PREVIEW: Tigers vs. Houston



Saturday, Liberty Bowl, 6 p.m.

• The course of Houston’s season was altered on September 18th, when quarterback Case Keenum — a Heisman Trophy candidate and reigning C-USA Offensive Player of the Year — tore his ACL in the Cougars’ loss to UCLA, ending his senior season. (Keenum has appealed for an extra year of eligibility.) Since Keenum went down, the Cougars have gone 2-2, beating Tulane and (last week) SMU, while losing to Mississippi State and Rice. Houston enters this weekend’s game with an overall record of 4-3. The Cougars are 3-1 in C-USA play, tied atop the West Division with SMU.


• Even without Keenum, the Houston offense has been among the best in the country. The Cougars average 442.6 yards per game, second in C-USA and 23rd in the nation. Their average of 39.6 points per game ranks first in C-USA and 9th in the country.

• David Piland — a freshman — has taken over quarterback duty for Houston. Piland passed for 233 yards in the victory over SMU last weekend, and has a total of 816 yards for the season (six touchdowns and three interceptions). His primary targets are Patrick Edwards (38 receptions for 561 yards) and James Cleveland (31, 448). Edwards leads C-USA in punt returns with an average of 12.1 yards.

• Junior Bryce Beall is the Cougars’ top ball carrier with 629 rushing yards on the season. His average of 89.9 yards per game is second in C-USA behind SMU’s Zach Line. With 12 touchdowns, Beall is tied with Southern Miss kicker Danny Hrapmann for the C-USA scoring lead (72 points).

• Houston ranks seventh in C-USA in total defense, giving up an average of 401.1 yards per game (and 29.6 points). The Memphis defense, though, ranks last in the league in both yardage allowed (447.6 per game) and points (39.4).

• This will be the 21st meeting between the Tigers and Cougars, with Houston holding an 11-9 edge. (The Tigers are 5-5 against Houston in Memphis.) Memphis beat Houston three straight times during the DeAngelo Williams era (2003-05), but has lost the last two contests, 23-20 (in overtime) in 2006 and 55-14 last season.

• Memphis quarterback Ryan Williams ranks fourth among C-USA quarterbacks in efficiency rating (130.4), behind SMU’s Kyle Padron (136.6), Tulsa’s G.J. Kinne (136.0), and East Carolina’s Dominique Davis (131.6). Williams has completed just under 60 percent of his passes and has thrown only five interceptions in 132 attempts.

• Tiger linebacker Jamon Hughes leads C-USA with 86 tackles, an average of 12.3 per game. He was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Week after his 21-tackle effort against Southern Miss on October 16th.

• Saturday’s game will be Larry Porter’s first Homecoming as head coach of his alma mater. As a player, Porter’s teams went 2-2 in Homecoming games.

• The Tigers have a record that’s spooky-good around Halloween. Including games played on October 30th or November 1st, Memphis is 22-11-1 when playing within 24 hours of All Hallow’s Eve.

• Among the 97 players on the current Tiger roster, 55 of them are either freshmen or sophomores. The Memphis roster features a total of 20 seniors. The roster features 34 players from within 17 miles of the U of M campus.

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