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.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.