The final-drive drama in Saturday’s USF-Memphis game could have been moot had the Tigers not come up short on first-and-goal inside the Bulls’ 5-yard line in the first quarter.
A 30-yard pass from Danny Wimprine to Darron White put the Tigers on the Bulls’ 2-yard line at the 6:15 mark in the first quarter. With the game still scoreless, USF called its first timeout of the game.
“Usually when we’re in those kinds of situations, we just call timeout so we can regroup ourselves as a defense, just to concentrate on the task at hand, which is stopping (the drive),” said USF defensive end Chris Daley.
The Bulls responded with a riveting goal-line stand. They stopped Dante Brown for no gain and only allowed Travis Anglin to penetrate as far as the 1-yard line. After the Tigers, faced with a crescendo of crowd noise, called a timeout of their own, Daley and linebacker Maurice Jones combined to stuff Wimprine in his tracks, and a fumbled handoff helped Jones and fellow linebacker Courtney Davenport halt Brown’s progress at the 1-yard line on fourth down.
“We just had to dig in, get low and get penetration so our linebackers can fill the gaps and make the plays. And that’s what happened,” Daley said.
The Tigers, perhaps shell-shocked, then surrendered 28 points in the second quarter and fell behind 28-7 at halftime, a deficit that was just a little too much to overcome in the end.
“They played well,” Memphis coach Tommy West said of the Bulls. “You can’t play like we played in the second quarter there and beat these guys down here.”
But West said the goal-line stand was not the Tigers’ downfall.
“I’d love to have had those points, but I really don’t think that was the turning point in the game,” West said. “Again, the 28-0 second quarter was the difference in the game.”
West said the experience of the second quarter was valuable for his team.
“We grew up a little bit tonight,” West said. “We grew up as a football team. We took a step, (but) that’s about as sorry a second quarter as I’ve ever been a part of.”
West, however, was proud of his team for narrowing the gap and almost pulling out the win, saying his players “played like men.”
“This could have been (a loss by) 60, and everybody in the stadium thought that — except this locker room,” West said. “I’m proud, I really am. That’s the first time it really hurts. Losing stinks, but we played like we’re capable.”