Tulane running game, defense too much for Memphis in 40-24 win

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Darius Bradwell
(Photo: Parker Waters)

NEW ORLEANS – Offense and defense both put on a show at Yulman Stadium on Friday night as the Tulane football team defeated Memphis 40-24.

The Green Wave (2-3, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) blasted the Tigers (3-2, 0-2) for 496 total yards of offense – including 318 on the ground – while holding Memphis to only 277 yards. Tigers running back Darrell Henderson, who entered the game with a nation-best 12.2 yards per carry, put up just 51 yards on seven carries.

The win was Tulane’s first against Memphis since 2000, breaking an 11-game losing streak against the Tigers.

Stephon Huderson and Darius Bradwell set career highs rushing the ball, picking up 58 and 143 yards, respectively. Corey Dauphine and Bradwell each had two rushing touchdowns, and Darnell Mooney had another through the air.

Tulane also dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 37 minutes to Memphis’ 23. The Green Wave ran 78 plays on offense compared to the Tigers’ 51, and Tulane’s defense got off the field often by holding Memphis to 4 of 12 on third-down conversions while making nine tackles for loss. The Green Wave had just six sacks all year before the game and picked up seven on Friday night.

Tulane was also secure with the ball, going without a turnover for the second straight game. That snapped Memphis’ 20-game streak of forcing at least one turnover.

While the final score was convincing, the game was tight until late in the third quarter. The deciding blows for Tulane came in a span of three plays at the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters.

After taking a timeout with two seconds left in the third quarter, Justin McMillan came in as quarterback. He found Darnell Mooney on the left side of the field, and Mooney did the rest, streaking down the sideline for a 51-yard score that made it 24-14 Tulane.

Memphis chose to take the ensuing kickoff out of its end zone and only advanced to the 10, setting up another Tulane score three players later. Freshman defensive end Juan Monjarres put pressure on Memphis quarterback Brady White, forcing him to fumble the ball in the end zone. A Memphis player fell on the ball, giving Tulane a safety and 2 more points for a 26-14 lead with 14 minutes remaining.

The safety was the first that Tulane scored since Oct. 11, 2014 against UConn.

Five plays after that, Dauphine added insult to injury when he sped past the Memphis defense for a 46-yard touchdown run and a 19-point Tulane lead. And after forcing a Tigers turnover on downs, Bradwell went around the edge for a 25-yard touchdown to make it 40-14 with just under eight minutes left.

Tulane got off to an impressive start with the ball, driving 75 yards in 12 plays to take an early 7-0 lead on the Tigers. Five different Green Wave players helped get the ball down the field, and Darnell Mooney had three catches on the drive. Dauphine capped things with a 2-yard touchdown run, his fourth of the year.

But immediately following a failed onside kick attempt, Memphis got the ball at the Tulane 47 and running back Darrell Henderson took it straight into the end zone on the first play to tie the game at 7-7.

Tulane got right back on top, though, thanks to some daring on a fourth-and-1. On its own 47-yard line with a yard to gain, Darius Bradwell went up the gut for 53 yards and a touchdown. That put Tulane over 100 yards rushing for the evening, extending the Green Wave’s streak to 32 consecutive games while giving the home team a 14-7 edge on the scoreboard.

Right before halftime, Tulane extended its lead to 10 points on a 20-yard field goal. Tulane faced second-and-25 on the drive thanks to a penalty and a sack, but Bradwell ran for 21 yards on that play and Huderson got Tulane to the 1-yard line three plays later with a 22-yard run. With time running short, one last attempt to get into the end zone failed, and Glover split the uprights to put Tulane ahead 17-7 at the break.

In the third quarter, Memphis came out of the gates strong, scoring a touchdown on its first possession. This one was also a long play to Henderson, though it was through the air. Brady White found Henderson wide open on the left side for a 43-yard touchdown completion, and Tulane’s lead was cut to 17-14.

