Blue Raiders looking 3rd straight win over Memphis
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — Middle Tennessee quarterback Logan Kilgore believes the Blue Raiders have a little rivalry going with the Memphis Tigers.
“It’s always a dogfight,” Kilgore said. “It has been a fun little rivalry. They’re an in-state team, and I have enjoyed going out there to play and enjoyed playing them here. I think that it’s a fun test for us.”
The teams are separated by about 240 miles, and Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said being that close adds to the rivalry between Tennessee’s two FBS-level programs not in the Southeastern Conference.
“We didn’t play for a long time and now we’ve played a few years in a row,” Stockstill said. “I like the intensity of it.”
Making this game even more interesting when the Tigers visit Middle Tennessee (1-1) on Saturday night is that the Blue Raiders have moved from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA. Memphis left C-USA for the American Athletic Conference the same day back in July.
And another win would help the Blue Raiders rebound after a 40-20 loss at North Carolina last week.
The Tigers (0-1) lost their opener 28-14 to Duke last week, but they were tied at 14 in the fourth quarter. That counts as big improvement for coach Justin Fuente now in his second season. Memphis played nine freshmen and seven redshirt freshmen, including starting quarterback Paxton Lynch, against Duke.
Fuente said those young players may have tried to do too much.
“They just need to relax and let the game come to them, and I think they’ll be fine,” Fuente said. “There’s a lot of good to be taken away from that game. Obviously, we’re not satisfied with the outcome. We’re going to continue to press forward but after looking at it and having some time to think about it, the guys on the field played their heart out.”
Both coaches endorsed their starting quarterbacks this week, but Kilgore had three interceptions in the loss at North Carolina. Lynch’s backup is senior Jacob Karam, who completed a school record 64.2 percent of his passes last season.
“He runs better than you would expect with him being that big,” Stockstill said of Lynch. “He scrambles well and avoids pressure. He must have had a great camp to beat out the guy who started 12 games last year.
Here are five things to watch Saturday night when Middle Tennessee tries to extend its winning streak in this series:
RIVALRY: These teams are scheduled for only one more game after Saturday night with Middle Tennessee visiting Memphis in 2014. This game will be the 26th with the Blue Raiders up 16-8-1, and they are 10-2 in Murfreesboro. The series took a 53-year break after 1954 before they resumed games in 2007. Middle Tennessee is 4-1 since then with Memphis’ last win in 2010 at the Liberty Bowl.
PRESSURE: The Blue Raiders have had a very protective offensive line the past two seasons, giving up only eight sacks in 2011 and seven in 2012. Through two games, Middle Tennessee already has matched last year’s total with seven sacks. Kilgore hurt his shoulder in the opening win against Western Carolina. Though he did start at North Carolina, Stockstill still got Austin Grammer into the game in Chapel Hill.
HELLO MR. QUARTERBACK: Junior Martin Ifedi opened the season with two of Memphis’ three sacks, and the Tigers had eight tackles for loss and forced three turnovers. But Memphis, which allowed 295 yards total offense through three quarters, wilted in the fourth quarter giving up two touchdowns and 175 yards in the final 15 minutes.
RUN PARKER RUN: Jordan Parker has run for 100 yards or more now in five of his last six games. That includes both games this season. He is a big reason why Middle Tennessee ranks 42nd nationally averaging 214 yards rushing per game so far. The Tigers ran for only 89 yards in their opener.
SWITCHING LEAGUES: This is the second time this season teams in new conferences are playing each other. Central Florida, who moved from C-USA to the AAC, played FIU, a new C-USA member that jumped from the Sun Belt.
AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/