Memphis Travels to Houston for First American Road Game
Oct. 11, 2013
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Memphis' defense will look to slow down another prolific, 500+ yard offense Saturday when the Tigers take on an undefeated Houston team which is averaging a conference-leading 534 yards per game. Kickoff for Saturday's contest is 11:00 a.m. at BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston.
Saturday's game will be televised by ESPNews, which is available to 75 million satellite and cable subscribers' households nationwide, as well as online at WatchESPN.com. The game will also broadcast locally on Memphis' flagship WREC 600. In addition to an onlne stream of the radio broadcast through GoTigersGo.com's All-Access link, the game can also be hears on WJAK-1460 in Jackson and WAMB-1160 in Nashville.
Heading into the weekend, the Memphis defensive unit, ranked 16th nationally in total offense allowed, has held each of its last three opponents at least 150 yards below season averages prior to playing the Tigers. In last week's 24-17 loss to UCF, Memphis held UCF to just 270 yards of offense. The Knights entered the game averaging 450 yards an outing.
Now the Tigers turn their attention to a Houston team which returns 26 full or part time starters from a year ago and will be looking to extend their winning streak to five. The Cougars are 4-0 for the eighth time in school history. Memphis heads into Saturday's game 1-3 with its last two losses decided by just nine total points.
"They pose numerous threats," second-year head coach Justin Fuente said of the Cougars. "They're very talented, very well coached and very explosive offensively. They have skill kids all across the board and a defense that is much improved from a year ago. We'll have to do a great job on both sides of the ball and on special teams in order to give ourselves a chance."
Earlier this week UH announced junior quarterback David Piland's career has ended because of multiple concussions. True freshman John O'Korn likely will make his straight start at quarterback on Saturday. He has thrown for 593 yards and seven touchdowns in his two starts and has thrown at least three touchdown passes in each of the Cougars' last three games. O'Korn has played in all four games this season, completing 73-of-115 passes for 933 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has thrown just one interception.
Sophomore wide receiver Deontay Greenberry has already caught 35 passes for 530 yards and three touchdowns through four games. In UH's last game, a 59-28 win over UTSA, Greenberry had 149 receiving yards, marking the fourth straight game the Cougars have had a 100-yard receiver this season. Greenberry, a sophomore, ranks in the nation's top-10 in both receiving yards per game (132.5 ypg) and receptions per game (8.8).
One key for Memphis' success on Saturday, could be working to make Houston's offense to being one dimensional. The Tigers have held two of its last three opponents to under 100 yards rushing and the third to 110 yards. But in addition to averaging 307.5 yards passing (19th in the nation), Houston is averaging 226.5 yards rushing (20th in the nation). The Cougars' 534 total offensive yards per game ranks 10th nationally.
Through four games, sophomore running back Ryan Jackson has rushed for 384 yards and four touchdowns.
Memphis senior linebacker Anthony Brown leads the team with 28 tackles including three for lost yardage. Junior defensive end Martin Ifedi has 25 tackles and is one of the nation's leaders in both tackles for loss (9.0) and quarterback sacks (5.5).
Houston leads the nation with a +11 turnover margin. Through four games the Cougars have lost just two fumbles and had one pass intercepted. Houston's defense has forced 14 turnovers - six fumbles and eight interceptions. Seven different Houston players have interceptions this season including senior cornerback Zach McMillian who two. One of McMillian's picks came on the first play of the Temple game to help set the tone en route to a 22-13 victory in the first ever American Athletic Conference game.
In its first American Athletic Conference win, Houston came back from a 13-9 halftime deficit, scoring 13 unanswered second-half points. Place kicker Richie Leone had five field goals in that game before a 10-yard Jackson run with 1:06 to play sealed the victory. The touchdown was set up by a late, fourth-quarter interception, one of three Temple turnovers.
"In terms of winning football games, two things: one, these games that we've won have truly been team victories," said Houston coach Tony Levine. "Our defense has done what they're supposed to do in terms of scoring defense and creating turnovers. Our offense has done what they're supposed to do in terms of taking care of the football, getting first downs and certainly putting points on the board. In special teams we've made more plays and that was a point of emphasis that we talked about at the end of last season."
"The other part of that which is probably more important to me is taking care of the football," Levine said. "Offensively through four games we've only turned the ball over three times, defensively and special teams we've gotten 14 turnovers. When you look at the number one correlation to winning and losing games, it's turnovers."
In addition to taking care of the football, Memphis will have to generate yards on the ground to help keep Houston's offense off the field.
Senior running back Brandon Hayes has rushed for 307 yards and two touchdowns this season. True freshman running back Marquis Warford has rushed for 251 yards and his 9.0 yards per carry ranks fourth nationally.
Freshman quarterback Paxton Lynch has completed 70-of-115 passes for 773 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Joe Craig and sophomore Tevin Jones have been the Tigers' leading receivers. Craig has caught 13 passes for 168 yards while Jones has 12 receptions for 170 yards.
The other key for Saturday could be special teams.
The Tigers' punting unit leads the nation in net punt average at 44.67 yards while punter Tom Hornsey ranks seventh nationally with a 46.3 yards per punt average. True freshman place kicker Jake Elliott drilled a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter of the UCF game to tie the contest at 10-10. Elliott is 5-for-5 on field goals this season.
"The one thing that I probably have not heard enough about Memphis right now is their special teams," Levine said. "They're as good a special teams unit as I think we will play all season. They returned a kickoff for a touchdown with two minutes left in the Central Florida game to tie the game. A holding penalty was called which negated that play but they are outstanding at kickoff return and punt return."
Following Saturday's game, the Tigers return to Memphis to begin a three-game home stand starting Nov. 19 against SMU. Kickoff for next week's game against the Mustangs is set for 11 a.m.
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