Delaware's Drew Nickles (51) and Artis Hemmingway (right) pressure Navy quarterback Tai Lavatai in the third quarter of the Blue Hens' 14-7 win at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.

Ncaa Football Wil Hens Navy Gamer Delaware At Navy

Demoralized in opener, Navy meets Memphis in AAC kickoff

Navy’s season got off to the most discouraging start possible: a lost fumble on the first play from scrimmage and a home defeat at the hands of Delaware, an FCS team.

The Midshipmen try to turn things around in a hurry when they host Memphis in the American Athletic Conference opener for both teams on Saturday in Annapolis, Md.

Navy (0-1, 0-0 AAC) outperformed Delaware in several categories. The Blue Hens were held to 202 yards total offense and outgained by Navy 184-13 in rushing yards. But the Midshipmen couldn’t translate those advantages into points, lost three fumbles and went 0-for-3 on fourth downs in the 14-7 defeat.

Quarterback Tai Lavatai accounted for two of the lost fumbles, putting the ball on the ground three times in all. Lavatai went 5-for-13 for 135 yards and gained only 34 yards on 18 carries, running in Navy’s only touchdown.

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t have those mesh fumbles anymore,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said, mentioning Lavatai by name. “It’s hard enough to take care of the rock but when you have those self-inflicted type of turnovers, I mean, those were all mesh fumbles.”

Memphis (0-1, 0-0 AAC) opened its season at Mississippi State and fell behind 28-3 at halftime on its way to a 49-23 loss. Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers torched the Tigers for 450 passing yards and five touchdowns.

The Tigers’ defense now must do a 180 from coping with Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense to defending a service academy triple option.

“I told our guys, ‘Hey, that’s in the rearview. Flush it, let’s go.’ … because it is a completely different scheme,” Silverfield said. “To really narrow in and hone in on a different offensive attack, it will be good for our defense. A different challenge, for sure.”

Seth Henigan guided the Memphis offense with 19-of-30 passing for 165 yards and a touchdown against Mississippi State.

Memphis holds a 4-3 edge in the all-time series against Navy, including victories in each of the past three seasons. In last year’s 35-17 win, Henigan threw for 215 yards on just 8-of-12 passing thanks in part to a 74-yard touchdown play.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Memphis Tigers quarterback Seth Henigan (5) is sacked by Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive end Randy Charlton (5) during the first quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State rides Will Rogers’ 5 TDs past Memphis

Will Rogers threw five touchdown passes, Jo’quavious Marks rushed for two scores and Mississippi State defeated Memphis 49-23 in the season opener for both teams Saturday in Starkville, Miss.

Rogers completed 38 of 49 passes for a career-high 450 yards and one interception. Twelve different players caught at least one pass for the hosts.

Seth Henigan tossed one touchdown pass and rushed for another while Jay Ducker rushed 50 yards for a score for the Tigers.

Mississippi State (1-0) took the opening drive and marched 75 yards in 10 plays with Rogers tossing a 23-yard touchdown pass to Rara Thomas for a quick 7-0 lead.

With 5:17 left in the first quarter, the game was delayed because of lightning in the area.

Though the game was delayed for 2 hours and 16 minutes, the Bulldogs came back from the locker room and went ahead 14-0 following a successful second drive. Rogers connected with Jaden Walley from 9 yards out with 53 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Following an interception by Quindell Johnson, Memphis (0-1) was able to cut into the deficit with a 42-yard field goal by Chris Howard.

Mississippi State immediately responded and traveled 61 yards in nine plays capped by a 1-yard touchdown by Marks for a 21-3 lead with 10 minutes left in the second.

Memphis’ Greg Rubin was called for two penalties in the red zone and the Bulldogs took advantage on a 14-play drive by scoring on their fourth straight possession. Marks plunged in from the 2-yard line for a 28-3 lead with 1:40 to go in the second.

When Rogers tossed a 35-yard touchdown to Caleb Ducking with 10:48 remaining in the third, the Bulldogs led 35-3.

The Tigers closed within 35-10 when Ducker, a transfer from Northern Illinois, scampered 50 yards for a score on their ensuing possession.

After recovering a fumble early in the fourth, Memphis capitalized as Henigan threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Lewis. The two-point conversion failed and the visitors trailed 35-16 with 10:13 left.

The Bulldogs then went ahead 42-16 when Rogers threw his fourth touchdown pass with 5:59 remaining, a 33-yard strike to Rufus Harvey.

