MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Tigers had a thrilling win that went down to the wire Saturday night. Memphis came away with a 44-32 win over Arkansas State in their home opener, and while some new faces emerged that helped the Tigers get the W and will be crucial moving forward, the biggest play of the game came from the crowd in Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.
The loud and proud Tiger faithful made all the difference. Late in the game, with Memphis up just 5 points and Arkansas State threatening to take the lead, the crowd stepped up.
They forced not one, but two false starts on 4th and 5 making it 4th and 15 and then were so loud they forced a bad snap and fumble for the game’s only turnover.
Head Coach Ryan Silverfield walked into the postgame press conference singing the 901's praises.
"Let me start by saying how sweet it is to be home," he said. "That last drive, what they were able to do as a crowd. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen something like that so credit to them."
Memphis’ next three games are at home as well, a stretch that with 3 wins could make them 4-1 before facing ECU on the road. The crowd proved they can turn the tide of a game.
"That energy—it affects the game a lot to be honest. It’s good to have that so hopefully we can continue to have that energy in the stadium," said quarterback Seth Henigan, who threw for 360 yards and three touchdowns.
Also crucial in the win was the emergence of tight end Caden Prieskorn. The former walk-on QB became a security blanket for Henigan. He had five catches 67 yards and two touchdowns. His most important catch came on a 4th and 5 in the fourth quarter that led to a go ahead score.
"I feel like with Seth having confidence in me, the coaches having confidence in me—that's just helping me progress over the last three weeks and it's going to help me moving forward," Prieskorn said.
There was concern how the offense would replace Calvin Austin III and reliable tight end Sean Dykes, but the Tigers offense is beginning to find their new threats.
Gabriel Rogers now has back-to-back games of 5 catches with at least 85 receiving yards. Joseph Scates had his second straight game with a long touchdown and the run game produced 187 yards on the ground, including a 39-yard touchdown from Jevyon Ducker.
The Tigers may be just fine.