMU (6-5, 4-3), meantime, clinched a fourth consecutive bowl trip back on Nov. 12 before stumbling through a 59-24 shellacking at No. 19 Tulane last Thursday.

Coach Rhett Lashlee’s Mustangs didn’t do much right against the Green Wave, committing five turnovers and allowing 310 yards rushing.

“It’s embarrassing, yes, when you’re getting your butt kicked by a team that’s good, but you feel like if you played well, you can play with,” Lashlee said. “Anybody who watched the game could tell we got our butts handed to us.

“How do you respond in the moment when it’s not fun? When the whole world is watching and you don’t finish?” wondered Lashlee. “How do you pick yourself up after? That’s our job now.”

In hosting the Tigers, the Ponies will challenge a team hitting on all cylinders lately.

After losing their season-opening contest against Southeastern Conference member Mississippi State, the Tigers (6-5, 3-4) ran off four consecutive wins. Following a winless four-game stretch from Oct. 7 to Nov. 5, they have rebounded with a pair of victories and sit on the cusp of a seven-win season.

The nine-bowl streak is a testament to heightened expectations at Memphis.

“It means everything,” said running back Asa Martin. “It’s nine in a row. We didn’t want to be the team to end that streak. The program is growing, and there’s a lot of progression over the last couple of years.

“Of course, you always want to get to the AAC championship or the Cotton Bowl game and games like that. Just get to a bowl game and keep that thing going.”

Memphis has 77 wins since 2014, the most among AAC schools. It has also won seven of the past eight meetings with SMU.

–Field Level Media

Nov 5, 2022; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Tigers quarterback Seth Henigan (5) runs the ball as UCF Knights defensive end Tre'mon Morris-Brash (33) attempts to make the tackle during the first half at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

QB Mikey Keene leads UCF over Memphis

Mikey Keene threw three touchdown passes and RJ Harvey ran for 151 yards and a score on 17 carries to lead No. 25 Central Florida to a 35-28 victory over host Memphis on Saturday.

Keene went 22-for-28 passing for 219 yards with scoring strikes of 24 and 13 yards to Kobe Hudson, who finished with six receptions and 85 yards for the Golden Knights (7-2, 4-1 American Athletic Conference). Keene, who had one interception, also tossed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Javon Baker in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.

Running back Isaiah Bowser also threw a touchdown pass for Central Florida, which won for the sixth time in its past seven games.

Ryan O’Keefe had 10 catches for 75 yards for UCF, which never trailed while handing the Tigers (4-5, 2-4) their fourth straight loss.

Seth Henigan went 26-for-39 passing for 284 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in addition to rushing for 69 yards and a score on 16 carries for Memphis. Asa Martin finished with seven catches for 61 yards.

Trailing 21-14 at halftime, the Tigers tied the game on Jevyon Ducker’s 1-yard touchdown run that ended an 11-play, 77-yard drive with 6:53 left in the third quarter.

The game remained tied until early in the fourth quarter, when Keene hit Hudson in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown pass and a 28-21 lead with 12:19 left in the game.

Keene’s 24-yard scoring strike to Baker extended the lead to 35-21 with 4:58 left before Henigan’s 14-yard scoring strike to Joe Scates cut the lead to 35-28 with 3:18 left.

Central Florida ran out the clock on its ensuing possession.

After Harvey’s 22-yard touchdown run gave Central Florida a 7-0 lead on its first possession, the Tigers tied the game on Brandon Thomas’ 7-yard run with 5:59 left in the first quarter.

The Golden Knights regained the lead thanks to Bowser’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Martin out of the wildcat formation. The short toss finished an eight-play, 89-yard drive with 11:23 left in the first half.

Henigan’s 1-yard run tied the game at 14 with 8:18 left in the second quarter.

The Golden Knights struck back in less than two minutes, with Keene tossing a 24-yard touchdown pass to Hudson for a 21-14 lead with 6:39 left in the half.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; UCF Knights head coach Gus Malzahn on the field before the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 UCF unsure who will play QB against Memphis

UCF just passed a pressure-packed test, one that coach Gus Malzahn admittedly would have preferred his team not have to take.