From there, though, it was all Tulane.

Tulane is back on the road next weekend, heading to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats. The game will be televised on ESPN2 or ESPNU at 11 a.m. central.

TULANE 40, MEMPHIS 24 – POSTGAME NOTES (16,631 – Attendance)

-Tulane’s matchup with Memphis marked the 35th meeting between the two schools. With the win, the Green Wave improves to 12-22-1 all-time.
-Tulane collected its first win over Memphis since Nov. 18, 2000. Memphis had won 11 games in a row against Tulane prior to Friday.
-The Green Wave’s win over Memphis snapped the Tigers’ 15-game winning streak during non-Saturday games since 2014.
-The Green Wave handed Memphis its first loss at Yulman Stadium.
-Team captains for tonight’s game were P Zachary Block, DL De’Andre WIlliams, DL Cameron Sample and OL Devon Johnson.
-Senior OL Dominique Briggs carried the No. 18 flag in honor of Devon Walker.
-With the win, Fritz improves to 204-92-1 all-time. He also improved to 70-28 all-time in the month of September.

-The Green Wave offensive starters were QB Jonathan Banks, RB Darius Bradwell, WR Darnell Mooney, WR Terren Encalade, WR Jaetavian Toles, TE Charles Jones II, OL Tyler Johnson, OL Dominique Briggs, OL Corey Dublin, OL John Leglue and OL Keyshawn McLeod.
-The Green Waved finished the game with 496 yards of total offense, which marked the 12th time in the Willie Fritz era that Tulane has surpassed 400 yards of total offense.
-Tulane has rushed for 100 yards or more in 32 straight games.
-Tulane rushed for a season-best 318 yards.
-Encalade and Leglue each made their 29th consecutive start.
-Darius Bradwell rushed for 103 yards on 10 carries in the first half to record his first 100-yard game. He finished the game with a career-high 143 yards.
-Mooney led the team with 94 yards receiving. Mooney has totaled 70 yards or more in every game this season. Mooney leads the team with 26 receptions for 479 yards.
-Tulane did not commit a turnover for the second straight week.
-With Tulane not committing a turnover, the Green Wave snapped Memphis’ streak of 20 straight games with a forced turnover.

-The Green Wave defensive starters were CB Donnie Lewis Jr., S Roderic Teamer Jr., S P.J. Hall, Nickel Tirise Barge, CB Thakarius Keyes, LB Zachery Harris, LB Lawrence Graham, DE Patrick Johnson, DL De’Andre Williams, DL Cameron Sample and DL Jeffery Johnson.
-Lewis made his 36th career start. His 36 career starts are the most of any current player on the defense.
-Barge made his first career start.
-Tulane held Memphis to just 277 yards of total offense. Memphis, which was the season as the preseason favorite to win The American West Division, entered Friday night’s game nearly 600 yards of total offense (593.0).
-Tulane held Memphis under 300 yards of total offense, marking the Tigers’ first game with fewer than 300 yards since they played Auburn in 2015.
-Tulane’s defensive unit tallied a season-best 7.0 sacks.
-Tulane recorded a safety for the first time since Oct. 11, 2014 (UConn).
-Defensive coordinator Jack Curtis celebrated his birthday.
-Sample recorded a sack for the second straight game. He finished the game with a career-high two sacks.

-Punter Ryan Wright averaged 47.5 yards per punt on two punts.
-Kicker Merek Glover connected a 20-yard field goal.

Tulane Football Postgame Quotes
Head Coach Willie Fritz
On the win…
“Just happy with everything. Complete and total team win, the defense played extremely well. That’s a tough team to hold under 300 yards, I’d be interested to see the last time they had under 300 yards total offense, I think they’re third or fourth in the country in offense, very explosive, and I thought we did some good things in the kicking game. Total team, we made some mistakes though, so we’ll be able to go over those on Monday.

On dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball…
“It really was. We’ve been trying to get a pass rush for the first four games and I thought, there at the end obviously, we know they’ll be throwing the ball every down that we tee off on, but I thought we had some good pressure in the fourth quarter and it makes it a heck of a lot easier to cover on the back end. I thought up front we did a really nice job, creating seams and creases in the inside and also on the stretch play, so very good job by the O-line and D-line.”

On Justin McMillan’s touchdown in his first play…
“I mean, he came in and we had to throw the ball and I forget the down distance, third and pretty long I believe, but he did a nice job of hitting Darnell (Mooney), and he made a guy miss, so it was a huge play for us.”

On how comfortable he is with Justin McMillan…
“Well one thing he does a good job of is he stands over there and he’s really into the game and really processing what’s going on. A couple times I went over to talk to him and he’s really locked in on what’s going on, so that’s great. You have to do that when you’re on the sidelines, particularly for the quarterback.”

Senior S Roderic Teamer
On Tulane’s current conference position…
“I mean, I love it. We talked coming into this week, first week of conference, new season for us, and we want to treat it like playoffs. We really just want to treat it like playoffs. Every week is a new season for us and that’s how we gotta look at it. When we came into the game, we were licking our chops really. Memphis is a great program, they’ve been on fire the past couple seasons. They are on fire this season, right now. We just looked at it as a great test to come out and show that we can compete in this conference this year.”

On Tulane’s defensive dominance…
“It was huge. We knew going into the game, like Coach Fritz said, we were gonna be aggressive, we were gonna take chances, and when you take chances that might put the defensive in, what some might say is a bad situation, we don’t really look at it as a bad situation. We trust our coach and we’re gonna go out there and play for him.”

Sophomore DE Cameron Sample
On rushing the quarterback…
“I think there is more determination to get to him, and not just this week. We want to take that attitude going forward to next season. That’s one of the things we wanted to work on coming into this year, getting off the field on third down, really pressuring the quarterback. We’ve had our chances the first three or four games, but I felt tonight we really capitalized on those opportunities and we are gonna look for that to continue the rest of the year.”

On how he felt coming off of the Ohio State game last week…
“Yeah, I felt pretty good. You know, I have very high standards for myself and I know I have to do a big part for this team, that’s what they ask me to do, and just being able to go out and play at the level that I know I can play and they know I can play good for me and the ballclub.”

Junior WR Darnell Mooney
On dropping passes…
“It was very frustrating. I came in the beginning of the season (and) my goal was to have not one dropped ball. And then going into last week, I dropped one, and then again tonight, I keep dropping the ball. It’s something I gotta fix. I’ve got a date with the drills next week.”

On the win, beating the defending champion, pretty convincingly. How big was that?
“It was a very big win. Throughout the week I was just walking around like ‘this is a win or go home situation.’ We gotta play like we win or go home. We were saying, ‘this tells the whole season right here, this game right here, if we lose, we know what the season’s gonna be like. If we win, we know what the season’s gonna be like.’”

Memphis Football Postgame Quotes
Head Coach Mike Norvell
On the game…
“Obviously extremely disappointed in how we played, coached, every aspect. You gotta give a lot of credit to Tulane, Coach Fritz, his staff, his players. Top to bottom, they were better and that was something for our football team that is unfortunate to see us go out there and perform at that level. We have much higher expectations. We got our tails kicked tonight and we gotta give credit to Tulane. We gotta look in the mirror and go back to work. We gotta make sure we have a great response to ensure performances like this do not happen again. Tonight, we definitely put ourselves in a position to make that result possible.”

On running game troubles…
“I think it was a combination [offensive line and defensive line]. We gotta do a better job in our execution. But on the flip side, what they did was kind of what I expected. They stacked the box, played a lot of man coverage, moved the front. They did some things that created problems and you know we started off with that big play on the first play of the game and then I think we only had the ball 16 plays in the first half. I mean, it is hard to get in rhythm. We didn’t convert on third downs and we had some very easy and correctable mistakes, but you can’t have those in a game that is not necessarily going you way there early. We gotta continue to grow and get better and have to excute better.”

