Tigers Take on Temple in Home Finale
Nov. 28, 2013
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Memphis will look to send a group of 15 seniors out on a winning note Saturday when the Tigers play host to first-time opponent Temple at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
This year's senior class has played a major role in laying the foundation for the future of the Memphis program. The group will be recognized during an on-field ceremony prior to the game at approximately 10:30 a.m.
This year's senior class consists of Lonnie Ballentine, Anthony Brown, Johnnie Farms, Antonio Foster, Brandon Hayes, Tom Hornsey, Roderick Howard, Corey Jones, Jacob Karam, Jesse Milleson, Andrew Niblock, Chris Schuetz, Jai Steib, Jamere Valentine and Anthony Watson.
"It is our seniors' last shot at playing in the Liberty Bowl and I know if will be special for many of them," said Memphis head coach Justin Fuente. "Some of them have been here through some tough times, and some have only been here a couple years. I'm awfully proud of them all as a group.
Memphis (3-7, 1-5) will play two, first-time opponents to close out the season. In addition to playing Temple for the first time on Saturday, the Tigers will wrap up the year against Connecticut on Dec. 7 in East Hartford, Conn.
Kickoff for Saturday's game, which will be broadcast on ESPNews and streamed via WatchESPN.com, kicks off at 11 a.m. 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. WREC's pregame show begins at 9 a.m. and originates from Tiger Lane.
Temple is coming off a Senior Day game in Philadelphia in which it tallied 137 yards more of offense than Connecticut (372 to 235) and held a 21-0 lead at halftime. But UConn scored 28 unanswered, second-half points capped by a 59-yard interception return by linebacker Yawin Smallwood with 4:20 to play and the Huskies defeated the Owls 28-21 for their first win of the season.
Temple (1-10, 0-7) has now lost its last three games and five this season by a touchdown or less including a 39-36 loss to No. 15 UCF two weeks ago. During the year, Temple surrendered a lead to Fordham (29-23) with four seconds left and Rutgers (20-16) with 35 seconds to play. UCF kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired.
"We are continuing to focus on trying to learning how to win and finish a game," said Temple head coach Matt Rhule. "It has been five straight weeks where we have had the lead or been tied heading into the fourth quarter and we have only won one of those games."
Offensively, Temple is averaging 386 yards of offense including 242 passing. The Owls' running game has been led by junior running back Kenneth Harper who has rushed for 556 yards and nine touchdowns on 119 carries.
Temple quarterback P.J. Walker was the 2012 New Jersey Player of the Year and as a true freshman moved into the starting role as the Owls' signal-caller in mid-October in a nationally-televised game against Cincinnati.
For the season, Walker has completed 132-of-218 passes for 1,756 yards and 16 touchdowns and has started Temple's last six games. Rhule said the rookie would have to shake off one of his worse halves of the season heading into the Memphis game. Walker completed 11-of-21 passes for 112 yards, had an interception and was sacked three times in the second half of the UConn game.
"I know it is one he is going to learn from," Rhule said. "He is an outstanding talent. He really likes football, he studies it and works hard at it. He has the ability to be elusive and he can throw the football as well. He will have to play a great game against a tremendous Memphis defense."
Memphis defense ranks 16th nationally this week in total defense, allowing opponents to average 337.6 yards per game. Against the run, the Tigers are ranked 12th nationally, giving up 111.5 rushing yards per game. Memphis has held opponents to 10 points or less in each of its three wins this season. For the season, the Tigers are giving up 20.9 points per game which ranks 23rd nationally.
Last week, Memphis' defense held Louisville to its second-lowest total offense production and rushing production of the season.
Jakes and Harris are the Tigers' top two tacklers with 62 and 59 total stops, respectively.
Ifedi enters the week ranked second nationally in quarterback sacks and needs just two tackles to set both single-season and career quarterback sack marks at Memphis. In addition to 11.5 quarterback sacks, Ifedi has registered 43 total tackles.
McCain set an American Athletic Conference record with three interceptions in the Tigers' win at USF and for the season has eight total take-aways (six interceptions and two fumble recoveries).
Temple's defense is allowing almost 500 yards per game this season including 186 yards rushing.
Sophomore linebacker Tyler Matakevich ranks second nationally in tackles per game, averaging 11.7 tackles per game. Matakevich has totaled 129 tackles this season.
While just about every American Athletic Conference team has started a rookie quarterback at some point this season, Memphis redshirt freshman quarterback Paxton Lynch is the only one in the league and one of five freshmen signal callers nationally to start 10 games.
Lynch heads into the final two weeks of the season having completed 166-of-283 passes for 1,725 yards and seven touchdowns. Lynch hooked up with junior receiver Keiwone Malone for a season-long 47 yard pass last week at Louisville.
Hayes heads into the week as the Tigers' leading rusher with 789 yards and five touchdowns on 174 carries. Hayes has carried the ball 20+ times each of the past three weeks and has averaged just under 90 yards per game.
Highlighting the Tigers' special teams is senior punter Tom Hornsey who on Monday was named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. Memphis was the only FBS program to have special teams players named a semifinalist for the major postseason awards. Freshman Jake Elliott was named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicking Award.
Highland Hundred Tiger Football Banquet
Memphis' seniors will also be honored at the Highland Hundred Tiger Football Banquet, which will take place at the Holiday Inn on the University of Memphis campus Dec. 8th.
The event begins with a cocktail hour at 5 p.m. and the dinner and program begin at 6 p.m. Cost is $75 per seat or four seats in which guests will be joined by four players/coaches/staff for $300.
For more information or to register, contact the Highland Hundred through their website, highlandhundred.org.