Tigers Search for American Win at USF

Nov. 15, 2013

A. Cross

  Game 5: Memp0)                Saturday, November 16 - 6:00 p.m. CT | Raymond James Stadium

 Memphis Tigers (2-6, 0-4 The American)
 USF Bulls (2-6, 2-2 The American)
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In ways, Memphis and USF mirror one another. Both teams are 2-6 overall, feature stalwart defenses and offenses which are looking for continued improvement. The two square off Saturday night in a 6 p.m. game played in Tampa's Raymond James Stadium.

Saturday's game will be streamed online via ESPN3 and WatchESPN.com. The game is also slated for broadcast locally on Memphis' flagship WREC 600. In addition to an online stream of the radio broadcast through GoTigersGo.com's All-Access link, the game can also be heard on WJAK-AM 1460 in Jackson and WAMB-AM 1160 in Nashville.

USF's defense, along with its special teams, has been the Bulls' standard bearers when it comes to scoring touchdowns in conference play this season. USF had not scored an offensive touchdown in league play until its last game played back on Oct. 31st at Houston (35-23 loss).

USF, which is 2-2 in American Athletic Conference play, opened league competition with a 26-20 victory over Cincinnati, getting a blocked field goal returned for 75 yards for its first score and a 10-yard fumble recovery for another touchdown. In its other American victory, a 13-10 win at UConn, USF returned a fumble 44 yards for a score.

Led by middle linebacker, DeDe Latimore who has recorded 64 tackles (8th in the American) and caused two fumbles, USF's defense has forced 15 turnovers this season, surpassing last year's total of nine. The Bulls are allowing 379 yards per game - 149 rushing and 230 passing.

"It is going to be a rough game - the way they play defensively and the way we are capable of playing defensively," said Memphis head coach Justin Fuente. "It is important that we play well. It will come down to us doing the right thing from a discipline standpoint and from a technique and effort standpoint in order to give ourselves a chance."

Memphis' defense will enter the game ranked 16th nationally in total defense, allowing opponents to average 338 yards per game. Against the run, the Tigers are ranked 14th nationally, giving up 108 rushing yards per game.

Memphis' defense will look to build on the second half it had in a 21-6 win over UT Martin. The Tigers shut out UTM in the second half, holding the Skyhawks to 111 second-half yards including 31 rushing. After allowing 400+ yards in games against SMU and Cincinnati, Memphis held an opponent under 300 yards for the fifth time this season.

While USF's defensive unit has been opportunistic in helping the Bulls go 2-2 through the first half of league play, the team's offensive unit has struggled. USF ranks 121st nationally in total offense, averaging 256 yards per game - 154 passing and 102 rushing. The team has converted on 22.5 percent of its third-down conversions.

USF freshman quarterback Mike White was not on the Bulls' depth chart to begin the season but got the start in his team's game at Houston two weeks ago. White completed 26-of-41 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns against UH.

"Their offense found a groove," Fuente said of USF's offensive resurgence. "In the Houston game, they brought in their young kid (White) in and he played really well.

"I know coach (Willie) Taggart's mindset and the way he would like his offense to look is probably different than what it looked when he inherited the program. It is two different philosophies. He's finding ways to meld those together so it looks the way he wants it to look."

Memphis also starts a freshman quarterback. Paxton Lynch is one of only five freshman quarterbacks in FBS football to start eight or more games. For the year he has completed 149-of-247 passes for 1,522 yards and six touchdowns. He has a .603 pass completion percentage after going 15-of-22 and throwing for 189 yards against UT Martin.

Senior running back Brandon Hayes is coming off his second, 100-yard rushing game of the season and fourth of his career. He finished with 105 yards on a career-high 27 carries in the UT Martin game. He also caught a 12-yard touchdown pass to give the Tigers a 14-6 lead.

Hayes, a candidate for the Burlsworth Trophy which recognizes a player who began his career as a walkon, has now scored touchdowns in five of the Tigers' last six games and leads the team with six touchdowns scored.

For the season, he has rushed for a team-leading 625 yards on 132 carries (4.7 yards per carry) and has scored four rushing touchdowns. He has also caught 14 passes for 104 yards this year.

"Brandon is going to be our guy," Fuente said. "He knows that and our offense knows that. Brandon has earned our trust and we're going to continue to put him out there."

Saturday's game will also feature two of the semifinalists for the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicking Award. Memphis freshman Jake Elliott has made 11-of-12 field goal attempts including all five of his attempts from 40+ yards. USF's Marvin Kloss made a combined six field goals in the Bulls' two conference wins and is 13-for-14 for the year, including 9-of-10 from 40+ yards.

Following Saturday's game, Memphis travels to Louisville next week for an 11 a.m. Central game. The Tigers next home game is Nov. 30th when the team plays host to Temple for Senior Day.



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