After a hard-fought opening game victory against SEC rivals Ole Miss, the Memphis Tigers (1-0) set their sights on Southern Universities Jaguars (0-1). Saturday’s game will be the first time that the two teams have faced each other.
The Tigers are riding high this week after defeating Ole Miss 15-10. The win not only made them look good in the eye of fans but in the eyes of coaches around the country as well. Votes taken from this week’s coaches poll for the Top 25 teams in the nation had Memphis with 34 votes, an improvement from the 24 they received in the preseason poll.
For the Jaguars, they are coming off a tough 34-28 game against McNeese State. The loss was not too damaging as every other team in the SWAC West besides Prairie View lost their opening games.
From the opening quarter, you could see the changes in this year’s team from last year, especially in the Tigers offense. The usually high-powered offense scored just 15 points in their opening game, the lowest total they have scored since September 2017.
Quarterback Brady White and running back Patrick Taylor Jr. were responsible for the team’s two touchdowns, both one-yard runs.
Though White did his best to keep the passing game going by completing 23 of his attempted 31 passes for 172 yards, it was difficult due to confusion within the offensive line.
Head coach Mike Norvell said there were eight or nine different offensive linemen used in Saturday’s game because of injuries and experimentation. As a result, the unit was responsible for four of the team’s seven penalties. White was hurried on three plays, sacked twice and threw an interception to Rebels’ defensive linemen Benito Jones.
When asked by the media about the lack of scoring, Norvell said that he did not see it as that big of a deal and was just happy to get the victory.
“Going into your first game, you never really know how the game is going to go,” Norvell said. “I wish we would have executed a little bit better at certain times to stretch the lead, but at the end of the day, it does not matter. It is about doing whatever it takes to be one point better, and our guys did that today.”
Luckily for the Tigers, where their offense was lacking, their defense stepped up in a big way. They held the Rebels previously mighty offense to just 173 yards and allowed only one third-down conversion the entire game.
Defensive end Bryce Huff walked away as the talk of the game after earning the game-sealing safety in the fourth quarter. That play, along with his five tackles, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup, helped him to earn AAC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Despite being down 24-14 at the start of the fourth quarter, Southern did their best to play the “Comeback Kid” and scored 14 points in the final 15 minutes, but it still was not enough.
Both quarterbacks Glendon McDaniel and Ladarius Skelton saw the field and threw for at least one touchdown, while McDaniel also had a rushing touchdown to his credit.
The reason that Southern played two quarterbacks is because Skelton lost two fumbles and was benched in favor of McDaniel for a drive-in response to that.
Southern’s head coach Dawson Odums said he was adamant that he was still going to stick with McDaniel ahead of Saturday’s game.
“I think he’s going to respond,” Odums said. “He had a great practice this morning, a great attitude. He’s still our starting quarterback. You don’t lose your job over one game. We expect him to play well this week.”
The fumbles were not just from McDaniel. As a team, the Jaguars committed six fumbles losing two on muffed punt returns.
Things could have been much for the Jaguars if their defense limited McNeese State’s offense. They held them to 303 yards while outgaining them by 39 total yards.
Unfortunately, their pass rush was unable to make much of an impact and had just two sacks throughout the game.
If Southern’s game last weekend was any indication, it’s clear that they have a severe issue with ball security. For a defense like Memphis’ that has been trying to create more turnovers, this is an excellent opportunity to do that.
We saw positive strides from that unit against Ole Miss, but this could easily be the game where the Tigers’ offense reclaims the spotlight.
I expect several big plays and even more points to be scored, especially to make up for last week’s low scoring outing.
Score prediction: Memphis 49-7