MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Something that has been missing showed up in Montgomery, Alabama on Wednesday and Memphis head football coach Ryan Silverfield may be smiling about it for several more days.
The Tigers won the 2020 Montgomery Bowl with a 25-10 victory over the Florida Atlantic Owls, largely on the strength of the best running attack Memphis has mustered in five-plus games. Led by Asa Martin’s 96 yards on the ground, Memphis rushed for 188 yards and maintained control in the final minutes with its ground game.
“It is going to be hard to get this grin off my face,” Silverfield said. “I will enjoy this until Christmas and on to next year.”
It was the first bowl win for the Tigers since defeating BYU in the Boca Raton Bowl in 2014 and the first bowl victory for any member of the current team. The senior class tied the 2019 seniors for winningest class in program history with 38 wins.
“We have talked about the resiliency of our team all year. A lot of adversity with this football team all year, but to finish with an 8-3 record, I am so proud of them,” Silverfield said. “It is an honor to coach these young men and I couldn’t be more honored to hoist this trophy with them.”
Silverfield finish his first season with an 8-3 record, the best winning percentage for a first-year coach in the history of the Memphis program. He is the first Memphis coach to win a bowl game in his first season.
Throughout a season made unbelievingly more challenging by the pandemic, Silverfield wore a Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital pin. He wore it on the outside of his rain suit for the bowl game.
“I want to give a shoutout to the children at Le Bonheur and St. Jude, all our frontline healthcare workers, for the work they have done in this pandemic,” he said.
After the game, record-setting quarterback Brady White, who was named the Montgomery Bowl MVP, confirmed that he had played his last game in a Memphis uniform. He finished the game with 284 passing yards and three touchdowns.
It was 14th time White had thrown for three touchdowns in a game. White finishes his career with 10,690 passing yards, 90 touchdown passes and 28 wins – all the most in the program’s history.
“The football speaks for itself,” said White, putting more value on making a positive impact while spreading hope, excitement and joy.
“I will bleed (Tigers) blue for the rest of my life …”
White had some great targets to throw to on Wednesday. Sophomores Javon Ivory and Tahj Washington each had 100-plus yards receiving, 126 and 105 respectively. The passing touchdowns went Ivory, Calvin Austin III and Joseph Dorceus.
Ivory, who dealt with injury setbacks during the season, said, “I prayed every day. … That helped me stay strong with everything that was going on in my life. I have been through a lot of adversity this season. I am grateful to have everyone around me to get me to this point.”
Dorceus, a defensive lineman, has been used as a fullback on short yardage plays. He has three career receptions and the touchdown reception in the bowl game was his first.
Maligned much of the season, the Memphis defense had one of its best performances, only allowing 88 yards in the first half and 10 points in the game.
Quindell Johnson led the way, again, in tackles with 11. Senior T.J. Carter had four tackles and his fourth career fumble recovery. Thomas Pickens, a senior linebacker, had eight tackles and the game-clinching interception in the final minute of the game.
Riley Patterson, the Tigers’ senior kicker, connected on a 53-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead that they never surrendered. He has been selected to participate in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
Accounting for the pandemic, the NCAA has given every senior the option of playing another season. Many of the Tigers have said they would make a decision after the bowl game. Silverfield said he may not know until early January which players will opt to play next season.