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Riley Ferguson throws 7 TDs, Anthony Miller makes school history as Memphis blows away UConn

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Memphis (4-1, 1-1 AAC) quarterback Riley Ferguson tied an American Athletic Conference record with seven touchdown passes thrown in a single game Friday night in a 70-31 road win at UConn (1-4, 0-3 AAC). Tigers wide receiver Anthony Miller had himself a big night to contribute to Ferguson’s success with 15 catches for 224 yards and a school-record four touchdowns.

The record for most touchdown passes in a single game by a player form the AAC was previously set by former Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, who is now in the NFL with the Denver Broncos.

Here’s a look at the touchdown that moved Ferguson into a tie with the former Memphis quarterback…

Miller ended his night with 224 receiving yards and four touchdowns, pretty much doubling his season total coming into the night.

Ferguson completed 34-of-48 pass attempts for 431 yards and the seven touchdowns before finally getting a rest in the fourth quarter as David Moore stepped in to replace him. Memphis accumulated 711 yards of total offense, more than making up for what at times was a rough showing by the Memphis defense. But UConn did themselves no favors with three turnovers and going just 2-for-11 on third down attempts.

Memphis will hope to keep this momentum going next week when they host Navy in what looks to be a pivotal game in the AAC West standings. The Midshipmen are already 3-0 in conference play, while Memphis evened their record against conference opponents after getting rolled over by UCF last week.

Uconn will look to get something on track next week with a road game at Temple.

Mike Norvell boosts Power Five stock as Memphis upends UCLA

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Entering this season, any list of Group of Five head coaches who could be targets of a Power Five search included Mike Norvell.  After today, the Memphis coach likely inched closer to the top of that particular class.

In a back-and-forth affair that featured a pair of ties and seven lead changes, a three-yard touchdown pass from Riley Ferguson proved to be the difference as Memphis outlasted No. 25 UCLA 48-45.  The Tigers remained a perfect 3-0 on the season, while the Bruins dropped its first game of the year after winning its first two, the first a scintillating come-from-behind win over Texas A&M in the season opener.

Memphis took its largest lead of the game early in the third quarter, with another Ferguson touchdown pass put the Tigers up 34-24.  For the game, Ferguson threw for 398 yards and a career-high six touchdowns.

After Josh Rosen tossed a pick-six to push the Tigers’ lead back out to 10 at 41-31, the junior quarterback tossed a pair of touchdown passes on two of the next three possessions to give the Bruins its last lead of the game at 45-41 and its first since late in the second quarter.

Rosen threw for a game-high 463 yards and four touchdowns, although his two interceptions were critical in the loss, a loss that continues a disturbing trend for the Bruins.

While Norvell’s stock is rising, the heat underneath his counterpart, Jim Mora, continues to climb.  Mora was one a handful of coaches who, entering the season, was viewed as being in a win-or-else situation.  Games such as this certainly won’t help make Mora’s case for continuing on in 2018.

No. 21 Memphis locks up one spot in AAC title game

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It didn’t look good early for No. 21 Memphis, but they flipped the script and, eventually, after a weather delay, got the job done.

With just under nine minutes left in the first quarter of its Week 12 game against visiting SMU, Memphis found itself on the wrong end of a 10-0 score.  The Tigers then went on to score the next 24 points before scoring the first 21 of the fourth quarter in what turned into a comfortable 66-45 win.

The win clinches the first-ever AAC West title for the U of M, pushing them into the Dec. 2 conference championship game.  They will face the winner of next Saturday’s USF-UCF game at either their own home or at the stadium of the winner of that game.

With this win, plus a Memphis win over East Carolina next Saturday, almost assures that the AAC title game will essentially serve as a play-in game for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bid.

As is ofttimes the case, the Tigers were this weekend led by the throwing-catching duo of Riley Ferguson and Anthony Miller (pictured).

Ferguson completed 21 of his 27 passes for 320 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  He added two rushing touchdowns for good measure, nearly matching his season total of three coming into the game.

Miller, meanwhile, caught eight of Ferguson’s completions for 163 yards and both touchdowns through the air.  The senior wide receiver now has (67) receptions for (905) yards and (11) touchdowns on the season.

The Tigers also had a pair of 100-yards rushers in Darrell Henderson (147) and Patrick Taylor Jr. (112).  As a team, the U of M averaged 7.2 yards on its 46 carries.

J.T. Barrett, Baker Mayfield headline Unitas Award finalists

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In mid-October, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award whittled its 47-player preseason watch list down to 20. A month later, it’s been whittled even further.

Wednesday, the Unitas announced its 10 finalists for the 2017 version of the trophy. The award has been given annually since 1987 to the top quarterback in the country who is either a senior or fourth-year junior and takes into account his accomplishments both on and off the field.

Included in this reduced group is Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, who was a finalist for the 2016 award. Mayfield’s counterpart in an early-season game this year, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, is another of the finalists.

Three of the finalists come from the Big 12, the most of any conference. The AAC and Big Ten are next with two each, while the ACC, MAC and SEC have one apiece.

Below are the 10 finalists for the Unitas Award, which was won last year by Clemson’s Deshaun Watson.

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Ryan Finley, NC State
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi St.
Quinton Flowers, South Florida
Kenny Hill, TCU
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Trace McSorley, Penn St.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Logan Woodside, Toledo

Shutout in first half, No. 25 Memphis tops Houston 42-38

Associated Press
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If there was ever a dictionary definition of a tale of two halves, this game was it.

Through two quarters of play, Houston held a relatively comfortable 17-0 lead on No. 25 Memphis as the AAC teams headed into their respective halftime locker rooms.  When the second-half dust had settled, the Tigers had righted themselves en route to a 42-point last two quarters in a stunning 42-38 come-from-behind win over the Cougars.

Riley Ferguson passed for 471 yards in the win, although he had just one touchdown pass on the night.  Patrick Taylor managed the scoring load for the Tigers, though, as he scored four rushing touchdowns on 14 carries for 39 yards; Taylor had just three touchdowns the first seven games of the season entering Thursday night.

Despite Memphis’ second-half scoring deluge, homestanding Houston actually held a 10-point lead with just under seven minutes remaining in the game.  Turnovers on their last two possessions, however, torpedoed any chance of the home upset of a ranked conference foe.

With the win, Memphis moves to 3-1 in American Athletic Conference play and into a temporary tie with Navy, which plays No. 20 UCF Saturday, for the top spot in the Group of Five conference’s West Division.