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Memphis to host SMU on Senior Day with championship aspirations on the line

Terry Davis

The University of Memphis Tigers sport an 8-2 record and are looking to reach the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Championship game for the first time since 2018. That was the year the team went to the Cotton Bowl.

During that 2018 season, the Tigers earned the right to host the SMU Mustangs as part of ESPN College Game Day. 

On Saturday the Tigers host the Mustangs and Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. If Memphis can get past Smut and defeat the Temple Owls the next week, that will open the door for the team to either host or travel on the first week of December to play for a potential spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl game.

The Tigers are sitting in fourth place in the conference standings. Tulane, SMU and the University of Texas at San Antonio are currently undefeated in conference play.  

“There is a long list of what SMU is,” said Memphis head coach Ryan Silverfield. “They are in the top 10 in the country in scoring. They’re in the top 10 in scoring defense. They are playing at an extremely high level. They have a very talented team, but so do we.”

This will be the last year that the Tigers and the Mustangs will play as conference opponents.  SMU will be leaving the AAC to go the Atlantic Coast Conference next season. The Mustangs made their plans known just a few months ago when all the conference members were playing musical chairs and switching conferences.

Saturday’s game will kick off at 11 a.m. at the Simmons Bank Liberty Bowl Stadium. The Tigers have only one home loss this season.

The defense was expected to be the backbone of this team to start the season. The defense has shown flashes of greatness and have been able to get critical stops at the right time in games.

On his defense Silverfield said, 

“We have great defensive coaches. We have great defensive players,” said Silverfield. “The defensive coaches and players know we have to be better. Anytime you go into a game and get four takeaways, you are going to win most games. They are making the plays when it matters most.”

This will be the last game for 17 seniors, who will participate in the Senior Day ceremony. Those seniors are: Jaylon Allen, Simeon Blair, Reid Bauer, Geoffrey Cantin-Arku, Tauskie Dove, Koby Drake, Josh Ellison, Cincir Evans, Malik Feaster, Andres Fox, Jaylen Joyner, Jacob Likes, Terrance McClain, Joe Norwood, Hank Pearson, Joseph Scates and Blake Watson.

All the seniors have had a major impact on the team. Watson is on pace to be the first 1,000-yard rusher since 2019. He has rushed for 909 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has 393 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns.  He made the AAC weekly Honor Roll three times this season.

Allen has been one of the most vocal and active leaders on defense for the past several years.  He is the heart and soul of the unit. This season Allen has 15 quarterback sacks, 1 forced fumble and 35 total tackles.

Quarterback Seth Henigan did not practice last week until Friday. This week he was a full participant all week.  If the Tigers want to keep their championship hopes alive, Henigan will need to have yet another great game. 

“I have been saying it all year.  You have to look at your next game as the most important game of the year,” Henigan said. “This game has a lot of magnitude for the Conference Championship.  Two really good teams going at it.”

Memphis has a career 10-5 record over the history of their meetings with SMU.  The home team has won each of the last three meetings. The game can be seen on ESPN2. 

 

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