Rogers’ fifth touchdown covered 23 yards to Justin Robinson with 2:05 to go.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; Laramie, Wyoming, USA; Hawaii Rainbow Warriors running back Calvin Turner Jr. (7) runs against the Wyoming Cowboys during the fourth quarter at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Hawaii Bowl canceled after Hawaii withdraws

A lack of available players led Hawaii to withdraw Thursday from the Hawaii Bowl, which was to be played Friday in Honolulu.

Memphis had been due to oppose the Rainbow Warriors, but the game is now canceled.

Hawaii was left short-handed due to COVID-19 protocols as well as players who were unavailable due to injuries or transfers.

Rainbow Warriors coach Todd Graham said in a statement, “We are disappointed our season has to end this way. As competitive as we are and as much as we want to play the game, we cannot put the health and safety of our student-athletes at risk.”

Hawaii athletic director David Matlin added in a statement, “The health and safety of our student-athletes is the most important part of this decision. The recent surge in COVID-19 cases has forced us to not participate in the game.

“We are disappointed for our players, coaches, and fans. ESPN and the EasyPost Hawaii Bowl staff did everything they could for us and we appreciate their valiant effort throughout the week. We want to thank the Memphis Tigers for making the long trip to Hawaii. We are disappointed we can’t compete on the football field.”

The Rainbow Warriors became the second team this week to be forced out of a bowl game due at least in part to COVID-19 issues. Texas A&M bowed out of the Gator Bowl, with Rutgers replacing the Aggies for the matchup with Wake Forest on Dec. 31.

Hawaii ends the year with a 6-7 mark while Memphis winds up 6-6.

–Field Level Media

Aug 28, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA; Hawaii Rainbow Warriors  quarterback Brayden Schager (13) drops back to pass in the fourth quarter against the UCLA Bruinsat Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Texas QBs reconnect at Hawaii Bowl

A pair of true freshman quarterbacks from Texas square off when Memphis meets Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl on Friday night in Honolulu.

It is the first-ever meeting between the Tigers (6-6) and Rainbow Warriors (6-7), but it’s the second meeting this calendar year between signal-callers Seth Henigan of Memphis and Brayden Schager of Hawaii.

On Jan. 1, 2021, Henigan directed Denton Ryan High School to a 17-7 win against Schager’s Highland Park squad in the Texas Class 5A playoffs and went on to win a state championship.

“I think it’s really cool,” Henigan said via Zoom. “Two true freshman quarterbacks from Texas just putting on for the state. That would be really exciting for both of us.”

Henigan broke the Memphis freshman record with 3,322 passing yards and is 13th in the nation in total offense with 315.4 yards per game. He has thrown 25 touchdown passes and eight interceptions but will be without top receiver Calvin Austin III (74 catches for 1,149 yards and eight TDs). Austin opted out to prepare for the NFL draft.

Schager has played in six games (three starts) this season, completing 60.7 percent of his passes for 615 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions. He gets the nod Friday because Hawaii’s leading passer, Chevan Cordeiro (2,793 yards, 17 touchdowns), announced he was entering the transfer portal on Dec. 1.

“It’s his football team now,” Hawaii coach Todd Graham said. “I think he’s excited about that … and I’m excited for him. This is his opportunity that he’s been waiting for and what he came here to do.”

Memphis finished 3-5 in the American Athletic Conference, gaining bowl eligibility with a 33-28 win against Tulane in its Nov. 27 regular season finale. Three of its losses were by three or fewer points.

The Tigers are playing in their eighth straight bowl game and 15th overall (5-9 record). It’s their first appearance in the Hawaii Bowl.

Second-year Memphis head coach Ryan Silverfield was an offensive analyst on Graham’s coaching staff at Arizona State during the 2015 season.

Tigers defensive backs coach Charles Clark was named the interim defensive coordinator earlier this month after Mike MacIntyre left to become the Florida International head coach.

Hawaii finished 3-5 in the Mountain West Conference, achieving bowl eligibility the same day as Memphis with a 38-14 win at Wyoming. Five of its losses were by 14 or more points.

The Warriors are also appearing in their 15th bowl game (8-6 record). It’s their 10th time in the Hawaii Bowl (5-4 record).

–Field Level Media

Oct. 19, 2019 - University of Memphis flags dot the sky outside of the stadium before Memphis takes on Tulane at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

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Memphis makes final bid for bowl game vs. Tulane

The stakes are simple for Memphis in its season finale.

