Memphis looks to avoid a letdown after an emotional comeback victory when they host dangerous Tulane for an American Athletic Conference matchup on Friday night. The Tigers trailed by 17 points late in the third quarter at Houston on Oct. 19 before rallying for a 42-38 triumph to seize first place in the AAC West as senior quarterback Riley Ferguson threw for a school-record 471 yards.
“There’s a tremendous sense of urgency to improve, a tremendous sense of urgency to continue to put your best foot forward,” Memphis coach Mike Norvell told the Commercial Appeal, “because this football team, all we’ve accomplished is put ourselves in a position that every game truly matters.” The Tigers have won three straight contests while totaling 142 points, but have given up 96 in the same span as they prepare to take on Tulane’s triple-option offense that has produced at least 190 yards rushing in all seven games this year. The Green Wave have dropped two straight games, but gave No. 14 South Florida a scare in a 34-28 loss last weekend and boast one of the best running backs in the league in senior Dontrell Hilliard. “We don’t have moral victories, but it didn’t look good for us at the beginning of the second half,” Tulane coach Willie Fritz told reporters Saturday. “We kept fighting throughout the second half and made it a very competitive ballgame.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network. LINE: Memphis -10.5
ABOUT TULANE (3-4, 1-2 AAC): Hilliard is averaging just over 100 yards a game - third best in the league - and has scored 11 touchdowns overall with nine of them coming on the ground. Junior quarterback Jonathan Banks, who is coming off a season-high 221 yards passing against South Florida, runs the triple-option attack and has called his own number 70 times for 286 rushing yards to go along with three touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Terren Encalade is the top threat through the air for the Green Wave with 17 receptions for 311 yards and three touchdowns.
ABOUT MEMPHIS (6-1, 3-1): Ferguson has completed 59.9 percent of his throws for 2,285 yards and 20 touchdowns to go along with six interceptions while senior Anthony Miller has hauled in 55 passes for 784 yards and nine scores. Patrick Taylor Jr. (346 rushing yards, seven TDs) will likely get the lion’s share of carries with fellow sophomore Darrell Henderson (541, three) questionable with an undisclosed injury. Freshman corner TJ Carter, who had 14 tackles and his fourth interception against Houston, was named AAC defensive player of the week Monday.
1. The Tigers, who are 6-1 or better for only the second time in the last 50 years, have won 10 consecutive meetings and lead the all-time series with Tulane 21-11-1.
2. Tulane CB Parry Nickerson, who has started 40 straight games, was named one of 13 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award - given to the nation’s top defensive back.
3. Miller needs 70 receiving yards to pass Duke Calhoun (2,981) for first on the school’s all-time list and three receptions to reach 200 in his career.
PREDICTION: Memphis 45, Tulane 21