Tigers Take on No. 21 Louisville Saturday
Nov. 21, 2013
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With just a glance at Louisville's season statistics and national rankings heading into the final weeks of the season, it becomes quickly evident Memphis arguably faces its biggest test of the season Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Louisville will recognize 20 seniors who have had a part in the Cardinals' winning the Sugar Bowl to begin the calendar year and head into the weekend ranked No. 21 nationally with a 9-1 record. The Cards' lone loss was a 38-35 setback at home against UCF back in mid-October. Since then, Louisville has won three straight.
Memphis has won back-to-back games for the first time this season and the Tigers are coming off their first American Athletic Conference victory, a 23-10 road win at USF. The Tigers head to Louisville with a 3-6 record and are 1-4 in conference play.
Kickoff for Saturday's game is 11:00 a.m. Central/12 noon Eastern and is ESPN Regional's The American Game of the Week.
The ESPN Regional broadcast will be seen locally in Memphis on Comcast Cable 30 in most area households as well as available on a variety of other affiliates nationwide including nationally on SNY (DirecTV channel 639) and MASN (DirecTV channel 640). The game is also available online at ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
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.
Louisville is averaging 466.3 yards of offense (27th in FBS) and features one of the nation's top quarterbacks.
UL signal caller Teddy Bridgewater has completed 219-of-309 passes for 3048 yards and 24 touchdowns. Bridgewater ranks in FBS's Top 10 statistically in passing yards per game, pass efficiency rating (177.4) and touchdowns.
"It appears to me that he does a great job operating his line of scrimmage," Memphis coach Justin Fuente said of the Cardinals' signal caller. "Obviously, he has a good frame and can throw the ball, but from a mental aspect, he seems to do a pretty good job of getting them in the right place."
Defensively, only Michigan State has a stingier unit as the Cards are giving up just 238.8 yards per contest. UL's defense has held opponents to just 10.8 points per game.
Between them, defensive ends Marcus Smith and Lorenzo Mauldin are averaging 2.1 sacks per game. Louisville ranks second nationally in sacks, averaging 3.5 per game.
"They are big, fast and well-coached," Fuente said of the Cards' defense. They can rush the passer. They have a couple special kids that move around and can really cause you problems.
"I think they play good team defense. That's shown on the scoreboard throughout the season."
The Memphis/Louisville series dates back to the 1940s but Saturday's game will be the first meeting of the programs since 2010, a 56-0 Cardinal shutout. Memphis has several seniors which were a part of that team including senior Lonnie Ballentine who had five tackles in the game and punter Tom Hornsey who averaged 41.9 yards and placed three punts inside the Cards' 20.
Special teams could be pivotal for the Tigers on Saturday.
Hornsey, a Ray Guy Award Semifinalist, is averaging 45.3 yards per punt which ranks sixth nationally and has helped the Tigers rank among the nation's top three all season in net punting average at 41.61 yards. Freshman Jake Elliott, a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award, ranks 10th in field goal percentage, making 14-of-15 this season including a school-record 56-yarder last week against USF.
Offensively, Memphis was held to 242 yards of total offense in last week's win at USF. However, the Tigers had some key plays in the victory.
Freshman running back Doroland Dorceus' 26-yard run after the Bulls missed a 55-yard field goal would put the Tigers' in field goal range for Elliott who would later drill the record kick to give the Tigers a 6-0 halftime lead.
Leading 6-3 in the fourth quarter, Paxton Lynch completed passes of 10 and 15 yards on back-to-back plays to Keiwone Malone to set up the Tigers at the USF 33 and senior running back Brandon Hayes had three straight runs including a 14-yarder and a five-yard scoring plunge to give Memphis a 13-3 lead.
Bobby McCain's 36-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:35 to play iced the victory. For McCain, the scoring play marked his third interception of the game, tying a Memphis record.
McCain leads the nation with a 0.9 interceptions per game average and is the only player in Memphis history to score three touchdowns on interception returns during a playing career. McCain had an interception return for a score against Tulane as a freshman and earlier this year returned a pick 75 yards for a score against Duke.
Following Saturday's road game, the Tigers will honor their senior class next Saturday when the squad plays host to Temple. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and the game will be televised by ESPNews.
Memphis closes out the season Dec. 7 at UConn.