The Tigers (5-6, 2-5) need to beat visiting Tulane (2-9, 1-6) in an American Athletic Conference game Saturday night in order to become bowl eligible.

“We’re not going to beat a dead horse,” coach Ryan Silverfield said. “We don’t want them playing scared. We know we’ve got to win this game but they’ve got to go out and play football.”

A bowl bid seemed like a sure thing when the Tigers got off to a 3-0 start. Even after losing four of five they reached the threshold of eligibility by beating SMU 28-25 on Nov. 6.

But consecutive losses to East Carolina at home (30-29, in overtime) and at Houston (31-13) have put them in this win-or-stay-home situation.

“Whenever you’re thinking of a game as your last game of the season, you’re going to put your body on the line,” quarterback Seth Henigan said. “You’re going to do everything in your power to get that first down, get that touchdown. Whatever it takes.”

No matter what happens Saturday, the Green Wave’s school-record streak of three consecutive seasons with bowl berths is coming to an end.

But Tulane got its first victory in 10 weeks and its only one against an FBS opponent this season when it routed South Florida 45-14 in its home finale last Saturday.

“Everybody needed it,” coach Willie Fritz said. “My coaches, players, my wife, I think we all needed one. It’s been a tough year.”

It was also Tulane’s only on-campus victory this season. The Green Wave’s 69-20 victory against Morgan State on Sept. 11 was technically a home game, but it was played in Birmingham, Ala., their temporary home after Hurricane Ida.

“Early in the season we had a lot of adversity with the storm and being displaced and everything,” defensive tackle Jeffery Johnson said. “It took a mental focus to get to where we were trying to go. Everybody locked into what they had to do.”

Tulane has played much better defense during the last month. It held down Cincinnati, UCF and Tulsa, but the losing streak kept growing because the offense couldn’t do its part. But it all came together against South Florida.

“It’s not how you start,” linebacker Nick Anderson said, “it’s how you finish.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2020; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Tigers running back Kylan Watkins (17) celebrates during the second half against the Houston Cougars at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Ranked by CFP for first time, No. 24 Houston focused on Memphis

Coach Dana Holgorsen has steered No. 24 Houston through all the pitfalls that annually accompany a regular-season schedule, keeping the dizzying highs and sobering lows in the proper perspective while advancing the Cougars to the brink of a significant accomplishment.

With their 37-8 road victory over the Temple Owls last Saturday, the Cougars (9-1, 7-0 AAC) not only extended their winning streak to nine consecutive games, they also clinched a berth in the conference championship game for the first time since winning the league crown in 2015. The Cougars are likely to face No. 5 Cincinnati (10-0, 6-0) in what could be an anticipated showcase of the only two teams left unbeaten in conference play.

But the Cougars would need to defeat the visiting Memphis Tigers (5-5, 2-4) on Friday at TDECU Stadium to complete their first unblemished conference slate since 2011. Before the Cougars can shift their attention to Cincinnati or a conference title, they must zero in on Memphis first. The Tigers have won five consecutive games in the series.

“It’s not what our focus is right now. It’s a goal,” Holgorsen said of qualifying for the conference championship game. “I’m proud of the guys for accomplishing their goal. We’ve got unfinished business here before we start thinking about that.

“It’s good for the program. It’s a goal that we wanted to achieve and we checked that off. There’s still a lot of football to be played and our focus is going to be on Memphis.”

The Cougars are unbeaten through seven weeks of a conference slate for just the third time. They have relied on offensive balance, with freshman running back Alton McCaskill accounting for two touchdowns against Temple to set a program freshman record with 14 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Clayton Tune has passed for 2,448 yards and 21 touchdowns with Nathaniel Dell (58 receptions for 865 yards and eight touchdowns) serving as his primary target.

A defense that allowed on average nearly 40 points in wins over SMU and USF recovered to surrender just 10 first downs and 48 total plays against Temple. The Cougars are rounding into form at the perfect time, but one more obstacle remains before their work is complete.

“That game is big,” Holgorsen said. “That’s a rival game, a conference game, the last home game, Senior Night. Friday night ESPN game. We should have a great crowd. That’s our focus here moving forward right now.”

The Tigers have dropped five of seven following a 3-0 start, including last week’s 30-29 overtime loss to East Carolina. Memphis has lost four games by one score to undermine early-season momentum.

“Obviously I had to put that chapter to close quickly and jump on Houston in a short week,” Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said. “They’ve won nine straight by (an average) margin of 22 points. They’re rolling and red hot and we’ve got to play in a tough environment at their place.

