Ferguson leads Memphis to 48-45 upset of No. 25 UCLA
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — UCLA and Josh Rosen came in with the reputation and the ranking. The Memphis Tigers think it is time they got some respect and notoriety.
Rosen was unable to put together a fourth-quarter comeback like he did in the opener against Texas A&M, and Memphis beat the No. 25 Bruins 48-45 on Saturday. The nationally televised game showcased a Tigers program that is 2-0 and has beaten a ranked team in each of the last three seasons.
Riley Ferguson threw for 398 yards and six touchdowns, and Jacobi Francis broke up a late fourth-down pass to lead Memphis. Francis’ breakup with 56 seconds left sent the Tigers faithful into a celebration.
“They’ve been given nothing. They’ve had to earn everything they’ve ever gotten,” Memphis coach Mike Norvell said about his team. “That’s what today’s about. It’s about going out there and when you get that opportunity and you put the work in, then you go out there and you make the play. That’s why I love this football (team).”
Rosen, considered one of the top quarterbacks in the country, was 34 of 56 for 463 yards and four touchdowns for the Bruins (2-1). But there also were two key interceptions
For all of the hype about Rosen, Ferguson matched his counterpart, completing 23 of 38 passes for Memphis, and his connections with wide receiver Anthony Miller meant the difference. Miller caught nine passes for 185 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
UCLA gave up big plays and turnovers, key ones that thwarted drives and led to Memphis scores, including a 60-yard interception return by linebacker Tim Hart in the third quarter.
“There’s a formula for winning,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “You can’t turn the ball over, and you can’t give up explosive plays and we did both.”
Both teams managed to answer the opponents’ scores through the game. Memphis held a couple of 10-point leads, but UCLA went ahead 45-41 on Rosen’s 22-yard pass to Austin Roberts with 11:51 left.
Memphis responded with a four-play, 81-yard drive, the final 3 yards coming on Ferguson’s pass to Phil Mayhue with 9:56 left.
From there, it was up to the Tigers’ defense, which despite, giving up 633 yards, did not allow another touchdown.
UCLA: The Bruins did have a more successful rushing attack against the Tigers, including Bolu Olorunfunmi gaining 77 yards on 13 carries. The Bruins finished with 170 yards rushing after only gaining 195 on the ground in their first two games. And while Rosen threw for 463 yards and four touchdowns, the Pick-6 by Hart and another Memphis interception when UCLA was deep in Tiger territory, were damaging. “I just made some stupid mistakes,” Rosen said. “I made about 10 points worth of really bad plays. ... I just can’t make really, really, silly mistakes like that. It’s just trying to play hero ball. It’s not needed. You’ve got to play within the system.”
MEMPHIS: The Tigers used a pair of screen passes for scores at a time when the Bruins had thwarted the running game. The Tigers were led in rushing by Darrell Henderson, who had 14 carries for 105 yards, the fourth time in three games the Bruins have allowed an opponent to surpass 100 yards on the ground.
UCLA: The Bruins entered the Top 25 rankings this week — barely — holding the last spot. It is hard to imagine they will not drop out in next week’s poll after losing to an unranked team.
MEMPHIS: Not only were the Tigers not ranked last week, but they didn’t receive any votes. While they might not crack the Top 25, it’s likely Memphis will be on the ballots of some voters.
CRUSHING BLOW: Memphis linebacker J.J. Russell was taken from the field on a cart in the second quarter after a brutal block on a Tigers kickoff. Memphis officials said he was moving. “He’s fine,” Norvell said. “I saw him at halftime, and got to go in and talk to him. He took a big hit, but he’ll be fine.”
LAST WORD: “We didn’t play a perfect game. There were mistakes that were made against a really good football team,” Norvell said. “But our guys continued to push and continued to battle.”
UCLA: The Bruins open Pac-12 play at No. 19 Stanford next Saturday.
MEMPHIS: The Tigers play their third straight home game to open the season, facing Southern Illinois next Saturday. Memphis has played three home games because its Sept. 9 game at Central Florida was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. The American Athletic Conference announced Thursday that the Tigers-Knights game is rescheduled for Sept. 30.