EditorsNote: Several fixes throughout
Antonio Gibson dashed 29 yards for the clinching touchdown, and No. 18 Memphis won the American Athletic Conference West Division and clinched home-field advantage for the league’s championship game with a 34-24 home victory over No. 19 Cincinnati on Friday afternoon.
The Tigers (11-1, 7-1 AAC) will play in their third consecutive conference title game when they host the Bearcats in a rematch on Dec. 7. Memphis lost the AAC championship game to UCF in 2017 and 2018.
The Bearcats (10-2, 7-1) already had clinched the East but needed a win to earn the right to host the West winner next week.
Memphis quarterback Brady White completed 15 of 26 passes for 233 yards with two scores. He posted his 11th consecutive outing with multiple touchdown passes, outdueling Cincinnati redshirt freshman quarterback Ben Bryant.
Bryant, who got his first collegiate start when sophomore starter Desmond Ridder was held out with a shoulder injury, connected on 20 of 32 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown.
White was intercepted once, and Ridder threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, but neither team could cash in on any of the turnovers.
Bryant directed two long touchdown drives in the second quarter, one covering 85 yards in 12 plays the other 80 in 14, to get the Bearcats out of a 14-point hole and into a 17-17 tie with less than three minutes left in the half.
But White hit wide receiver Damonte Coxie with a big 54-yard hookup to get the Tigers in range for kicker Riley Patterson’s second field goal, and Memphis led 20-17 at the half.
The Tigers scored their first touchdown on Chris Claybrooks’ 94-yard return of the opening kickoff. They went up 17-3 on White’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Kadarian Jones and a 34-yard Patterson field goal before the Bearcats rallied.
Coxie’s 46-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter gave Memphis a 27-17 lead, but Cincinnati quickly replied with a 12-yard scoring run by Bryant.
—Field Level Media