"Despite a stellar performance the Memphis Tigers fell short to the Houston Cougars 28-24"
Memphis, TN - The scare of rain cancellation and delays did not hinder the Memphis Tigers as they took to the field in a home game anticipated by many.Liberty Bowl Stadium was packed with thousands in attendance as the Tigers and Cougars did battle once again. In his first start of the season, Greg Ward, Jr. amassed 168 yards through the air, 95 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns to lift the Houston Cougars to a 28-24 victory over the Memphis Tigers in an American Athletic Conference battle at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
Ward, Jr. connected on 14-of-25 pass attempts to finish with one passing touchdown and an interception while under center for Houston (3-3, 1-1 AAC), which picked up its first road win of the 2014 campaign. Kenneth Farrow also made an impact in the ground attack for the Cougars, tallying 64 yards and a score on 10 totes. Deontay Greenberry reeled in four catches for 72 yards.
For Memphis (3-3, 1-1), Paxton Lynch compiled 243 yards passing with two touchdowns and three interceptions on 26-of-37 efficiency. Tevin Jones made six catches for 72 yards and a score, while Sam Craft rushed 17 times for 49 yards.
The only points of the first period came courtesy of an 18-yard touchdown pass from Lynch to Jones. The Tigers increased their lead to 14-0 in the opening minute of the second stanza, as Lynch rushed six yards for a touchdown.
Houston responded with 14 consecutive points to tie the score with a pair of four-play touchdown drives. Ward, Jr. ended the drought for the Cougars as he broke away for a 64-yard touchdown run at the 12:47 mark of the second quarter. Farrow punched it in from two yards out just three minutes later to make it 14-14.
Memphis took a 21-14 lead into halftime after Lynch threw a 20-yard touchdown toss to Daniel Montiel with only a minute left in the first half.
Neither offense had any success in the early part of the second half as both sides combined for just 26 total yards on the first three drives of the third quarter. The Cougars finally found a way to produce, marching on an eight- play, 85-yard drive which ended with a three-yard rush across the goal line by Ryan Jackson.
Houston's defense began to bend slightly, as the Tigers managed to power into the Cougars' territory on their next drive, however Memphis was forced to punt from near midfield after Trevon Stewart broke up a Lynch pass on third down. Houston continued to pick apart the Memphis defense on its next drive, which spanned eight plays for 83 yards and ended with a 25-yard touchdown reception by Markeith Ambles with 13:27 remaining in regulation.
Trailing for the first time in the contest, the Tigers began to move the chains effectively after struggling for the majority of the second half. Memphis set itself up with 1st-and-goal at the 3-yard line, but Steven Taylor sacked Lynch on third down to deny the hosts a chance to tie. Jake Elliot converted a 31-yard field goal try at the 7:19 point of the fourth quarter to cut the Tigers' deficit down to 28-24.
The Cougars' defensive unit stepped it up the rest of the way, forcing a three-and-out followed by back-to-back turnovers to prevent a comeback by Memphis.
The Tigers, however turned the ball over a total of five times, out-gained Houston, 368-354, in total yards of offense.