Now the Knights, No. 25 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, have to prove they can win on the road.

UCF (6-2, 3-1 American Athletic Conference) travels to Memphis (4-4, 2-3) on Saturday afternoon.

The Knights are coming off a 25-21 home win over conference power Cincinnati, which was 20th in the AP poll a week ago and was a CFP playoff team last season. Leading 10-6 in the third quarter, UCF twice fumbled in the red zone.

Those missed opportunities loomed large when they trailed 13-12 entering the fourth.

Led by not-so-ordinary backup quarterback Mikey Keene, UCF capped a 77-yard drive with a touchdown with 4:36 left to take an 18-13 lead, surrendered a TD and two-point conversion about 1 1/2 minutes later and trailed 21-18, then responded again with RJ Harvey’s 17-yard scoring run with 48 seconds left.

“During the game, I wish we had scored (instead of the turnovers) and won by 17 points,” Malzahn said Monday. “But after it played out like it did, I’m glad it did that, ’cause that’s what our team needed.

“In college football, there’s very few times that you get a chance to, (when) the pressure is really on, either get it done or you don’t. Are you going to respond? And our team responded in a couple situations like that.”

The Knights have won five of their past six games, but the loss in that bunch was a 34-13 setback at East Carolina on Oct. 22, when they had four turnovers and no takeaways.

“I really feel strong that we’ll learn from that experience. There’s more parity in college football than ever before, and every week you need to bring your ‘A’ game, and obviously we didn’t do that. Lesson learned,” Malzahn said.

UCF’s biggest question is who will be at quarterback on Saturday. Starter John Rhys Plumlee took a huge hit from a Cincinnati defender in the second quarter and then appeared wobbly as he tried to return to the field. He was removed with an apparent head injury.

Plumlee won the job this season over Keene, the 2021 starter as a freshman, and has thrown for 1,883 yards and 11 touchdowns and run for a team-high 532 yards plus seven scores in 2022. UCF enters the weekend fifth in the nation in total offense (510.2 yards per game) and 24th in scoring (35.8 points per game).

“We’ve got two guys, I think, obviously we can win with,” Malzahn said. “I think everybody knew that coming in, but we’ll just take it day by day with John Rhys right now. … We’ll see what happens.”

The Tigers, meanwhile, have lost three straight games: by one point to Houston, by two points in four overtimes at East Carolina and by 10 at Tulane, which sits 19th in the CFP rankings.

What Memphis lacks in momentum, it has in scheduling. It is coming off a bye week.

“Any time you have a bye week that’s really Week 9, talk about a lot of football,” Tigers coach Ryan Silverfield said. “Training camp started three days earlier this year, so you think about it, we’ve been really going at it since Aug. 1.

“(The bye) gave us the chance to do some modified practices, make sure we are healthy, and I feel comfortable with where we’re at from a health standpoint.”

The Tigers are preparing for both Plumlee and Keene.

“Both have a unique skill set,” Silverfield said. “Coach Malzahn is going to do what he does on offense, regardless of who the quarterback is, but they do have different things they bring to the table, so we’ve got to be ready for that as part of our preparation this week.”

Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan, a sophomore, has thrown for 2,236 yards and 15 touchdowns with five interceptions. He has been sacked 24 times.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Tulane Green Wave head coach Willie Fritz during their game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 Tulane rides big early wave to down Memphis

Jha’Quan Jackson’s 90-yard punt return highlighted Tulane’s 35-point first half Saturday afternoon, leading the No. 25 Green Wave to a 38-28 victory over the Memphis Tigers in New Orleans, Louisiana.

After entering the Top 25 last Sunday for the first time since 1998, Tulane (7-1, 4-0) rode that momentum by scoring three touchdowns in the first quarter and adding two more in the next in the explosive half.

The Green Wave’s Michael Pratt rushed for a score and went 20 of 29 for 158 yards and a TD to Duece Watts. Tyjae Spears carried 24 times for 125 yards with a score. Shaadie Clayton-Johnson also found the end zone.

