Memphis Looks to Even Record at Middle Tennessee
Sept. 13, 2013
TV: CSS | Radio: WREC AM600 | Listen | Live Stats
Tickets | Gameday Central | Live Gameday Blog
@TigersMedia | @TigersAthletics | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube
A recently departed charter member of Conference USA takes on one of the league's newest additions as the University of Memphis travels to Middle Tennessee on Saturday. Kickoff between the two in-state opponents is slated for 6 p.m. in Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro.
Saturday's game will be broadcast locally on Memphis flagship WREC 600 and televised on Comcast's CSS.
Memphis transitioned to the American Athletic Conference on July 1, 2013 after being an original member of C-USA. Middle Tennessee moved to Conference USA from the Sun Belt Conference on July 1. Saturday's game will mark the second FBS game this season involving two schools that changed leagues in 2013. The first FBS non-conference game involving two schools that changed leagues in 2013 came when UCF (The American from C-USA) went on the road to shutout new C-USA member FIU 38-0. Also this week, American Athletic Conference member USF takes on C-USA newcomer FAU.
On Saturday, Memphis faces a Middle Tennessee team which has reached bowl-eligible status three times in the last four years including in 2012 when the Blue Raiders' 8-4 final record included a 48-30 win at Memphis early in the season.
MT is 1-1 on the year. The Blue Raiders opened the season with a 45-24 win over Western Carolina before losing on the road at North Carolina 40-20. The Tigers are 0-1 after opening the season with a 28-14 loss to Duke.
In last year's Middle Tennessee win, Blue Raider quarterback Logan Kilgore passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns. In the last game played in Murfreesboro, Kilgore passed for 274 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-31 MT win.
In two games this season, Kilgore has completed 33-of-53 passes for 355 yards and one touchdown. He currently ranks fourth all-time in passing yards at Middle Tennessee with 5,697 yards and needs 13 touchdown passes to break the school record of 50.
"He kind of reminds you of the good point guards you see in basketball," Memphis football coach Justin Fuente said in describing Kilgore. "He's got a good cast around him. They've got four returners on the offensive line. He's more than just a distributor, he's a good football player.
"We will have to do a great job of getting pressure when we can and being sound in our coverage and schemes. You're not going to stop him or shut him down but hopefully we can contain him."
Middle Tennessee's top receiving target this season has been Tavarres Jefferson who is coming off his first career 100-yard receiving game at North Carolina and has caught at least one pass in 15 straight games. In addition to Jefferson's 10 receptions for 135 yards this season, senior receiver Kyle Griswold has caught 10 passes for 88 yards. Both receiving leaders are looking for their first scoring catch of the season.
The Blue Raiders are averaging 438 yards of offense per game and the total is evenly split between rushing (214.0 ypg) and passing (224.0 ypg).
Running back Jordan Parker has rushed for over 100 yards in five of the Blue Raiders' last six games dating back to last season, including both contests this year. He has rushed for 265 yards and two touchdowns on 44 carries.
Memphis will counter Middle Tennessee's offensive prowess with a defense and special teams units which combined to force three turnovers. The Tiger defense also registered three quarterback sacks and eight tackles for loss.
Memphis junior defensive end Martin Ifedi certainly made a case for why he is on the 2013 Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List. In his junior season debut, Ifedi registered six tackles including three for loss (-14 yards) against Duke. Ifedi notched his fifth multi-quarterback sack game with two (-10 yards) against the Blue Devils.
"Their defense is a lot faster than last year," said MT head coach Rick Stockstill of the Tigers. "They had a good game plan last week and Duke had to earn everything they got. I came away impressed with how big and fast they are.
"Their front five are big and strong," Stockstill added. "They were last year and the year before. They have always had a strong team and I am excited for our offensive line for the challenge."
Offensively, Memphis will look to improve on its season-opening performance.
The Tigers rushed for just 89 yards and had 237 yards of total offense in last week's season opener against Duke. Memphis will also look to be in more efficient situations on third down this week. The Tigers struggled on first down and that led to more third-and-long situations for a team which converted just 2-of-13 third-down opportunities.
"If you can run the ball a little bit in those manageable situations, I think it improves your opportunities for success," Fuente said. "When we're in those third-and-long situations, we have to make plays."
In Middle Tennessee's defense, Memphis will see more of a team which is a reflection of the Tiger squad.
"Duke was just a very big, physical read defense up front," Fuente said. "That's part of the reason we could hold the ball for so long on first and second downs when we were throwing it. They're(MTSU) a much smaller defensive front that uses movement to their advantage."
In his debut as the Tigers' starting quarterback, redshirt freshman Paxton Lynch completed 14-of-24 passes for 148 yards. True freshman Marquis Warford caught four passes for 19 yards while junior college transfer Joe Craig had three receptions for 15 yards.