Who: Southern Illinois Salukis @ Memphis Tigers
When: Saturday, September 23rd @ 7 PM
Where: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
TV: WMC-Channel 5 & ESPN3
What They’ve Done So Far
Southern Illinois, a member of the Missouri Valley Conference (FCS), is coming into this game fresh off of wins against Mississippi Valley State (55-3) and Southeast Missouri State (35-17), with the latter snapping a 12 game road losing streak for the Salukis program. SIU is averaging 45 points per game while only giving up 10 points per game to their opponents. The offense is averaging 191.5 yards per game on the ground and 221 yards per game through the air, while the Salukis defense is giving up just 244 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks and a stout 45 rushing yards per game. Neither team Southern Illinois played has won a game yet this season and the Salukis had their “Bye” week in Week 1 of the season.
Memphis also enters this game, which is their homecoming game, at 2-0 and coming off a big win against #25 UCLA. The first victory came over University of Louisiana Monroe, and, like SIU, the Tigers also had an early “Bye” week, with their Week 2 game against UCF being rescheduled to next Saturday, September 30. The Tigers come in averaging 247.5 passing yards per game and allowing 371 yards per game to the opposition. However Memphis averages 240.5 yards per game on the ground, while allowing 158 yards per game to their opponents. The Tigers have not won a homecoming game since 2014, but if they can beat SIU, they will complete the nonconference portion of their schedule unblemished, which was a team goal according to Coach Mike Norvell.
Southern Illinois Salukis
The Salukis are led by junior quarterback Sam Straub who has thrown for 6 touchdowns and 397 yards, while junior receivers Darrell James and Raphael Leonard, a Starkville native, both have 2 touchdown receptions. They have used a variety of players in the backfield through the first 2 games, with junior Jonathan Mixon getting the bulk of the carries in the last game. Another junior, DaQuan Isom, has been heavily involved in the run game in each of the previous games finishing with a season high 97 yards against MVSU. DJ Davis is another tailback in the mix, and also serves as the team’s leading returner averaging just over 33 yards per return in the win last week. SIU doesn’t really do anything spectacular on offense, they are well-balanced between the run and pass and so far they have relied heavily on the return game to put the offense in a position to score.
Defensively the Salukis are lead by Ryan Neal and Jeremy Chinn, both players who man the safety positions for SIU. Neal finished the SEMO game game with 8 tackles, a fumble recovery, and interception, and a pass break-up. The kid can play. The linebacker group is another strength of the defense, with OLB Airan Reed, a product from Medina, TN, and ILB Kyron Watson both finishing with 5 tackles and a Tackle For Loss in the previous game. This is a defensive unit that allowed -8 rushing yards to MVSU in a game they finished with 16 Tackles For Loss, and has 10 sacks on the season. I don’t care who you are playing, that is a pretty damn impressive stat line.
The Tigers offense is coming off a magnificent performance in the win over UCLA. You can read about that game here. Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson won National Offensive Player of the Week awards from Athlon Sports, College Sports Madness, and the Walter Camp Football Foundation to go along with being named American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week. We know what the Tigers offense can do with receiving weapons Anthony Miller, who was named to the AAC Honor roll after is big performance against UCLA, Phil Mayhue, and tight end Joey Magnifico. We also know that the Tigers have a strong running game led by Patrick Taylor and Darrell Henderson, with sophomore Tony Pollard being involved on the ground and through the air. Senior running back Doroland Dorceus is still working to get healthy and back into the rotation, but I don’t think we will see him play this week.
I think Mike Norvell will be preaching that the offensive starters do their job, meaning that they limit false starts and are in the correct formations in a quick manner, and take care of business early, so that coaching staff can shuffle in some of the younger guys and get them some valuable playing time, while allowing the starters to rest up for AAC play starting next week.
The Memphis defense, coming off a solid bend but don’t break performance against a UCLA offense led by future first round NFL Draft pick, Josh Rosen, comes into the game with 7 takeaways which is something Defensive Coordinator, Chris Ball, has emphasized since joining the Tigers. The unit is led by linebackers Austin Hall, Curtis Akins, and Genard Avery. Safety Jonathan Cook and cornerback TJ Carter are cementing themselves as the top players in the secondary, and linemen Jonathan Wilson and Emmanuel Cooper are doing good work in the trenches. I look for the Tigers defense to work on eliminating penalties and enhancing their communication amongst one another in this game, while also working in the younger guys, especially in the secondary, to gain some experience before heading to UCF next week. We’ve already seen a number of players step into roles they were not expected to be in this season, which is a testament to the coaching staff’s recruiting and developmental processes, and you have to think they would like to work in even more underclassmen just in case they are needed later in the season.
Mike Norvell seems to be taking this week very seriously, judging by his weekly press conference and interviews I’ve seen following practices. It almost seems like a mini-camp type week, where they are encouraging the healthy guys to go hard and focusing on attention to detail. I would imagine that the plan is for the starters to come out and play at a high level, with minimal mistakes, and give way to the second unit as early as midway through the 3rd quarter. I also think the Tigers would like to give the kickers a few chances, so don’t be surprised if they are less aggressive than usual when in field goal range in the 2nd half. Obviously SIU could put up a fight and change these plans, but I’m not seeing it. The Tigers should be able to win by as many as they want to in this one… MEMPHIS 66-14
- Mike Norvell said in his Monday press conference that Jacobi Francis, who broke up Josh Rosen’s pass on 4th down to seal the game, was in the team’s developmental practice on Sunday following the ULM game. These practices are for players who aren’t necessarily expected to garner many snaps on the field throughout the season. Norvell said he pointed Francis out, and told him that he may be needed to help the team win a game this season and Francis took it to heart, preparing as if he would be on the field against UCLA and as we saw, it definitely paid off.
- Phil Mayhue has a streak of 30 consecutive games with a reception. Anthony Miller is not far behind with 27.
- Doroland Dorceus is #11 all-time in Memphis history in rushing yards, and just 112 shy of 2,000 for his career.
- According to this article from the Daily Egyptian, SIU will receive $285,000 for traveling to Memphis to play the Tigers
(Feature photo belongs to Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal)