MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Riley Ferguson threw for three touchdowns and Darrell Henderson scored twice and rushed for 122 yards as No. 17 Memphis dominated East Carolina 70-13 on Saturday in a tuneup for the American Athletic Conference championship game.
Patrick Taylor also scored twice for Memphis, rushing for 127 yards.
The victory provided the Tigers (10-1, 7-1 American Athletic Conference, CFP No. 20) their first undefeated home season at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium since it opened in 1965. Memphis won its sixth straight, the lone loss of the season coming Sept. 30 against No. 13 Central Florida, which the Tigers will face in next Saturday in Orlando, Florida.
"Today is a symbolic day for our program, to be able to get our 10th win, the continued progression moving forward," Memphis coach Mike Norvell said. "We have a special group of young men sitting in that locker room. They believe in each other, they will each other and they've done everything we've asked them to do."
Even when the Pirates (3-9, 2-6) were able to reach the end zone - the first time on a 33-yard pass from Gardner Minshew to Jimmy Williams in the third quarter - the ensuing extra point was blocked. And to make things worse, when the Pirates kicked off, Memphis' Tony Pollard returned it 100 yards for his fourth kickoff return for a touchdown this season.
Not long after that, Norvell pulled Ferguson, and the starters. Ferguson passed for 299 yards.
"This probably was the best team we've played to this point, and it's going to be an interesting championship game," Pirate coach Scottie Montgomery said. "I thought (Memphis) was playing on all levels. .That's a championship team we just watched."
Memphis scored on its first play from scrimmage on an 89-yard pass from Ferguson to Anthony Miller. The Tiger offense was operating with little resistance from the Pirates who have one of the worst defenses in the nation.
Henderson scored from 4 yards on the next possession.
By the time safety Jonathan Cook returned an interception for a 31-yard touchdown, Memphis was up 21-0, less than 11 minutes into the game.
The Tigers led 49-0 at halftime.
East Carolina: The Pirates, who were looking to build on last week's win over Cincinnati, never got anything going in the game. Not only did they fall behind early, but their offense was stagnant, finishing the first half with only 27 yards rushing and 193 overall. In two seasons at ECU, Montgomery is 6-18.
Memphis: The Tigers certainly didn't show any letdown after clinching the conference's West Division crown last week. And there was no indication of them looking ahead. When the undefeated Knights escaped with a 49-42 win over South Florida on Friday, Memphis lost its chance to host the title game.
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