MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Riley Ferguson threw for 398 yards and six touchdowns, Jacobi Francis broke up a fourth-down pass in the closing seconds and Memphis held off No. 25 UCLA 48-45 on Saturday.
Francis’ breakup with 56 seconds left prevented another fourth-quarter comeback by Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen. He was 34 of 56 for 463 yards and four touchdowns.
”That was a grind against a Pac-12 opponent, and one ranked Top 25 in the country,” Memphis coach Mike Norvell said.
Unlike in the Bruins’ opener when Rosen led a fourth-quarter comeback in a 45-44 victory over Texas A&M, the Memphis defense stiffened on UCLA’s final possession.
For all of the hype about Rosen, considered one of the top quarterbacks in the country, Ferguson matched his counterpart, completing 23 of 38 passes for Memphis (2-0). His connections with wide receiver Anthony Miller meant the difference. Miller caught nine passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
”I was really proud of the offense. I thought Anthony and Riley did a phenomenal job,” Norvell said. ”Everybody, really.”
UCLA (2-1) took a 45-41 on Rosen’s 22-yard pass to Austin Roberts with 11:51 left.
But Memphis answered 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 – and Francis’ knock-away sent the Memphis kicked off a celebration. The Tigers have beaten one ranked opponent in each of the last three seasons.
”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.”
Rosen, who had not thrown an interception in the first two games, had two against the Tigers, one that linebacker Tim Hart returned 60 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. The other interception ended a drive deep in Memphis territory with just under 7 minutes left.
”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.”
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.
MEMPHIS: The Tigers managed to answer scores by UCLA throughout the game. They 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.
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. His status was unknown after the game, but Memphis officials said he was moving.
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 because of Hurricane Irma. The American Athletic Conference announced Thursday that the Tigers-Knights game is rescheduled for Sept. 30.
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