“We know what’s at stake, but we know our guys will continue to fight and look for a great week of preparation.”

–Field Level Media

Memphis Tigers quarterback Seth Henigan throws the ball against the Arkansas State Red Wolves during their game at Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro, Ark. On Sept. 11, 2021.

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Prolific freshman QB Seth Henigan readies Memphis for Miss. State

Mississippi State has won its opening two games for the first time since 2019, but the Bulldogs are looking for repeat performances like last Saturday’s going forward.

In a border game this Saturday, they will travel three hours to Tennessee to face the Memphis Tigers in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

A slight home underdog last week against North Carolina State, head coach Mike Leach’s squad led throughout and handled the Wolfpack 24-10.

After a poor showing in a season-opening 35-34 win against Louisiana Tech, sophomore tailback Dillon Johnson rebounded by leading the Bulldogs (2-0) in rushing and receiving.

Johnson credited Saturday’s turnaround to a visit to church after he fell into a “dark moment for a second.”

“I have rough games; everybody has rough games,” Johnson told the Clarion-Ledger. “But it’s all just a confidence thing, bro.”

Leach said the 6-foot, 215-pound running back is underappreciated.

“I find Dillon to be a little bit more of a surprise to others that aren’t watching the film and the practices every day because he’s really been doing some great things since the start of camp,” Leach said.

Second-year head coach Ryan Silverfield has seen his Tigers (2-0) benefit from some outstanding play from true freshman quarterback Seth Henigan and an explosive offense in wins over Nicholls and Arkansas State.

In replacing Memphis standout signal-caller Brady White, the 18-year-old Henigan etched his name in the school’s record book by going 22-for-33 for 417 yards and five touchdowns — the eighth-highest single-game yardage total in Tigers history.

The Denton, Tex., native won the job after junior Grant Gunnell went down with a lower-body injury, and Henigan has been exceptional in guiding an offense that is averaging 48.5 points and leads the nation in total offense — 634.5 yards per game.

Henigan is responsible for much of it, completing 41 of 65 passes for 682 yards — the ninth-most in FBS.

“Everyone on the team has some experience,” Henigan said about his poise after the 55-50 win at Arkansas State. “Just to know that those guys have my back puts confidence in me that I can play to the level I’m supposed to and expected to.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Tigers defensive back Rodney Owens (30) and defensive back Jacobi Francis (1) celebrate during the first half against the Nicholls State Colonels at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis, Arkansas State look to build on opening victories

Memphis again will turn to freshman quarterback Seth Henigan when it visits Arkansas State in a nonconference game on Saturday in Jonesboro, Ark.

Henigan stood out in his debut during a season-opening 42-17 win for Memphis (1-0, 0-0 American) over Nicholls State last Saturday, as he went 19-of-32 passing for 265 yards and a touchdown and led the Tigers on nine scoring drives without a punt. Henigan started in place of Grant Gunnell, who was out with a lower body injury and will be sidelined for the “foreseeable future,” according to Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield.

“He’s so calm, cool and collected — that’s just his nature,” Silverfield told reporters of Henigan. “He’s capable and just seeing him out there he’s never too high or never too low.”

The loss of Gunnell, who threw for 625 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions for Arizona last season before transferring to Memphis this past December, thrust Henigan into the starting lineup just days before facing the Colonels.

The Tigers defeated the Red Wolves, a member of the Sun Belt Conference, 37-24 last season in Memphis. Arkansas State led 14-7 early in the second quarter before Memphis scored 30 of the next 33 points to put the game away.

Arkansas State (1-0) will be playing its second game under new head coach Butch Jones, the former coach at Tennessee. Against Central Arkansas on Saturday, the Red Wolves got off to a slow start before outscoring the Bears 34-14 in the second half en route to a 40-21 win.

The Red Wolves implemented a two-quarterback system that featured James Blackman and Layne Hatcher. Blackman, a transfer from Florida State, went 16-for-26 passing for 169 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions before exiting late in the third quarter. Hatcher came in and completed all 12 of his passing attempts and finished with 150 yards and four touchdowns.

Receiver Corey Rucker had nine catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns, and Alan Lamar rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

“We talked about the DNA of our football team and the ability to persevere,” Jones said. “We definitely didn’t play winning football and have a lot to learn from, but we came out in the second half and finally played complementary football. I said I’d learn a lot about this team tonight, and we have a lot of things to work on to get better. We know, with the schedule coming up, that we have to get better in a hurry.”

