Date: Saturday, November 25th
Kickoff: 11:00am CT
Location: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Line: Memphis -28
Series Record: ECU leads 15-6
What a year it has been for the Memphis Tigers, and they’re not done yet. A roller coaster at the beginning of the season could have ruined this year, but the Tigers fought through plenty of adversity to get to this point.
The season didn’t start out great. Multiple players were lost for the year either in fall camp or in the first game against UL-Monroe. With the defense taking most of the hits early, young players were forced to play valuable reps. Beating #25 UCLA was the highlight, and aided the Tigers 3-0 start. Then, the UCF game happened. Easily the worst game of their season, Memphis fell behind and neither side of the ball looked good. That could have made it easy to pack it in, but it made this group stronger. A beatdown of UConn is how this team responded, and then pulled out two more gritty wins, including a comeback win at Houston. It’s been smooth sailing since then, and that’s how the Tigers got to 9-1 and into the AAC Championship Game.
Not that this game doesn’t mean anything, but the result doesn’t change a single thing on paper other than the wins and losses. Memphis is hoping they can rest their starters by halftime, and get some experience for the backups. Mike Norvell is just hoping to keep his starters healthy, but still take this game seriously. Getting to 10 wins is a big accomplishment, and Norvell knows his players need to keep the same mentality as the last few games. Staying sharp will help build momentum into next week’s practices leading up to the big championship game. Taking ECU lightly is not on the agenda, because the Pirates offense is just beginning to take off, even if their defense isn’t.
After a season using two quarterback, the Pirates appeared to have settled on one: Garnder Minshew. The junior has been the undisputed starter the last three games, and the offense has responded well to consistency. Minshew has thrown for 1,135 yards with eight touchdowns and just two interceptions in those three games, and new weapons are a big reason he’s been successful.
Davon Grayson was the steady hand for the Pirates at the beginning of the year but, as the season wore on, teams started to focus on him and let another receiver beat them. Grayson still managed to get open and catch passes, but another receiver has stepped up his game to relieve the pressure off of his teammate.
Trevon Brown had a few 100 yard receiving games at the beginning of the season, but his production died down in the middle (345 yards through the first four games, 39 in the next three). He got slightly back on track against BYU, but the Houston game is where he finally broke through. Brown hauled in 11 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the Pirates loss to the Cougars, but he’s been a threat ever since. The new leading receiver has 557 yards and five touchdowns in his last four games, which include his 270 yard and two touchdown performance last week against Cincinnati.
This game is important to ECU, maybe even more so than to Memphis. While it won’t send them to any postseason play, this group (at least offensively) could build some momentum into next year. Scottie Montgomery might be on the hot seat next year, but he can at least get fans excited about the future of his team with a strong performance against the AAC West champs.
ECU should be more motivated to play the game, and they could catch Memphis off guard. That’s their best chance of winning, but even that might not be enough. The Tigers offense can beat you in so many ways, and Norvell should have his team prepared as if it were any other week.
Memphis 45 ECU 27