MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)-- Facing third-and-10 at his own 47 with only
seconds left in the game, Arkansas State quarterback Corey Leonard
threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Higgins, giving the
Indians a 26-23 win over Memphis on Saturday.
"It's just called Hail Mary left, and what's going through my
mind is (for receivers) to compete for the football," said
Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts. "It's one of those things that
you practice a lot. It doesn't work very often, but when it does,
it's big for your team."
Leonard took the snap with six seconds left, rolled left and
heaved the ball into a crowd in the end zone as time expired.
Higgins came out with the ball, sending the Indian squad onto the
field in celebration.
Officials reviewed the play and confirmed the touchdown
reception, snapping Arkansas State's 10-game losing streak in the
series. The Indians had not defeated Memphis since 1989.
"It's just indescribable," Leonard said. "It's probably one
of the greatest feelings you can have in football."
It was Higgins' second touchdown reception, his only two catches
of the game. He said a lot of players were bunched in the end zone,
but the pass landed in his hands.
"I went up to the highest point and got it," the junior wide
receiver said. "It wasn't deflected at all. I was the first one to
grab it, and I just came down and held the ball tight so they
wouldn't strip it."
It was a fitting end for the Indians (4-2), who dominated most
of the game, but found themselves trailing on a bit of Memphis
razzle-dazzle earlier in the fourth.
On the play, quarterback Martin Hankins threw left to Scott on a
lateral. Doss snuck out of the backfield down the right side, and
Scott hit him at about the 15. One move inside shook the last
defender, and the Tigers took the lead for the first time since the
Arkansas State's ensuing drive was stopped when Tiger linebacker
Heath Grant intercepted Leonard's pass at the Memphis 15.
The Indians moved the ball to midfield with time running out,
leading to the Leonard-Higgins winning combination.
"To throw a pick late in the fourth quarter like that, you felt
like you just let your whole team down, 105 guys, your community
and your college," Leonard said. "You just want one more shot.
"I knew it had a chance. I knew it had the distance and I knew
I got a good throw on it. When they gave that touchdown signal,
there's not a better feeling in the world."
Memphis struggled on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Martin
Hankins overthrew receivers, completing 12-of-27 passes. Meanwhile,
the Tigers rushing game managed a mere 127 yards.
Curtis Wilkerson ended up with 116 yards rushing for Arkansas
State on 23 carries, both career highs.
In the first half, Arkansas State had 262 yards of offense,
including 168 yards on the ground, converted its first five
third-down situations and scored on three of its four possessions
in the half. The only time they didn't score was when Memphis
recovered an Indian fumble near midfield in the second quarter.
Memphis at the break trailed 17-6.
"I felt like we played poorly in the first half on both sides
of the ball," said Memphis coach Tommy West.
The team scored on its first possession as Matt Reagan kicked a
28-yard field goal capping a 12-play, 53-yard drive. Reagan would
add a 27-yard kick later in the first quarter and another 28-yarder
in the second half.
But there was little else to brag about for the Tiger offense,
which had 49 yards on the ground and 91 through the air in the
The first Indians score came from Brandon Thompkins' 16-yard end
around run. Later, Arkansas State scored on a 26-yard pass from
Leonard to Higgins, one of the third-down conversions in the first
The Indians would convert only two other third-down plays, one
of them being the winning touchdown.
"We made some plays in the second half to give us a chance to
win the game," West said. "But we did not make the biggest play
of the game, and they did."