“It is nice to get that win. I am proud of our kids, our coaching staff, the way we conducted ourselves, the level of discipline we showed, and the way we bounced back… it is a good victory,” Justin Fuente said following his Tigers 24-point win.
Memphis snagged its first win over Arkansas State since the 2008 season in impressive fashion, gaining 505 yards of total offense, while the defense held a Red Wolves team that averaged 544.4 yards coming into the game, to just 255 total yards
Offensively Memphis had four rushing plays of over 20 yards after having just one such play in the first two games of the year.
Marquis Warford accounted for two of those plays, getting 47 yards on one explosive play early in the game and 63 yards on another.
“I think that the chunk plays are a big part of our offense… the chunk plays make us who we are,” Warford said about the ground games explosiveness.
Brandon Hayes got the ball rolling on the ground by rushing for 73 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. Then it was Warford’s turn, and all the freshman did was average 15.7 yards per carry and score a touchdown as both backs rushed for over 100 yards on the day.
“We see it all the time in practice,” Hayes said about his freshman teammate’s stellar performance.
Coach Fuente was pleased with the Tigers 329 yard rushing output, “We ran the football pretty well and that always gives you a chance… we were able to run it inside and outside.”
Warford and Hayes are the first Tigers tandem to go over 100 yards rushing since Curtis Steele and Brandon Ross did it against SMU in 2008.
While the ground game was picking up yardage by the chunk, the defense was busy holding one of the most explosive offenses in the nation to just seven points.
Perhaps the most impressive member of the Men in Black (the Tigers debuted the all black unis in this contest) on the Tigers defense was redshirt Jr. Martin Ifedi. He spent most of his time in the Red Wolves backfield recording 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.
Ifedi had more tackles for loss in one game than the national leader in the category had all year (the leader in tackles for loss only had four such tackles on the year coming into Saturday’s games).
No wonder he is on the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List for best lineman.
“I just focus on the man in front of me. If you beat the man in front of you then you can go out and play… my coach told me nobody can block you but yourself,” Ifedi said. Unfortunately for opponents, it does not look like he will be blocking himself any time soon.
The defense held the Red Wolves to just seven points, and they garnered high praise from Arkansas State quarterback Adam Kennedy, “I talked to him after the game… he actually told me our defense was better than Auburn’s defense,” Ifedi told reporters after the game.
After such an impressive performance the Tigers (Memphis not Auburn) get a some time to rest as they have a bye next week followed by a very good UCF team who beat Penn State in Happy Valley in their last game.
Coach Fuente is looking forward to the bye week, but not necessarily for the needed rest, “We need it to go practice. We need lots of practice,” he said.
He is right, the Tigers could use the extra practice, but they are still going to find time to celebrate their first win over Arkansas State since 2008.
“Our goal is to smile a little bit… and then get ready for next week,” Fuente said.
That sounds like a pretty good plan with conference play looming around the corner.
CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from games.