In losing its third straight, Memphis (4-4, 2-3) rallied behind Seth Henigan, who finished 26 of 41 for 312 yards with three scoring passes — two to Eddie Lewis, one to Koby Drake — and two interceptions. Brandon Thomas had a rushing TD.

In front of its second-ever sellout — a record 30,100 fans — at on-campus Yulman Stadium, Tulane got a short run from Pratt on the opening series. Ninety seconds later, Jackson fielded Joe Doyle’s 59-yard punt and sprinted 90 yards for a 14-0 lead before the first quarter’s midpoint.

Tulane’s Tylo Phillips recovered a muffed punt at the end of the home side’s second possession. Spears had a scoring run of three yards to push it to 21-0. Then Clayton-Johnson’s four-yard TD run ended a 70-yard drive.

After Larry Brooks’ interception of Henigan, Tulane scored again when Pratt struck Watts from six yards for a 35-0 lead near the half’s end.

At 8:48 of the third, Drake finished a 13-play, 75-yard drive by grabbing a seven-yard pass from Henigan for Memphis’ first points. He then hit Lewis for 33 yards to trim it to 35-14. Early in the fourth, Thomas’ short run cut the deficit to two scores.

However, Valentino Ambrosio’s 25-yard field goal moved it to a 17-point lead.

Lewis went 55 yards on his second receiving TD with 4:23 left.

Jarius Monroe’s end-zone interception of Henigan with 18 seconds remaining sealed the win — just Tulane’s third victory in the past 16 meetings in the series.

–Field Level Media

Memphis Tigers quarterback Seth Henigan (5) keeps hold of the ball as North Texas Mean Green defensive tackle Roderick Brown (10) and North Texas Mean Green defensive lineman Fatafehi Vailea (51) guard him during a Memphis Tigers game against the North Texas Mean Green on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in Memphis. Memphis defeated North Texas 44-34.

Memphis, ECU look to bounce back in AAC tilt

The Memphis Tigers and host East Carolina Pirates are both looking for a bounce-back win when they meet Saturday in an American Athletic Conference game in Greenville, N.C.

The Tigers (4-2, 2-1) ended a four-game winning streak by squandering a 19-point fourth-quarter lead last Friday, giving up two touchdowns in the final 1:17 in a 33-32 loss to Houston.

East Carolina (3-3, 1-2) fell to Tulane 24-9 on Saturday, with the Green Wave scoring the game’s final 17 points after the Pirates took a 9-7 first-half lead.

“Nobody’s happy with us being 4-2 right now,” Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said. “I’m not happy with our record because we can be better.

“I can come up here and mope around — ‘Oh, woe is me.’ No. It’s got to be, ‘How do we get better? How do we learn from this and how do we fix this?’”

Memphis can start by not allowing 366 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air and giving up a 100-yard kickoff return, which really launched Houston’s big comeback last week.

The Tigers have been much better offensively, with Seth Henigan completing 63.6 percent of his passes for 1,517 yards with 10 touchdowns and just one interception. Three running backs have netted more than 200 yards, with Brandon Thomas scoring seven touchdowns. Tight end Caden Prieskorn has six touchdown receptions as one of four players with at least 19 catches.

East Carolina started 2-1 but has lost two of its past three games. The Pirates are coming off their lowest-scoring output of the season and are looking for quarterback Holton Ahlers to get back on track.

Ahlers’ 1,820 passing yards rank 10th in FBS and his 16 TDs are tied for sixth, in FBS. He has been intercepted six times.

“You know, we’re 3-3 at the halfway point and we have really good football teams on our schedule the rest of the time,” Ahlers said. “I know in that locker room, there’s a lot of guys that care.”

Last year, East Carolina edged Memphis 30-29 in overtime, but the Tigers have won two of the past three meetings, including a 59-41 win in their last trip to Greenville in 2018.

