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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (61,000) -- Memphis, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: Tulane 2-4, Memphis 1-3. Away Record: Tulane 0-3, Memphis 0-5. Neutral Record: Tulane 0-0, Memphis 0-0. Conference Record: Tulane 2-3, Memphis 1-4. Series Record: Memphis leads, 17-11-1.
GAME NOTES: Justin Fuente aims for the second win of his head coaching career when his Memphis Tigers host the Tulane Green Wave at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium for Conference USA action this weekend.
The Green Wave have gone 2-2 since starting the season out with five straight losses. The season-opening losing slide extended the school's streak of losses to an FBS worst 15 games before it managed to shock SMU with a thrilling 27-26 victory. Tulane was highly productive on the offensive end but came up just short and dropped a 49-47 decision to Rice in a shootout in the Big Easy its last time out. Tulane had its second highest offensive output with 476 yards and 47 points in the loss to the Owls.
Fuente's first season at the helm of the Memphis program has not been a joyful ride. The Tigers were downed, 38-28, by Marshall at Joan C. Edwards Stadium for their fourth loss in a row last week. During its current losing slide, Memphis has been outscored 158-65. The Tigers have just three games remaining in the C-USA before they depart for the Big East next season.
This will be the 30th all-time meeting on the gridiron between these programs. Memphis holds a 17-11-1 edge in the all-time series after winning the last six encounters. The Tigers escaped the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with a 33-17 victory in last season's encounter with Tulane.
The Green Wave's offense is rolling right now with an average of 435 yards per game over their last three outings. Tulane has scored 20 or more points in each of its previous four games after not producing more than 13 in any of the five prior contests. The team's season numbers are still uninspiring as they rank ninth in the C-USA in scoring offense (21.6 ppg) and 11th in total offense (316.9 ypg).
The root of the recent offensive improvement is quarterback Ryan Griffin, who suffered an injury 15 plays into the second game of the season. The senior passer returned just in time to lead Tulane to a win over SMU by passing for 302 yards and three TDs. Griffin then went 28-of-44 for 362 yards and two scores with no interceptions at Texas-El Paso before setting a new school record with 466 yards and a new career-high with five TDs on 34-of-42 passing versus UAB. Griffin broke his own single game passing record last week by throwing for 476 yards.
Ryan Grant had his third straight 100-yard receiving game last week (176 yards, five rec.) to become the C-USA's leading receiver. The junior wideout has reeled in 42 catches for 834 yards and five TDs in Tulane's sporadic offense. Xavier Rush showed defenses he will torch them if they key on Grant too much by tallying 96 yards and a score last week.
Rob Kelley (244 yards) and Orleans Darkwa (176 yards) both see action in the ground attack, which ranked 119th out of 120 FBS teams with an minute average of only 38.1 ypg.
Tulane has allowed all but one of its opponents to gain 440 yards of total offense or more this season. Last week was no different as Rice picked up 482 yards of total offense and 49 points in the shootout. Both those numbers were exceptionally higher than the averages the Owls carried into the bout. On the season, the Green Wave's opponents are averaging 491.9 yards and 39.6 points per game.
Freshman defensive back Darion Monroe is the team's leading tackler with 67 stops. Senior Austen Jacks is the best big play defender with 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
The Tigers have experienced a handful of challenges on the offensive side of the football. They lost their top running back early in the season, they own a -0.33 turnover margin, and they have experienced instability at the quarterback position.
The myriad of problems has left Memphis with feeble averages of 296 yards and 18.7 points per game. Those are both the lowest marks in C-USA. Memphis surpassed its average and gained 372 yards of total offense against Marshall, but the Thundering Herd entered the contest giving up 464.5 ypg.
Memphis is a run-first offense that relies on a stable of backs to move the ball. Jai Steib has rushed a team-high 82 times for 281 yards. Steib has replaced Jerell Rhodes (224 yards) who left the team for personal reasons earlier in the season. Brandon Hayes (281 yards, 64 attempts) and Carl Harris (154 yards, 33 attempts) have both rushed the ball more than 30 times this season as well.
Jacob Karam has been under center in the Tigers' passing attack, which ranks dead last in the conference. Karam has thrown for 1,316 yards, while completing a solid 61.2 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns to two interceptions. Karam is an ideal game manager, but the Tigers need a playmaker at this point.
With the hope of finding that needed playmaker, Memphis has given Eric Matthews snaps at quarterback in four of the last five games, but he serves primarily as a running threat from under center when leading the huddle.
The passing game is reliant on the efforts of receivers Keiwone Malone and Marcus Rucker. Malone has caught a team-high 40 passes for 414 yards and two scores, while Rucker has 37 catches for a team-high 432 yards and a three TDs.
The Tigers' defense is coming off a decent showing in which it held Marshall's conference leading offense to 341 yards. The Herd still managed to score 38 points as it turned all three of its red zone visits into touchdowns. The only opponent Memphis managed to hold under 350 yards of total offense prior to MU was the Rice Owls (221), which is the only team it has defeated. The Tigers' opposition is averaging 34.1 ppg.
Charles Harris is the team-leader in tackles with 62. Martin Ifedi (9.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks), Tank Jakes (seven tackles for loss), and Johnnie Farms (6.5 tackles for loss) have been effective in stopping opposing ball carriers in the backfield.
Although Memphis has a strong winning streak in the series and the homefield advantage in its favor, Tulane's offense has been firing on all cylinders in recent weeks. If Griffin gets it going, Memphis will not be able to keep up.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tulane 38, Memphis 27
11/07 10:42:58 ET
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