Memphis vs. UCLA score: Three takeaways from the Tigers' huge win over the Bruins
If you liked points, this was the game for you
The game featured six lead changes, 13 touchdowns, and one questionable decision by Memphis late in the fourth quarter, but one the Tigers wouldn't pay for.
Memphis picked off a Josh Rosen pass inside its own 20 with 6:50 left to play in the game and while clinging to a three-point lead. T.J. Carter returned the interception 42 yards to set Memphis up at the UCLA 48 to set up the Tigers to milk the clock. They drove 32 yards in 10 plays, taking nearly four minutes off the clock, but Memphis coach Mike Norvell made a strange decision late.
Facing a fourth and 5 at the UCLA 16, Memphis ran a fake field goal. It did not work. Had Memphis just taken the short field goal, it would have given it a six-point lead, forcing UCLA to score a touchdown. Instead, UCLA only needed a field goal to force overtime, but luckily for Norvell and the Tigers, the defense held and forced a turnover on downs to seal the game.
Here's what else you should know about this tussle.
1. Memphis might be the team to beat in the Group of Five. It's only mid-September, so it's difficult to get a great read on anybody, and it's even more presumptuous to assume you know anything, but Memphis looked dangerous on Saturday. While all the attention during the preseason seemed to be on South Florida in the AAC, Memphis has looked more impressive so far.
South Florida is 3-0, but it struggled with San Jose State and Stony Brook to start the season, and then looked sloppy against Illinois on Friday night before finally putting its foot on the gas. Meanwhile, Memphis just took down a ranked team.
There's a long way to go for everybody, and considering the Memphis defense allowed 633 yards of offense in this game, it's hard to put too much faith in the Tigers just yet. Still, with Riley Ferguson (398 yards passing, six touchdowns) and Anthony Miller (nine receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns), this could be the most potent offense in the AAC. That alone might be enough to win the league.
2. UCLA is still a flawed football team. Yes, the Bruins did open the season with an incredible comeback win against Texas A&M. However, I think the miraculous nature of that rally may have clouded the reality of how we viewed this team, though.
UCLA entered the 2017 season with Jim Mora on the hot seat and a lot of question marks. It then pulled off that remarkable comeback against a team with just as many question marks before beating Hawaii last week. Now, the Bruins go on the road against a good Memphis team and lose.
Rosen played well, throwing for 463 yards and four touchdowns, but it still feels like the Bruins are entirely too reliant on their quarterback. The running game broke off a couple of nice runs, but by and large, it was ineffective most of the game. On defense, the Bruins allowed 560 yards and 7.4 yards per play.
That's not to say the UCLA defense was awful. It also had seven tackles for loss, a couple of sacks, forced two turnovers and was excellent on third down (Memphis was just 3/12 in that area). But there just isn't any consistency there, and while the talent shines through at times, it just isn't there consistently enough.
All of which comes back to making you feel like UCLA needs Rosen to do everything, and you get the feeling he feels the same way during the game. Rosen threw two interceptions, and while one was just bad, the other was truly awful. He nearly threw a couple more too, as he tried to do too much.
Like a lot of players on this UCLA roster, Rosen is terrific, but he needs more help from the talent around him if this team is going to accomplish anything of meaning in 2017.
3. Both teams left a lot of points on the field. You might think that a game with 93 points, 13 touchdowns and 1,193 yards of total offense reached its full offensive potential, but it didn't! Believe it or not, there were also six turnovers in this game as well as 21 total penalties for 208 yards.
Also, both teams had an empty red zone possession. Memphis came up empty because of that fake field goal, while UCLA had a turnover.
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