Blue Raider Gridiron Preview: Memphis Tigers
MT (1-1, 1-0 Sun Belt) will leave the comfort of Floyd Stadium for the first time this season as the Blue Raiders travel to Memphis Saturday, Sept. 15 to take on the Memphis Tigers (0-2, 0-0 Conference USA) in their road opener.
The Blue Raiders are coming off their first win of the season against conference-foe Florida Atlantic 31-17 last week, and are looking to continue their success as they face a Memphis of C-USA.
“We are coming off a good win last week against Florida Atlantic,” said Head Coach Rick Stockstill. “I thought we made some improvement from the first week to the second, and we need to make that same improvement against Memphis.”
Junior quarterback Logan Kilgore, who has thrown four-touchdown passes in the Blue Raiders’ first two games, echoed his coach’s sentiment.
“It was a big win,” Kilgore said. “That was last week though, and we’re focused on Memphis this week and trying to get another win.”
MT has had previous success against Memphis, going 3-1 against the Tigers since 2007, but Coach Stockstill believes that this is a different Memphis team than in previous years.
“We are playing a team that has lost two tough games in the last two weeks, late in the game, but I think Memphis is a much-improved football team on both sides of the ball,” Stockstill said.
Memphis has been gaining attention due to former Texas Tech backup-quarterback Jacob Karam, who announced his transfer to the Tigers last November. In his two games as starting quarterback for Memphis, Karam has completed 26-of-52 pass attempts for 311 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
“Their offense is led by a transfer quarterback from Texas Tech, and he made a lot of improvement from the first game to the second,” Stockstill said.
Karam has a very physical offensive line and many weapons around him as well, including running back Jerrell Rhodes and wide receiver Keiwone Malone.
“They have a really big offensive line that is equally good in the running game and the passing game,” continued Stockstill. “Memphis has always had big wide-receivers and they’ve got some this year, too.”
Kilgore will look to continue his success against a new-look Memphis defense that has been struggling to start the season, giving up 392 total yards to UT-Martin, and over 600 total yards to their most recent opponent, Arkansas State.
“They just give you so many looks that we’ve really got to do a good job in practice and our scout team has to do a good job of getting us prepared for those looks,” Kilgore said.
Kilgore may not need to take it to the air as much, with the Blue Raider’s running game performing well last week against FAU, running for 302-rushing yards. Memphis’ run defense allowed a whopping 317-rushing yards against Arkansas State last week. MT will certainly be searching for running lanes come game time, but who gets the majority of the carries is still unknown.
Regardless of who gets the start at running back, Kilgore says he has faith in all of his teammates in the backfield.
“I have so much confidence in those guys. I love their attitude. Jeremiah Bryson, Drayton Calhoun, and Jordan Parker have all brought confidence and eagerness to practice every day,” Kilgore said. “If Benny [Cunningham] gets healthy, or if we have any of those three guys, I’m excited for who is in the backfield.”
In MT’s most recent encounter with Memphis in 2011, the Blue Raiders defeated the Tigers 38-31 on a last-second touchdown, which came, coincidentally, on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Kilgore to Anthony Amos, who has been Kilgore’s leading wide receiver through the first two games of 2012.
MT will be searching for a win heading into a bye week and looking to build up momentum for a tough road test against Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sept. 29.