On big number of players out with injury….
“When you have a substantial number of guys that can’t play or are unavailable, it is a challenge because it does test your depth. What really magnified that was the fact that the time of possession became so one-sided and we did not sustain drives. We had the first play touchdown. Tulane was able to drive the ball down their first couple of drives and had the ball and really tested us further into our depth. But at the end of the day, you will get an opportunity and we have to make sure our guys are ready to roll no matter where they are on the depth chart. When they step onto that field that have to perform at a high level.”

Messgae to team after game like this….
“We have to look in the mirror and we have to make sure that the things that happened today, they are on all of us. Every aspect, we were beat. We were out-coached, out-performed, out-prepared. That is something I felt I knew going into a short week especially going on the road, you gotta make sure that you are ready to go. I thought there were things we did well during the week but obviously tonight that didn’t look like our football team and that was something that disappointed me because I didn’t see that spark that I am accustomed to, so we gotta look at why that’s the case and make sure we get it corrected.”

Difference between Navy and Tulane play style…
“They were able to run the football. They executed, we did not sustain drives very well in the first half having not converting on third down. So that is what is going to happen when teams put together drives on you, it really makes the time of possession one-sided and obviously put us on the wrong end of it.”

Thoughts on offensive line…
“It was all things we are going to have to evaluate on film. Obviously, they got some penetration, they moved the front. It’s everybody. When you run for 300 yards for a game it’s everybody performing. When you are obviously not very successful it’s everybody as well. We gotta look at what we were trying to do and accomplish climatically to make sure we clean up the mistakes that were made that allowed some of the penetration. On the flip side, they had a good plan. Something we figured they would try to do and they were able to execute at a high level.”

On Bryce Huff’s game…
“Bryce obviously got more reps tonight with Jackson (Dillon) being down and he is continuing to grow. He’s gotta continue to play at a high level. There were a couple of plays I know he would like to have back through the game from things that I saw, but he is also productive in some areas. You know at the end of the day we gave up too much in every aspect offense, defense, special teams. It is hard to take a lot of positives out of that performance especially at this time.”

Running Back Darrell Henderson
On the inability to rebound from a poor performance last week…
“They just outplayed us in every aspect of the game. All the credit goes to them. They did their job, we didn’t do ours.”

On the lack of fight…
“I don’t even know what Twitter says about it, they just played really well. They did what they did well, we didn’t do what we do at all. They did what they did, and they won.”

On how to rally next week…
“Practice. We gotta come to practice with a different mentality. We know what it looks like when we come to practice and do what we did out there, and now we have to make sure that never happens again.”

Quarterback Brady White
On what happened in the game…
“We got our butts beat(en).”

On what Tulane did to make it hard to establish a rhythm…
“They just beat us. They came out ready to play. Obviously, we couldn’t get into a rhythm, didn’t execute like we know how to, so we lost.”

On what prevented Memphis from establishing a rhythm …
“Shooting ourselves in the foot, penalties, not executing. Like you said, we never got into a rhythm. There were some drives we put together, a good set of downs, but too many stop and starts. Not being able to get a first down and then not get another one. Just little things like that. We didn’t execute, and they beat us.”

On what was the mood after scored at end of third quarter…
“We are gonna battle until the clock hits zero. So, I don’t care how many points are on the board. If its 0-0, we are gonna fight offensively, defensively so it doesn’t happen.”

On what is your message to your team…
“We got our butts beats. We gotta accept that. Have to reflect and go watch film on what happened and respond. It is all about your response when you hit adversity. Obviously tonight was adversity, so we are gonna have to bounce back. We still have a lot of season left ahead of us so how are we gonna handle that? Are we just gonna sit here and sulk or are we gonna respond and take a championship approach every week and come out ready to play?”

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