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Tigers quarterback Seth Henigan (5) scrambles during the first half against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Surging Memphis returns to AAC play vs. Temple

Memphis will look to extend its winning streak to four games and remain atop the American Athletic Conference standings when it hosts Temple on Saturday.

The Tigers (3-1, 1-0) are coming off a 44-34 non-conference victory over North Texas. Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan threw for two touchdowns, Brandon Thomas rushed for two, and Jaylon Allen and Xavier Cullens each returned an interception for a score.

“There’s no time to sit there and reflect on ‘OK, how do we improve and get better on that stuff.’ Every week’s a different season. We’re not searching for answers,” Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said. “There’s none of that. It’s how do we execute and get better at a higher level.”

Temple (2-2, 0-0) heads to Memphis after a 28-0 victory over UMass in the Owls’ first shutout since 2016.

Temple quarterback E.J. Warner, the son of Hall-of-Famer Kurt Warner, went 11 of 22 for 173 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions to pick up his first win as a starter. Layton Jordan returned an interception 41 yards for the Owls, who bounced back from a 16-14 loss to Rutgers the previous week.

After Memphis’ Henigan went 19 of 30 passing for 165 yards and a TD in a season-opening 49-23 loss at Mississippi State, he’s gone 62 of 91 for 916 yards with seven touchdowns and an interception with two rushing touchdowns during the winning streak.

Five Tigers have caught at least 10 passes this season, with tight end Caden Prieskorn leading the team with 15 catches.

For Temple, Warner has gone 44 of 73 passing for 561 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Adonicas Sanders has 17 catches for 236 yards and a TD.

Temple defeated Memphis for the second time in three seasons last year by rallying from a 17-0 deficit to pull out a 34-31 victory at Philadelphia.

“Personally, I believe that we will be ready for (Memphis), because we got (experience against) a passing team and multiple running teams,” Temple safety Alex Odom said. “So we’re probably gonna get a mixture of both from Memphis.”

–Field Level Media

Jul 19, 2022; Atlanta, GA, USA; Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach shown on the stage during SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State seeking strong start vs. Memphis

Mississippi State will enter its season-opening game Saturday night against Memphis rested and ready.

More importantly, the Bulldogs will be experienced when the game kicks off in Starkville, Miss.

The team has 16 starters returning from last season — eight each on offense and defense — when the Bulldogs finished 7-6.

“We’re not a really old team yet, but we are an experienced team,” coach Mike Leach said. “We’ve got a number of guys who have started for two years.”

Quarterback Will Rogers arguably is the most vital returning starter. Last season, he passed for 4,739 yards, the third-highest total in Southeastern Conference history.

Rogers was one of only two quarterbacks over the last 22 seasons in the SEC to throw for more than 4,700 yards and 35 touchdowns while completing at least 73 percent of his passes.

“He’s steadily improved,” Leach said. “He is bigger and stronger than he was. I never thought he had glaring weaknesses. His weakness when he first started was experience, but I think he’s gotten better at really all phases of his game.”

Cornerback Emmanuel Forbes will be a key catalyst on defense. Forbes has three career interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Memphis, however, will enter its season opener as an inexperienced group. The team finished 6-6 last year.

Coach Ryan Silverfield said he has one of the youngest rosters in college football, as approximately 70 percent of the players aren’t juniors or seniors.

Quarterback Seth Henigan and running back Brandon Thomas did start much of last season as freshmen.

“It’s not a bunch of true freshmen going out there for us on Saturday,” Silverfield said. “Seth has almost a full season of experience as a starter, and that makes a big difference. A lot of these young guys have played, and some will be getting their first starts.”

Quindell Johnson will anchor the defense as he ranked 27th in the country with 8.8 tackles per game last season.

The Tigers are searching for their ninth straight bowl appearance. With such a young roster, the task won’t be easy.

“We’re building the roster the right way. College football’s completely changing, and we’ve got a lot of faith in the way we’re doing things here, and that just shows it,” Silverfield said. “We got great vets, and those are our leaders, but I just think it’s unique because the way this thing is growing.”

–Field Level Media