Mem­phis ‘D’ steady in vic­tory over Tulsa

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports - Drew Hill Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

Mem­phis se­nior line­backer Jack­son Dil­lon cleared his throat as he took a seat at the mi­cro­phone af­ter the Tigers' 47-21 win over Tulsa Satur­day.

"Sorry, I'm still a lit­tle hoarse. I was watch­ing 'Se­in­feld' last night," Jack­son said grin­ning. "Things got out of hand."

It was telling sign that the mood was much more light for the Mem­phis de­fense af­ter it fi­nally got back on track by stuff­ing the Tulsa rush­ing at­tack.

This sea­son has been filled with tur­bu­lence for de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Chris Ball's unit, which is why Satur­day's steady­ing per­for­mance un­doubt­edly felt good.

Mem­phis en­tered the matchup ranked 87th in the coun­try in to­tal de­fense and was torched for more than 350 yards and three scores through the air in each of their last two con­tests.

That wasn't the case Satur­day, as Tulsa's run-heavy of­fense and the Tigers' pass rush seemed to be the per­fect pre­scrip­tion for their pre­vi­ous strug­gles.

Be­fore the matchup with Mem­phis, the Golden Hur­ri­cane gained over 56 per­cent of their to­tal yards on the ground and av­er­aged 221 rush­ing yards.

Tulsa didn't even come close to those av­er­ages, as the Tigers held them to a sea­son-lows in rush­ing yards (112) and to­tal yards (252).

"You had 11 guys on that de­fense who were all play­ing as one," Norvell said. "They re­ally came in with the men­tal­ity that they wanted to stop the run, and I was so proud of the phys­i­cal­ity and the ef­fort."

Mem­phis sacked Tulsa fresh­man quar­ter­back Seth Boomer five times and fin­ished with a sea­son-high 11 tack­les for loss. Dil­lon was part of that pres­sure, and the sixth-year se­nior recorded his first sack since 2014 early in the fourth quar­ter.

"It's about time," Dil­lon said. "I've had a bummed-up an­kle all year, but it felt good to fi­nally get one."

Dil­lon cred­ited a new de­fen­sive pack­age the team added dur­ing the team's bye week for some of his suc­cess. The new look fea­tures both he and ju­nior Bryce Huff on the edges of the pass rush and al­lows both play­ers to rush with­out any other re­spon­si­bil­i­ties be­sides hold­ing con­tain.

"(Pass rush is) some­thing that is big for our con­tin­ued growth," Norvell said. "Last week we got a lot of pres­sure on the quar­ter­back but didn't fin­ish. This week that was a con­tin­ued em­pha­sis to make sure when you get there that you get them down."

Satur­day was also the first time since the Tigers' opener against Mercer that they held their op­po­nent score­less in the first half.

"This gives us big-time con­fi­dence," Dil­lon said. "We re­ally wanted the shutout, but didn't get it."

MARK WE­BER, THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL

Mem­phis de­fender Jonathan Wil­son cel­e­brates a sack against Tulsa dur­ing ac­tion in Mem­phis, Tenn., Satur­day.

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