Memphis holds off late rally from No. 23 SMU for 28-25 win

Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal / USA TODAY NETWORK
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Seth Henigan threw for 392 yards and two touchdowns, and Memphis’ defense stymied No. 23 SMU in a 28-25 victory over the Mustangs on Saturday.

Henigan, who missed last week’s loss to UCF with a right shoulder injury, completed 34 of 53 passes, including touchdowns of 2 yards to Eddie Lewis and 27 yards to Javon Ivory.

“We’re still a work in progress,” Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said. “One game is not going to define us. But it’s always great to come in and get a win against a Top-25 football team, another conference win.

“It was a great team win, and we did whatever it took.”

It took a stout defensive effort in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory for the Tigers (5-4, 2-3 American Athletic Conference).

SMU (7-2, 3-2) trailed 28-10 after a Memphis executed a trick play, a 40-yard touchdown pass from running back Rodrigues Clark to tight end Sean Dykes with 11:01 remaining.

The Mustangs’ rally began when Tanner Mordecai connected with Danny Gray for a 27-yard touchdown – Gray’s second of the day. Tyler Lavine scored on a 1-yard run with just under six minutes left to cut the Memphis lead to three points.

SMU had one last drive after the Tigers turned over the ball on downs at the SMU 46, but Mordecai’s pass was intercepted by Rodney Owens on the ensuing drive, sending the Mustangs to their second straight loss.

“I think that was the icing on the cake,” Silverfield said. “Let’s be real. One of the reasons we had a 4-4 record was the turnover margin.”

Memphis came in having lost four of five.

SMU coach Sonny Dykes thought his team was in a good mental state before the game, showing a lot of energy after last week’s heartbreaking 44-37 loss to Houston on a 100-yard kickoff return with 17 seconds remaining.

“We’re a razor’s edge away from winning these two games,” Dykes said. “We had a chance to win both of these games at the very end, and we just didn’t do it. We won those games early on.”

The Mustangs had too many miscues against Memphis. SMU lost two fumbles, and the interception sealed the game.

“We just made so many mistakes,” Dykes said. “You can’t win a football game – it doesn’t matter who you play – when you make that many mistakes. That’s really what it boiled down to.”

He later added: “The end of the game was just kind of systematic of what the rest of the day was.”

The crucial touchdown pass from Clark to Sean Dykes came on fourth-and-2 from the SMU 40. Henigan got under center as if he was going to try to sneak for the first down. Instead, the ball was snapped through Henigan’s legs to Clark in the running back position. Clark threw to Dykes, who caught the ball in stride and outran the defender to the end zone.

The Tigers’ defense was exceptional. SMU, which entered the game averaging 504 yards of offense and 42 points per game, finished with 323 yards and failed to score at least 31 points for the first time this season. Memphis had five sacks and nine tackles for loss.

THE TAKEAWAY

SMU: The Mustangs’ offense struggled throughout the game and its offensive line had its worst day of the season, leaving Mordecai under pressure throughout the game.

Memphis: The offense got a boost from the return of Henigan, who was much smoother directing the passing game than backup Peter Parrish. The Tigers managed only 22 rushing yards.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

SMU is all but certain to fall out of the AP Top 25 after its second straight loss.

UP NEXT

SMU: Hosts UCF next Saturday.

Memphis: Hosts East Carolina next Saturday.

WVU RB Donaldson in concussion protocol, out for Baylor game

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson is in concussion protocol and will miss next week’s home game with Baylor after he was injured in a loss to Texas, coach Neal Brown said Tuesday.

Donaldson remained on the ground after he was tackled on a short gain in the third quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 loss to the Longhorns. His helmet and shoulder pads were removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. After the game he was cleared to travel home with the team.

“He’s recovering,” Brown said. “There is a strict return-to-play (policy) that we have to follow here and I’m zero involved in it. All I do is ask the question. They don’t even start the return-to-play until they’re symptom free.”

Donaldson, a 240-pound freshman, leads the Mountaineers with 389 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) is idle this week and hosts Baylor (3-2, 1-1) next Thursday, Oct. 13.

Taulia Tagovailoa says he visited brother, Tua, over weekend

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to visit his brother, Tua, last weekend after the Terrapins’ game against Michigan State, he said Tuesday in his first comments to reporters since Tua left the Miami Dolphins’ game against Cincinnati last Thursday with a frightening head injury.

Taulia played in Maryland’s win over Michigan State on Saturday but was not made available to the media afterward. He said Tuesday he was able to go to Florida and spend some time with his brother, who suffered a concussion four days after taking a hit in another game but was cleared to return.

“He’s doing good, everything’s fine,” he said. “My biggest thing was just seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him. I came back Sunday night.”

Tagovailoa said he appreciates the support for his brother.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day,” he said. “It was just a hard scene for me to see that.”

Tagovailoa said he was in constant contact with his mother about his brother’s situation, and he was finally able to talk to Tua on Friday night.

“I really just wanted to go there and just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “But he told me he’s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday. … After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine.”

Tagovailoa indicated that his brother’s injury didn’t make him too nervous about his own health when he took the field again.

“I guess when that happens to someone like my brother, or when anything happens to one of my family members, I don’t really think of how it will be able to affect me,” he said. “I just think of: `Is he OK? How’s he doing?”‘

Although it was a short visit to Florida, he said he and Tua made the most of their chance to be together.

“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy and stuff, which he is,” Taulia Tagovailoa said.