Three Thoughts on Tiger Football

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Memphis senior Riley Ferguson needed merely 18 games to become the fourth Tiger quarterback to pass for 5,000 yards in his career. Already twice honored as the American Athletic Conference's Offensive Player of the Week, Ferguson leads the AAC with 16 touchdown passes (on pace to break the program's single-season record of 32 he tossed last season) and 307.0 yards per game. For his career, Ferguson has averaged 290.7 yards per game, more than the career averages of the other 5,000-yard men in Memphis history: Danny Wimprine (222.1 ypg in 46 games), Paxton Lynch (233.2 in 38), and Martin Hankins (250.9 in 23). Memphis fans get to see Ferguson play four more home games. He's managed to become a special player at the game's toughest position in just two seasons. Embrace the moment(s), Tiger fans.
Riley Ferguson - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Riley Ferguson

• Memphis may be cursing the schedule gods a week from Friday. For any reasonable chance at winning the AAC's West Division, the Tigers must split their games with Navy (3-0 in league play) and Houston (2-0), and they play both teams in a span of six days (the Cougars on the road). Survive this hell-week with just two conference losses, then run the table (with three of the final four games at the Liberty Bowl) and Memphis would post a stellar 9-2 record (6-2 in the AAC). But what a formidable task. Like Ferguson, Navy quarterback Zach Abey has twice been named the AAC's Offensive Player of the Week. The junior leads the AAC with 807 rushing yards. After Navy, the Tigers will have all of four days to prepare an attack against a Cougar defense that has allowed an average of 16.2 points per game. Six days in October may define this season.

• The only way Memphis upsets 25th-ranked Navy is by stealing possessions via turnover. The Midshipmen are averaging 414.2 rushing yards per game (for crying out loud). Memphis is allowing 187.2 yards per game on the ground (eighth in the AAC). Navy ran for 374 yards two years ago in its win at the Liberty Bowl (and didn't lose a fumble) then piled up 447 yards last season in another blowout victory (the Midshipmen lost one of two fumbles that day). Simply put, Memphis needs to identify playmakers on defense. Freshman cornerback T.J. Carter is one, having picked off three passes in five games. Junior Tito Windham has shown skill at stripping ball-carriers. The Tigers will give up lengthy drives Saturday afternoon, clock-killing drives that make the triple-option so lethal.  For the season, Navy has run the ball 317 times and lost exactly four fumbles. Can Memphis steal a possession (or three)? Can the Tigers protect the ball when they have it? Winning that fabled "turnover battle" is the Memphis path to victory this weekend.

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