Football

Former Butler High star Riley Ferguson seizes national TV moment, leads Memphis past UCLA

Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson (4) passes as he is pressured by UCLA defensive lineman Matt Dickerson (99) in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson (4) passes as he is pressured by UCLA defensive lineman Matt Dickerson (99) in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) AP

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Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson (4) celebrates with running back Patrick Taylor Jr. (6) after a score against UCLA in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) Mark Humphrey AP

Riley Ferguson took big advantage of his national TV moment Saturday.

Ferguson, the former All-America quarterback from Butler High, led Memphis to 48-45 home win over No. 25 UCLA at the Liberty Bowl.

Ferguson completed 23-of-38 passes for 398 yards and six touchdowns. He threw one interception. Ferguson and Anthony Miller were a potent QB-receiver combo, as Miller caught nine passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, a candidate to be a top 10 NFL draft pick, was 34-of-56 for 463 yards and four touchdowns. But on this day, Ferguson outplayed him, leading Memphis to 560 yards total offense.

After leading Butler High School to two N.C. high school state championships and throwing for more than 8,000 yards, Ferguson committed to Tennessee. He red-shirted his freshman year and played in the Vols’ spring game in 2014. But he left Tennessee shortly after that.

In May 2015, Ferguson detailed his journey in an interview with the Observer. Ferguson -- who had been detailing cars at a Charlotte-area car shop and later took work custom painting fences -- said he had enrolled at a junior college in Kansas to jump-start his career.

Ferguson threw for nearly 3,000 yards in one season at Coffeyville in the fall of 2015. He won the starting job at Memphis last year, when he threw for 3,698 yards, 32 touchdowns and completed nearly 70 percent of his passes. He was 10-for-25 for 97 yards in a season-opening 37-29 win over Louisiana Monroe on Aug. 31. Memphis’ second game last week at Central Florida was canceled by Hurricane Irma.

Then came Saturday, when Ferguson announced his name of the national stage in front of five NFL scouts -- from the Bills, Cardinals, Chargers, Raiders and Redskins -- and a national TV audience.

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