Memphis Tigers Historic Season Closes at Birmingham Bowl

December 30th, 2015

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – In front of a Birmingham Bowl-record crowd of 59,430, the Memphis Tigers overcame a 10-point first half deficit, however, Auburn scored all of the game’s 21 second-half points en route to a 31-10 win at Legion Field.

The historic record-breaking season for Memphis ended with a 9-4 overall record, and the program’s second straight bowl game appearance. During the season the team set single-season records with 522 points, 64 touchdowns, 6,331 offensive yards, and 322 first downs.

The record-breaking season added two more notches to its belt when Memphis recorded its 95th third-down conversion of the season, breaking the record previously set in 2007, and ending with 101 for the season. The second record came in the middle of the third quarter when the Tigers eclipsed the team single-season passing yard mark, previously set in 2007, and now stands at 3,995.

Paxton Lynch, who has single-season school records for touchdown passes, passing yards, and 300-yard passing games was 17-of-38 behind center for 104 yards. The rushing attack was paced by Doroland Dorceus who ran 10 times for 39 yards, and Jarvis Cooper had five rushes for 35 yards. Mose Frazier and Phil Mayhue each hauled in four receptions, with Frazier going for 46 yards.

Memphis forced three turnovers, two on Reggis Ball interceptions, and the third on an interception from Dontrell Nelson.

Auburn used trickery on its first drive of the game, converting a fake punt for a 37-yard pass to the Memphis 3-yard line; however, the defense tightened and did not allow another positive yard, forcing the Tigers to a 20-yard field goal, staking the visitors on the scoreboard to a 3-0 lead.

On its second drive of the game, Auburn got a 9-yard rush from Kerryon Johnson to push Auburn’s advantage to 10-0 with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter.

With 10:03 to play in the second quarter, Memphis kicker and Lou Groza Award finalist Jake Elliott booted a 53-yard field goal, tied for the third-longest in program history, and cutting the Memphis deficit to seven at 10-3, while breaking the Birmingham Bowl record for the longest field goal in the process.

It was Elliott’s sixth career field goal of 52 yards or more, as he owns four of the five longest field goals in program history (the other is held by current New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski). Elliott’s kick also tied a school record for most field goals in a season, as he moved even with Joe Allison’s total from the 1992 season.

On Memphis’ next possession, Elliott was set to take sole possession of the field goal record, but his 34-yard attempt was blocked, keeping the Auburn advantage at 10-3 with 5:55 to play in the opening half.

After stopping Auburn near midfield, the visitors on the scoreboard attempted a fourth-down pass that was picked off by Ball for his second interception in the game by the senior, this one returned 56 yards for his first collegiate touchdown, knotting the score at 10 points apiece and sending the teams into the locker room deadlocked through the first 30 minutes of play.

Memphis came out of the halftime break and drove 56 yards on 13 plays, taking the ball down to the Auburn 9-yard line before his pass attempt was tipped and intercepted in the end zone.

Two possessions later, Auburn used eight plays to drive 44 yards, scoring when quarterback Jeremy Johnson found Jason Smith out of the backfield, and Smith evaded to Memphis tacklers on his way to the end zone, giving Auburn a 17-10 lead halfway through the second quarter.

Auburn went ahead 24-10 on the first play of the fourth quarter when Johnson rushed in from five yards out with 14:57 remaining in the contest. Following a 56-yard punt return after Memphis’ next possession, Auburn’s Javon Robinson scored his first touchdown of the game from 4 yards out, pushing Auburn’s lead to 21 at 31-10 with 12:57 to play.
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