Three Thoughts on Memphis Tiger Football


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Thursday night feels big. The Tigers' American Athletic Conference opener. A second nationally televised game in six days. The defending AAC East Division champs in town with the conference's reigning Defensive Player of the Week. (Temple defensive end Haason Reddick caused a pair of fumbles and had two sacks in the Owls' win over SMU last weekend.) The short week will have its effects (particularly on the traveling team), but it will be good for the Tigers to leap right back into action after being slapped around late in the Ole Miss loss. Temple enters the game with a record of 3-2 (losses to Army and Penn State), its offense ranked 11th out of 12 AAC teams (350.2 yards per game). Quarterback Phillip Walker has completed only 55 percent of his passes and thrown more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (6). Meanwhile, Tiger quarterback Riley Ferguson is second only to Houston's Heisman candidate, Greg Ward Jr., in AAC pass efficiency (rating of 158.3 to Ward's 166.2). The Tigers are 1-2 against the Owls since the AAC began play in 2013 and took it on the chin last year in Philadelphia (31-12). Motivation should be at a premium for the home team.
  • Larry Kuzniewski

There's a reasonable chance Memphis kicker Jake Elliott will break Stephen Gostkowski's career scoring record Thursday night. The senior from Illinois enters the game with 361 career points, one behind DeAngelo Williams and eight shy of Gostkowski's mark (set from 2002 to 2005). Perspective? Elliott's next point will give him 100 more than Joe Allison accumulated, and Allison merely won the Lou Groza Award in 1992. As for Gostkowski, the longtime New England Patriots kicker is one of two men (along with Hall of Famer Don Hutson) to win five NFL scoring titles. Barring injury, Elliott will soon become the first Memphis player to accumulate 400 points.

• It didn't look all that strong last Saturday night, but the Tiger defense is improved from a year ago and one of the primary differences is safety Jonathan Cook. The junior transfer — Cook played at Alabama in 2013 and ’14 — leads Memphis with 27 tackles (22 solo), good for 11th in the AAC. Along with the impact cornerback Arthur Maulet has made (five pass break-ups and two interceptions), Cook has transformed the Tiger secondary into a playmaking group, a point of emphasis upon coach Mike Norvell's arrival. Even with the lopsided score in Oxford, the Memphis defense is second in the AAC in points allowed (18.8 per game) and fifth in total defense (371.2 yards per game). 

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