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Defense leads Memphis to 38-7 win over Tulane

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Bobby McCain and Dontrell Nelson each had interception returns for touchdowns to help Memphis beat Tulane 38-7 on Saturday.

Memphis (7-3, 5-1 American) forced a season-high five turnovers, ruining Tulane’s first on-campus homecoming in four decades.

McCain intercepted Tanner Lee’s first pass and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown and Memphis never looked back, taking a 31-0 into the fourth quarter.

Memphis remains in contention for a conference title and its first bowl bid since 2008.

Trailing 17-0 late in the third quarter, Lee hit Justyn Shackleford for a 19-yard gain, giving Tulane (3-7, 2-4) a first down near midfield. Two plays later, however, Nelson sealed Memphis’ fourth consecutive win with a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Paxton Lynch completed 14 of 25 passes for 178 yards and a score and added a 4-yard rushing touchdown in the win.

Lee was 26-of-48 passing for 196 yards with three interceptions.

Memphis converted only 2 of 14 third downs, but the Tigers’ defense stifled Tulane, coming within two minutes of posting its second shutout of the season.

Tulane’s Dontrell Hilliard scored on a 19-yard run with 1:55 left.

The Green Wave entered the game with a plus-7 turnover margin that ranked among the nation’s best, but was minus-3 against Memphis.

Tulane’s defense did its part, allowing Memphis to score only one TD through most of the first three quarters. Tulane also created a pair of turnovers on fumbles.

But the Green Wave offense struggled to move the ball, and also botched a pair of field goal opportunities in the first half, allowing Memphis to take a 10-0 lead into halftime.

Kicker Andrew DiRocco hooked his first attempt wide left from 42 yards and didn’t even get his second attempt off because of a bad snap.

Hilliard rushed for 65 yards, but fumbled twice.

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