TIGERS

Memphis football vs. Nicholls State: Grades for offense, defense, special teams

Evan Barnes
Memphis Commercial Appeal

Memphis won its season opener 42-17 against visiting Nicholls State on Saturday behind true freshman Seth Henigan starting at quarterback.

Here are the grades for the Tigers' offense, defense and special teams.

Offense 

Memphis did just enough to keep things simple for Henigan. A heavy dose of run plays. A good number of screen passes. And just enough deep balls to show Henigan’s arm strength and accuracy.

Memphis scored on all nine drives Henigan led and didn’t punt. Brandon Thomas had a stellar debut as the freshman showed off his speed, power and ability to carry the offense.

The only criticism was red-zone offense. Memphis moved the ball well downfield but on two drives, there were questionable decisions to run the ball on third down instead of let Henigan try to throw it.

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But given this was Henigan’s first career game, the offense looked solid

Grade: B-minus

Defense

The Tigers appeared to be caught off guard when Nicholls State opened the game with a nearly six-minute scoring drive. Order was restored as the Tigers forced punts on the next five drives including three on three-and-outs.

Memphis dominated an FCS opponent as expected, holding Nicholls to just 299 yards of offense and 17 points after the Colonels averaged 48.7 points last season in the spring. Sylvonta Oliver added some icing with an interception to end Nicholls State’s final drive.

It was a clinical, workmanlike effort by an experienced defense that settled down and handled its business

Grade: A-minus

Special teams

Joe Doyle was perfect on five field goal attempts and showed why Memphis’ reputation for good kickers remains in good hands. The Tennessee senior transfer was reliable and fit right in without any problem

Gabe Rogers had four kickoff returns for 124 yards, including a 41-yard return. He nearly a return touchdown but it was nullified by an illegal block in the back. It could've added a boost to a strong night but it didn't take away from he and Doyle leading the way for a good special teams effort.

Grade: B-plus

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You can reach Evan Barnes on Twitter (@Evan_B) or by email at evan.barnes@commercialappeal.com