MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis and Houston met at the Liberty Bowl on Friday.
It wasn’t just to renew what's become a pretty fun rivalry game, but also to decide who goes to American Athletic Conference Title game next week as the AAC West Division Champion.
The Tigers came into this game as the reigning division champs.
These U of M seniors were a big part of the Tigers success over the last few years, and they obviously wanted to win their final home game.
You can't win without defense, and boy did the Tigers’ defense show up.
Junior Darrell Henderson rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns — setting a conference rushing record — and Memphis rallied past Houston 52-31 on Friday to set up a rematch of last season's American Athletic Conference championship game with No. 8 UCF.
Henderson set the single-season rushing record, passing the previous mark of 1,629 by Tulsa's James Flanders in 2016.
Memphis (8-4, 5-3) trailed Houston 21-17 at halftime, but rushed for five touchdowns in the second half and scored 21 unanswered points to close it out. The Tigers rushed for 401 yards, with 277 in the second half after Houston star DT Ed Oliver left the game with what coach Major Applewhite said after the game was a knee injury.
Sam Craft opened the second-half scoring with a 28-yard run, Tony Pollard went in from 6 yards out, Patrick Taylor Jr. had a short TD run and Henderson capped it with a 63-yard sprint and a short plunge to help the Tigers pull away.
Memphis lost to UCF 62-55 in double overtime in the title game last year and fell 31-30 to UCF earlier this season.
Gleson Sprewell made two interceptions for Houston (8-4, 5-3), returning one 63 yards to cap the first-half scoring. The Cougars have scored 30-plus points in 12 straight games, ranking second among FBS active teams behind UCF with 23. Oliver was seen getting emotional on the sideline in the second half.
The Tigers pulled it out with a 52-31 win.
Memphis is now the AAC West Division Champion for the second straight year!