U of L defeats Memphis 24-17

By on November 26, 2013

By Dalton Ray

Since 2007 the Cardinals’ football team has not seen a victory on the team’s senior day. That drought came to an end Saturday, as the Cards were able to defeat the University of Memphis 24-17, putting their record on the season at 10-1.

Many of the seniors who played their last game in Papa John’s Stadium Saturday were a part of head coach Charlie Strong’s first recruiting class.

“Just to see the seniors go out the right way, we just wanted to see that happen for them. So much they’ve given to this program and now they will be able to go to their fourth straight bowl game…21-3 (as a class) in their last 24 games that’s impressive,” Strong said.

Many question whether this will be the last game for junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as well. The Davey O’Brien Award semifinalist swiftly redirected questions afterwards regarding his future to talking about how important the win was for the seniors and the team, again noting how much they’ve done for the program.

Seniors such as: Hakeem Smith, Damian Copeland, Roy Philon, home-town product Brandon Dunn, Senorise Perry, Marcus Smith, Preston Brown wanted to finish their final home game as a Cardinal with a bang.

Just hours before the game senior middle linebacker Preston Brown found out his grandfather had passed. Brown honored his grandfather recording a team-high of nine tackles and a defensive touchdown off a fumble recovery in the first quarter, the first touchdown of his collegiate career coming in his last home game. The fumble was forced by defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and the score gave the Cards an early lead and momentum.

“It was great getting the touchdown for my grandpa. I put on a show for him,” Brown said.

Bridgewater’s lone touchdown was a 40 yard pass to junior wide receiver DeVante Parker. Parker made one defender miss and simply out ran the rest of the defense down the sideline for the score. After John Wallace’s field goal the halftime score was 17-3. Wallace’s field goal gave him 16 on the year which puts him second all time for field goals in a season.

After halftime, the Cardinals came out strong and scored on the opening possession, capping off a 14-play, seven-minute drive. As it looked like the Cardinals would pull away in the second half the offense seemingly just spun its wheels and wouldn’t score anymore points in the final 23 minutes of the game. Penalties and untimely sacks plagued the final three possessions.

“We cannot lose focus, we have to continue to play and finish,” Strong said.

Memphis running back Paxton Lynch ran a four-yard touchdown in at the start of the fourth quarter and pulled the Tigers within 14 points. As the wind refused to let up on this chilly senior day in November the Cardinals found themselves in a similar situation, up a few scores and relying on the defense to hold off the cavalry.

The next offensive possession the fans saw a very rare three straight incompletions from Bridgewater. Lynch would again lead his Tigers offense down and score this time on a 12-play, six-minute drive. Jesse Milleson hauled in the catch in the back of the end zone and silenced the home crowd.

As the offense came back on to the field all that was needed was a score to ice the game and secure a victory. After two quick first downs, Memphis’ fourth sack on the day would put Teddy and the offense in huge hole as they faced a third and 15 with barely three minutes left. Ryan Johnson came onto punt after a short completion and Memphis’ Reggis Ball ran directly into Johnson, drawing a roughing the kicker and giving the Cards a fresh set of downs.

The offense would make the visiting Tigers pay for their mistake, as they would waste an additional two and half minutes off the clock. On a fourth and 10 at the 15-yard line with 44 seconds left the Cardinals decided to forgo the field goal attempt and looked to finish off their opponent. Bridgewater would end up displaying his infamously known sliding skills and scramble for nine yards, coming up just short and turning the ball over on downs.

One last defensive stand was asked for and the defense came through. With the 24-17 win the Cardinals are now 10-1 and now have their first consecutive double-digit win seasons in school history. The Cardinals will have their season finale at rival Cincinnati on Dec. 5 at 7:30 pm on ESPN.

 

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