–Field Level Media

Memphis Tigers quarterback Grant Gunnell throws the ball during their Friday Night Stripes spring game at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Friday, April 16, 2021.

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Memphis looks to settle QB question in opener vs. Nicholls

The Memphis Tigers’ recent run of success will be put to the test in 2021, starting with a nonconference matchup at home against Nicholls on Saturday.

The Tigers were 8-3 last season under first-year head coach Ryan Silverfield and capped off the campaign with a victory in the Montgomery Bowl. It gave Memphis a 20-5 record over the previous two seasons and a 38-14 record going back to the 2017 season under Mike Norvell.

Much of that success came with Brady White at quarterback, but the Tigers are looking for a replacement. White, who played three seasons at Memphis after he transferred from Arizona State, could be replaced by another Pac-12 transfer in Grant Gunnell.

Gunnell found some success at Arizona with 15 touchdown passes to three interceptions in 12 games over two seasons, but he will have a hard time matching the 10,690 yards and 90 touchdowns White racked up in three seasons. Freshman Seth Henigan has pushed Gunnell for the starting job.

Memphis does have 16 returning starters, including senior wide receiver Calvin Austin III, who had 63 receptions for 1,053 yards last season with 11 touchdowns in 11 games. The team’s top four rushers all are back, including junior Rodrigues Clark, who ran for 561 yards and two scores.

“You can see as they have gotten more comfortable in the spring, and now through fall camp, they have become more vocal, pushing us,” Austin said of both Gunnell and Henigan. “You can just tell from January until now that they have become more comfortable with us. It makes everything easier when you have that comfort.”

Nicholls also is led by a proven wide receiver. Dai’Jean Dixon holds Nicholls records for career receiving yards, touchdowns and receptions. He had 514 yards receiving and seven touchdowns in seven spring games for the FCS Colonels, who finished the season 4-3.

Offensive lineman P.J. Burkhalter is a second-team FCS preseason All-American after the Colonels were third in rushing at 263.4 yards per game. They finished with 1,844 yards and 25 touchdowns. Nicholls was also second in scoring last season with 48.7 points per game.

Dual-threat quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. returns for his senior season after leading Nicholls in passing (1,684 yards, 18 touchdowns) and rushing (557 yards, 6 scores).

“I like the mix, I like our guys, I like how they get along,” Nicholls head coach Tim Rebowe said on 1130-AM in Shreveport, La. “We’re very athletic and talented enough. Now we just have to go put it together.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 23, 2020; Montgomery, AL, USA; Memphis Tigers wide receiver Calvin Austin III (4) carries the ball against Florida Atlantic Owls during the first half at Cramton Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

White-led Memphis rolls over FAU in Montgomery Bowl

Brady White passed for 284 yards and three touchdowns and Memphis never trailed in beating Florida Atlantic 25-10 in the Montgomery Bowl on Wednesday night in Montgomery, Ala.

White, a sixth-year senior who is the most productive passer in Memphis history, completed 22 of 34 in what is expected to be his final game before he moves on to the NFL.

Javon Ivory caught seven of White’s passes for 126 yards and a touchdown and Tahj Washington caught eight for 105 yards as the Tigers (8-3) won for the fifth time in their last six games. They ended a five-game bowl losing streak while playing in a bowl for a seventh consecutive season.

FAU quarterbacks Nick Tronti and Javion Posey combined to complete 19 of 35 for 151 yards and a touchdown. The Owls (5-4) lost their third consecutive game.

The Owls trailed 18-0 at halftime, but finally found some offense in the third quarter.

On their first possession of the third quarter, the Owls produced a nine-play, 73-yard drive that culminated with Tronti’s 3-yard touchdown pass to TJ Chase.

They recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Vladimir Rivas kicked a 27-yard field goal to pull them within 18-10.

White answered with a 7-yard touchdown to Calvin Austin III to increase the lead to 25-10 at the end of the third quarter.

FAU drove to the Tigers’ 1 and 17 in the fourth quarter, but turned the ball over on downs and an interception, respectively.

Memphis scored first when Riley Patterson kicked a 53-yard field goal and White added a 5-yard touchdown pass to Ivory that increased the Tigers’ lead to 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.

They had an opportunity to extend the lead early in the second quarter, but Patterson missed a 42-yard field goal.

Memphis missed another chance to increase the lead when White threw an interception from the FAU 32.

White bounced back to throw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Dorceus and John Hassell ran for a two-point conversion to give the Tigers an 18-0 lead at halftime.

–Field Level Media