The Memphis Tigers (5-0, 2-0 American) football team enter a critical phase of American Athletic Conference play this week.
The Tigers are coming off a high-scoring 52-33 win at the University of Louisiana- Monroe. Next, they’re headed to Philadelphia to take on the Temple Owls (4-1,1-0 American). The last time these teams met in Philly in November 2015, Temple scored the 31-12 win – also over a then-unbeaten 8-0 Tigers team.
Temple poses the stiffest defensive test for the Tigers so far this season. The Owls lead the AAC in scoring defense (17.2). Memphis is second (19.2) in the conference. Temple is second in total defense allowing 292.4 yards per game. The Tigers are ranked fourth allowing 325.4 yards per game.
If the Tigers hope to remain undefeated, here are three keys to leaving Philadelphia with a win:
All season, the Tigers have preached “strike first.” Meaning, they want to control the tempo and the pace of the game from the opening kickoff.
Whether it’s a quick score or a long, grind-it-out drive, Memphis won’t care how they score – as long as they score first – and frequently.
Battle of the Defenses
Both the Tigers and the Owls have had great defensive games this year.
Against UL-Monroe, the Tigers stopped the Warhawks twice on fourth down and converted an interception into a touchdown on the last three drives of the game.
They’ve also been able to contain their opponent’s best offensive player on vital drives. The Tigers have one of the best pass defenses in the country and have been consistent against the run. Chris Claybrooks, the projected starting cornerback from Nashville, should make his season debut this week.
The Tiger defense will have its hands full with Temple. Re’Mahn Davis leads the Owls with 507 rushing yards per game, to go with four touchdowns. Redshirt junior QB Anthony Russo has completed 109 passes for 1,279 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.
The Tigers know where their bread is buttered. Their offense starts and ends with the running game.
Freshman Kenny Gainwell set a Tigers record for a freshman, rushing for 209 yards and two touchdowns against UL-Monroe. This week, it appears that RB Patrick Taylor return to action after missing several weeks with an ankle injury. If Taylor is up to speed, it’ll give the Tigers two devastating options in their ground game.
Brady White has also kept opposing defenses off balance with his passing. Five different players scored touchdowns in the Monroe game. The running game helps opens the passing game. The Tigers are third in the American in points per game (39.8).
Kickoff between the Memphis Tigers and the Temple Owls is at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday, Oct. 12 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. You can watch it on ESPN2.