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Tigers take on Louisiana-Monroe in season opener

<p>Jonathan Cook recovers a fumble against Kansas and races down field. He led the team with 72 total tackles last season.</p>
Jonathan Cook recovers a fumble against Kansas and races down field. He led the team with 72 total tackles last season.

The University of Memphis will kick off their football schedule Thursday night against Louisiana-Monroe. The two teams have not met since 2000 when the Tigers shutout the Warhawks 28-0.  While the game is scheduled for 8 p.m., weather could be an issue as showers and storms from Tropical Storm Harvey pass the area.

Look at opponent

            Memphis will enter the game as the heavy favorite over their opponent from the Sun Belt conference. The Tigers are coming off an 8-5 season and brought in the school’s highest ranked recruiting class in the off-season. Louisiana-Monroe went 4-8 in head coach Matt Viator’s first season.

            The Warhawks finished 112 of 128 in points scored per games and 122 in points allowed per game. They out rushed Memphis by more than 20 yards per game, gaining 181 yards per contest, but they allowed 260 rushing yards per game. Their pass defense was better on a per game basis, but their secondary was exposed against teams from bigger conferences.

What to watch for

            The Tigers should be able to control the game at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. With rain likely, the Tigers will probably run the ball often. The Louisiana-Monroe’s defense allowed at least 200 rushing yards in nine of their 12 games last season, so Memphis should collect a lot of rushing yards.

G Avery

Genard Avery intercepts a pass against Temple and returns it 23 yards for a touchdown. Avery intercepted two passes last season and returned both for touchdowns.

            Last season, Memphis’ defense struggled in loses, allowing more than 500 yards and 40 points to opponents’ offenses in each loss. While allowing teams to rack up offensive stats in loses, the Tigers took advantage of lesser programs early in the year. They forced 11 turnovers in the first three games last season.

            Darrell Dickey is now the offensive coordinator after holding the position from 2012-15 and serving as the assistant head coach last season. Also serving as the running backs coach, this will be the first look at Dickey as offensive coordinator under head coach Mike Norvell.

Players to watch

ULM QB, Caleb Evans

            It was announced Monday that the sophomore earned the starting job during open competition. Evans won the job over the more experience Garrett Smith, but it is expected that both quarterbacks see some time during the game.

            He played in six games last season, throwing four touchdowns to six interceptions. While Evans struggled to throw the ball, he was able to gain 163 rushing yards. Memphis struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks last season, and this early season game could help the defense prepare for duel-threats in future games.

Memphis TE, Joey Magnifico

            The six-foot-four redshirt sophomore caught nine passes last season for two touchdowns in the backup role. Now as a starter, with the graduation of Daniel Montiel, Magnifico will likely get more passes thrown his way. The first game of the season could establish how much Magnifico will be used in the offense.

            Last season he caught nine balls for 85 yards and two touchdowns. He finished ninth on the team in receiving yards, but his two touchdown receptions tied him for fifth on the team. Montiel was third on the team in both categories last season, and Magnigico will likely see the leftover touches.

Jonathan Cook recovers a fumble against Kansas and races down field. He led the team with 72 total tackles last season.

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