#25 Memphis Tigers @ Houston Cougars
TDECU Stadium – Houston, TX
Score: Memphis (42), Houston (38)
Memphis QB Riley Ferguson is resilient
Ferguson did not play great for a large majority of this game. The team was shut out in the first half of a game for the first time in approximately half a decade thanks to a poorly read slant route vs. zone coverage but the offense (and Ferguson) came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. Even once the offense got humming Ferguson made some mistakes, including a throw that should have been intercepted in the endzone late in the game.
The review revealed the defender couldn’t cleanly finish the catch and the Tigers found second life with a touchdown on the next play. Ferguson’s lack of high end arm talent was apparent, specifically on that fade attempt that nearly cost them the game. But Ferguson played with confidence and did well to extend plays from the pocket. On the game winning drive, he did a terrific job to step up in the pocket and gain a chunk gain early in the possession before throwing his first touchdown pass of the evening to win the game.
Memphis WR Anthony Miller is human after all
Miller’s final stat line was impressive: 10 receptions for 178 yards. But there were a smattering of drops and a fumble in the first quarter which put Memphis in a big hole. Now, it’s important to note Miller rebounded in a big way throughout the game, a lesser player would have folded under such a frustrating start.
Instead, Miller spent tTime toeing the sideline and making Sunday catches on difficult targets. His performance was strong, but this was a game that showed he’s not the perfect player I’ve seen in my first two Memphis viewings (in Memphis vs. UCLA and at Connecticut).
Having seen as much of Miller as I have, I’m expecting him to finish in the top 5 of my WR rankings come April.
Each school has youthful defenders to watch in future years
You’ve heard about Ed Oliver. You must have! Last year’s freshman phenom made waves after deciding to stay home and play for Tom Herman in Houston, his home city. Well, Oliver has been a bit nicked up this year with a leg injury but he was still one of the two best players on the field. A physically dominating presence, Oliver disrupted the Memphis ground game and was part of a collective effort that held the Tigers to 1.3 yards per carry on the night. Oliver destroyed anything that came into the A-gaps and reminded me why he’s going to be a top prospect in 2019.
Memphis’ cornerback Terrell Carter is only a true freshman, but he was terrific in this game. 14 tackles with an interception and a forced fumble, to be exact. Carter’s forced fumble stonewalled a potential game winning drive with a minute remaining, a drive that reached mid-field before Carter pulled the ball out of QB Kyle Postma’s hands.
Houston forced a three and out and got the ball back, but an overthrow by Postma put the ball directly into the chest of Carter, who squeezed the throw and sealed the victory.
Houston has NFL talent at the WR position
Here’s looking at you, Linell Bonner! Bonner (#15) is a senior receiver who already has one 1,000 yard receiving season to his name (2016). Bonner was terrific against the Tigers, as he caught the ball cleanly and regularly won at the catch point. Bonner isn’t overly big by today’s WR standards (6’0, 200 lbs) but he played physical and is a rocked up pass catcher who will be on my watch list going forward.
Memphis JUCO CB Tito Windham Jr. is a ball magnet
Windham (a prospect for 2019) has had a good impact on every Memphis game I’ve watched this year. He’s got a nose for the football and is a quick reactionary athlete. Against Houston, Windham had two passes defensed, a forced fumble and two tackles for loss; a testament to his ability to break on the ball and make plays.
Windham Jr. is diminutive in stature (5’9, 180 lbs) but plays well above his weight class; he’s one I’ll be interested in seeing develop in the next year and a half.