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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 14, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium (30,788) -- Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Television: CSS. Home Record: Memphis 0-0, MT 0-0. Away Record: Memphis 0-0, MT 0-0. Neutral Record: Memphis 0-0, MT 0-0. Conference Record: Memphis 0-0, MT 0-0. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 16-8-1.
GAME NOTES: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders return home on Saturday afternoon, hoping to get back on the winning track as they entertain the Memphis Tigers.
Memphis, which is in its first season as a member of the American Athletic Conference, opened last weekend at home against Duke, losing 28-14, thus halting a three-game win streak it strung together to close out the 2012 campaign.
Middle Tennessee is also new to its league in 2013, coming from the Sun Belt to Conference USA. The Blue Raiders opened on Aug. 29 with a 45-24 win over Western Carolina of the FCS, but followed that up last Saturday with a difficult road loss at North Carolina, 40-20.
The Blue Raiders lead the all-time series with Memphis by a 16-8-1 count. The teams have met in each of the last four seasons with Middle Tennessee winning three of those matchups, including last year's 48-30 final.
The Memphis offense had difficulty moving the ball in its opener, amassing just 237 yards, gaining 12 first downs and converting a meager 2-of-13 third- down attempts and none of its four fourth-down opportunities.
The Tigers' struggles could be attributed to the fact that they started a freshman quarterback in the season opener for the first time in 27 years. Paxton Lynch was unspectacular in his debut, going 14-of-24 for 148 yards, but while he went without a touchdown, he also didn't throw an interception.
Brandon Hayes earned 15 carries as the featured back, but managed to gain just 39 yards (2.6 ypc). Jai Steib (four carries, 10 yards) scored the team's only offensive touchdown.
Marquis Warford had a team-high four receptions, but for just 19 yards. Tevin Jones caught two passes for 49 yards.
Defensively, the Tigers put forth a bend-don't-break effort, allowing just 14 points despite giving up 470 yards. The unit forced three turnovers in the opener, with Bobby McCain returning an interception 75 yards for a touchdown.
Anthony Brown tallied 11 tackles and a sack, while Martin Ifedi logged three TFL and a pair of sacks. McCain (four tackles, pass defended) was also in on another turnover by recovering a fumble.
After one strong performance and one disappointing outing to open the season, Middle Tennessee's offensive numbers sit at 32.5 points and 438.0 yards per contest. The Blue Raiders actually kept up with UNC for the most part last week with 401 yards, but they were ultimately done in by four turnovers.
Logan Kilgore had the worst performance of his four-year career against the Tar Heels, going 21-of-35 for 211 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions, all but negating a decent opener (144 yards, TD). The signal caller is completing 62.3 percent of his passes here in the early going.
Jordan Parker rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown last week on 22 carries, giving him back-to-back 100-yard performances to begin the campaign and six for his career. William Pratcher (108 yards, two TDs) also gets plenty of looks in the backfield.
Tavarres Jefferson caught seven balls for 101 yards in the loss to UNC. He now has 135 yards on the season and is tied with Kyle Griswould (88 yards) for the team-lead in total receptions with 10.
Middle Tennessee had no answer for the talented Tar Heels offense, allowing 511 yards as its average yield shot up to 32.0 ppg.
T.T. Barber has a team-high 18 tackles, including a pair for negative yardage. The unit has only forced a pair of turnovers in the early going, with Sammy Seamster intercepting a pass and Leighton Gasque forcing a fumble.
Chances are, Memphis will be able to find a little more daylight offensively against a questionable Middle Tennessee defense, but with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm, heading out on the road will be a challenge. Expect Parker to continue to rack up the rushing yards and for Kilgore to bounce back from a poor performance as the Blue Raiders move back above .500.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 31, Memphis 24
09/11 10:38:18 ET
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