Friday, October 8, 2010

PREVIEW: Tigers at Louisville

Posted By on Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Saturday, 1 p.m., at Louisville

• Louisville enters Saturday’s game having alternated wins and losses over their season’s first month. The Cardinals lost at home to Kentucky on September 4th, beat Eastern Kentucky a week later, then fell at Oregon State, 35-28, on September 18th. After a bye week, Louisville won at Arkansas State last Saturday, 34-24. Saturday’s game is the Cardinals’ last tune-up before Big East play begins.

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• Senior quarterback Adam Froman has completed 58 percent of his passes for Louisville, averaging 235.5 yards per game, with five touchdowns and four interceptions. His favorite target has been senior Doug Beaumont (16 receptions for 244 yards). Another senior — Bilal Powell — leads the Cardinal ground game, having rushed for 485 yards through four games. Powell averages 6.6 yards per carry and has scored five touchdowns.

• Charlie Strong is in his first season as head coach of the Cardinals, having spent the last seven years at Florida, where he was defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer. Strong aims to improve a team that finished 2009 with a record of 4-8 (1-6 in the Big East).

• Louisville owns a 22-19 edge in the series with Memphis. The Cardinals have won the last two meetings (in 2004 and 2008) and 11 of the last 13 (the Tigers won in 1997 at the Liberty Bowl and in 2003 at Louisville). In six of the last seven contests, Louisville has scored at least 32 points, the exception being the U of M win in ’03 (37-7). Once members of the Metro Conference, Memphis and Louisville played every year from 1968 to 2004 except for three seasons: 1984, 1985, and 2000.

• The Tigers have fallen near the bottom of Conference USA in total offense (286.4 yards per game), ahead of only Tulane. The Tiger defense is eighth (408.8). The Memphis passing game has sputtered of late, with the team’s rushing total matching or exceeding yardage through the air in each of the last three games. For some perspective, last season’s 2-10 squad averaged 373.1 yards per game of total offense. The last time a Memphis offense averaged fewer than 300 yards for an entire season was 2000.

• If you’re looking for an ugly stat (or two), turn to the Memphis special teams. The Tigers are dead last in C-USA in both kickoff returns (17.9 yards per return) and punt returns (1.6). Worse, in five games, the Tigers have forced their opponent to punt a total of five times.

• The Tigers are trying to avoid their third 1-5 start since 1987. The ’98 team started 1-5 on its way to a 2-9 record. In 2006, the Tigers started 1-5 and finished 2-10.

• Senior linebacker Jamon Hughes is playing his way into the all-conference discussion. Hughes had a total of 12 tackles against Tulsa last week (five of them solo) and is third in C-USA with an average of 11.6 tackles per game. As a junior in 2009, Hughes averaged 7.2.

• Right guard Dominik Riley — a preseason all-conference selection — is expected to play against Louisville after missing the Tigers’ last two games with a knee injury. Junior Michael Antonescu remains atop the official depth chart, having replaced freshman Ricky Hart (Riley’s backup) last week when Hart injured his ankle against Tulsa.

• A pair of freshmen continue to play large roles in the Tiger secondary. Todd Washington will start his fifth straight game at one cornerback position, opposite Mohammed Seisay, who has started at the other corner since the opener against Mississippi State. The two have combined for 25 tackles and four interceptions.

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