Tigers Set to Tackle Surging UConn Saturday
Dec. 5, 2013
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Memphis will experience Senior Day for the third straight week on Saturday as the Tigers close out the season against a Connecticut team which has won its last two games after starting its season 0-9.
Kickoff for Saturday's game, which will be streamed and available online through ESPN3 and the WatchESPN.com app, is set for 1 p.m. Eastern/12 p.m. Central. 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.
With wins in back-to-back games in mid-November, including a 23-10 win at USF, Memphis was looking to finish the 2013 season strong prior to back-to-back Senior Day losses.
Memphis (3-8, 1-6) was the Senior Day opponent at Louisville two weeks ago, dropping a 24-17 decision to the then No. 21-ranked Cardinals. Temple spoiled the Tigers' Senior Day with a 41-21 win last week in the Liberty Bowl.
With their own Senior Day wrapped up, Memphis head coach Justin Fuente began the week stating he would challenge the entire team this week. That motivation included the team scrimmaging during Tuesday's practice.
"I think it's important that we play better," Fuente said. "I am not going to focus on one group. I'm going to focus on the whole unit. We had Senior Day and that's over. Now it's time for us to go play at Connecticut. It's going to take a group of kids, whether you're a senior or a freshman, that want to go play."
Prior to Saturday's game, UConn (2-9, 2-5) will be honoring 14 seniors who have combined for 186 starts.
The Huskies are closing out the season with consecutive games at Rentschler Field, located in East Hartford, about a half hour's drive from the UConn campus in Storrs, Conn.
Last week the Huskies scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to come from behind and beat Rutgers 28-17. A week earlier, UConn came back from a 21-0 deficit at Temple to beat the Owls 28-21. It was the biggest deficit overcome since UConn entered the FBS in 2002.
"We really put four quarters together for the first time all year," said UConn interim coach T.J. Weist of the Huskies' win over Rutgers last week. "We finished strong. We came back from being down 17-14 in the third quarter and played probably our best game of the year.
Weist, a 25-year veteran of coaching, who had served as Cincinnati's receivers coach before joining the UConn staff as the offensive coordinator, was elevated to interim head coach after the Huskies began the year 0-4. Three of UConn's five losses under Weist came against nationally-ranked opponents.
Against Rutgers, UConn senior cornerback Taylor Mack had two, fourth-quarter interceptions. The second was intercepted at the UConn 19 and returned 20 yards with 1:58 to play.
The game was the second straight victory for the Huskies sealed with an interception.
Against Temple, linebacker Yawin Smallwood returned an interception 59 yards for the Huskies' go-ahead touchdown.
Last week freshman quarterback Casey Cochran threw for 311 yards and two touchdowns in the Huskies' win over Rutgers. Cochran has played in seven games this season, completing 75-of-121 passes for 832 yards and seven touchdowns.
"Casey did a great job all day of guiding the offense and not making any turnovers," Weist said of his rookie signal caller's last outing. "He was 9-of-12 on third down which just shows he has really good poise.
"We look to take that momentum into our last game against a tough Memphis team which has one of the better defenses in the league," Weist said.
Memphis will look to close out the 2013 season with the same type of defensive effort which has had the unit ranked among the Top 20 nationally most of the season.
Memphis is currently ranked 27th nationally in total defense, allowing opponents to average 355.5 yards per game. The Tigers rank 17th nationally against the run, allowing 120.1 rushing yards per game.
Defensive end Martin Ifedi heads into the final game of his junior season needing just two quarterback sacks to become both Memphis' all-time leader in quarterback sacks as well as establish a new school season record. Ifedi has 20 sacks for his career including 11.5 this season. The school records are 21 and 13.
Offensively, Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch's 1,887 passing yards ranks 12th all-time at Memphis and he potentially could become just the 10th quarterback in school history to pass for 2,000 yards in a single season and just the second freshman.
Senior running back Brandon Hayes has rushed for 1,403 yards during his two-season career which ranks 17th on the all-time rushing list. Hayes has run for 827 yards and five touchdowns this season and has also caught two touchdown passes.
Among Memphis' 15 seniors is punter Tom Hornsey, a finalist for the Ray Guy Award which will be presented during The Home Depot College Football Awards next Thursday evening from the Walt Disney World Resort in Buena Vista, Fla. The show will be televised by ESPN at 6 p.m. Central. Hornsey ranks sixth nationally with a 45.9 yards per punt average and the Tigers' 41.27 net punting average ranks fourth nationally.
Memphis' seniors will be honored at the Highland Hundred Tiger Football Banquet, which will take place at the Holiday Inn on the University of Memphis campus on Sunday. 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.
Commissioner Mike Arersco announced Thursday the American Athletic Conference's bowl affiliations for a six-year cycle that spans the 2014 through 2019 football seasons. The 2014 bowl lineup includes the BBVA Compass Bowl, Birmingham, Ala. (vs. SEC); Beef `O' Brady's Bowl, St. Petersburg, Fla (vs. ACC); Miami Beach Bowl, Miami, Fla. (vs. Conference USA); Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, Annapolis, Md. (vs. ACC); Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Fort Worth, Texas (vs. Army/Big 12); Bahamas Bowl, Nassau, Bahamas (vs. MAC).
Additionally, under the new postseason structure an American team could participate in the College Football Playoff or play in one of three Host Bowls which are part of the College Football Playoff rotation - the Cotton Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl.
Other bowl game affiliations for the American Athletic Conference through the 2019 season are with the Bell Helicopter Armed Services Bowl (Fort Worth, Texas), the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Honolulu); the Boca Raton Bowl (Boca Raton, Fla.) and the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (New Orleans). In addition the conference's primary bowl affilations, The American holds secondary partnerships with the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, the AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Shreveport, La.) and the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego).