Memphis Takes on UT Martin Saturday

Nov. 8, 2013

T. Jones

  Game 8: Memphis (1-6, 0-4) vs UT Martin (6-3, 4-2) | Homecoming 2013
  Saturday, November 9 - 3:30 p.m. CT |  Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
 Memphis Tigers (1-6, 0-4 The American)
 UT Martin (6-3, 4-2 OVC)
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Halfway through its inaugural American Athletic Conference campaign, the University of Memphis breaks from league play to take on NCAA Football Championship Subdivision program UT Martin Saturday afternoon.

It is homecoming week at Memphis and Saturday's pregame festivities including a parade which will proceed through Tiger Lane prior to the game. The parade begins at 10:30 a.m. at Tobey Park near the intersection of Hollywood and Central.

Kickoff for Saturday's game, which is being streamed online via ESPN3 and, kicks off at 3:30. The game is also slated for broadcast locally on Memphis' flagship WREC 600. In addition to an online stream of the radio broadcast through's All-Access link, the game can also be heard on WJAK-AM 1460 in Jackson and WAMB-AM 1160 in Nashville. WREC's pregame show begins at 1:30 p.m. and originates from Tiger Lane.

This is the second straight year Memphis has played host to UT Martin. In Justin Fuente's debut as head coach of the Tigers last year, UTM's Cody Sandlin kicked a 43-yard field goal with four seconds to play to lift the Skyhawks to a 20-17 victory.

Memphis heads into the weekend at 1-6 and looking to snap a four-game losing streak. UT Martin is 6-3 on the year including a 4-1 mark in road games. UTM has had only eight teams win four road games in a single season with three sharing the school record with five road victories.

The Skyhawks have won their last two games and three of their last four. UT Martin defeated Murray State 45-17 last week, marking the second-straight week the team had set a season scoring high. The previous week UTM topped Austin Peay 38-14.

UT Martin's offense is relatively balanced - averaging 232 yards passing and 191 yards rushing.

UTM has had to replace departed quarterback David Carr who ended his career as the school's career leader in total offense, passing yards and touchdown passes.

Redshirt sophomore Jarod Neal and junior Dylan Favre have split time at quarterback this season for the Skyhawks.

Neal has started five games and has completed 105-of-166 passes for 1256 yards and seven touchdowns. Favre, the nephew of former NFL quarterback Brett Favre has started four games and completed 76-of-111 passes for 828 yards and eight touchdowns.

Senior receiver Jeremy Butler ranks sixth nationally in FCS in receiving yards with 914 and has nine touchdown receptions which ranks 10th. Butler had 171 receiving yards at Austin Peay two weeks ago and is coming off a 133-yard receiving game against Murray State.

Senior running back DJ McNeil, who prepped at Briarcrest High School in the Memphis area, is the leading rusher in the Ohio Valley Conference.  McNeil topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark last week with a 111-yard tally against Murray State. For the year, he is averaging 106 yards per game and has five, 100-yard rushing performances this season.

"They've done a good job of running the football," said Memphis head coach Justin Fuente "DJ McNeil runs the ball very well. We'll have to do a good job against the run game."

Memphis is one of just six FBS programs to not allow a 100-yard rusher this season, joining East Carolina, Michigan State, Ohio State, Syracuse and Wisconsin.

After holding four straight opponents under 300 yards of total offense, Memphis has given up an average of 448 yards in its last two games. Still, the Tigers rank among the nation's best defensive units. Memphis ranks 18th nationally in total defense (346 yards per game) and sixth in rushing defense (100 ypg).

Junior linebacker Tank Jakes, a second-year player for the Tigers, is coming off his first two career starts and leads the team with 44 total tackles. Linebackers Charles Harris and Anthony Brown rank second and third on the team in stops with 39 and 38 tackles, respectively.

Junior defensive end Martin Ifedi leads the nation in sacks per game (8.5 sacks through seven games) and ranks second in tackles for loss (12.5 TFLs for the year). Ifedi has had at least one quarterback sack in six of seven games this season and is currently on a three-game streak with a sack.

Memphis will look to exploit a team which has turned the ball over 25 times (15 fumbles lost and 10 interceptions).

Turnovers have also played a role in the Tigers' losses this season. In its last game, Cincinnati scored two touchdowns off Memphis turnovers. Over its last four games Memphis has a -1.75 turnover margin in American play.

Offensively the Tigers will look for production against a Skyhawk defense which gives up 350 yards per game.

Fuente said UT Martin's defense is unique.

"It's a different scheme. They're a stacked defense," he said. "They play five members in the secondary, three lineman and three linebackers. It's a little bit nonconventional. You don't see it a lot. These guys obviously know what they're doing. They do a good job with it."

UT Martin's defense is led by senior linebacker Ben Johnson, who has recorded 73 tackles including 9.5 for loss. Junior linebacker Tony Bell has 13 tackles for loss and 8.5 quarterback sacks among his 61 total stops.

Heading into November, Memphis redshirt quarterback Paxton Lynch is one of only seven freshman quarterbacks in FBS football to start seven or more games. For the year, Lynch has completed 134-of-225 passes for 1,333 yards and five touchdowns.

Junior Joe Craig is the Tigers' leader in receptions (26) and receiving yards (255) while senior running back Brandon Hayes leads the Tigers' rushing attack with 520 yards on 105 carries. Against Cincinnati, Hayes became the first Memphis player to score multiple touchdowns in a game.

The UT Martin game concludes a three-game home stand for the Tigers. Memphis plays its next two games on the road starting Nov. 16th at USF.



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