Oct 31, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Memphis Tigers head coach Ryan Silverfield works the sidelines against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the second half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

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Memphis to host struggling South Florida

The Memphis Tigers, who are 3-0 at home this season, will host the struggling South Florida Bulls in an American Athletic Conference game Saturday.

Memphis (3-2, 2-2), trying to remain on track for its seventh straight winning season, dominated USF 49-10 last year.

USF (1-5, 0-4) is the only winless team in AAC play this season. The Bulls have lost all three of their road games this season.

But the Bulls are not alone in their struggles. After Memphis went 12-2 last season and won the AAC championship, the Tigers lost coach Mike Norvell to Florida State.

New Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield then lost three huge offensive weapons, including receiver Antonio Gibson, who had 1,104 scrimmage yards before bolting for the NFL draft as a third-round pick.

In addition, sophomore running back Kenneth Gainwell, who had 2,069 scrimmage yards as a freshman, decided to skip this season after losing four family members to COVID-19. And senior receiver Damonte Coxie, who had 76 catches for 1,276 yards and nine touchdowns last year, shocked the Tigers last month when he left the team to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Without those players, the Tigers lost 30-27 to SMU in the second week of the season on a field goal with nine seconds left. Last week, Memphis lost 49-10 to Cincinnati.

Memphis was credited with just 5 yards rushing on 29 carries in that game, although that included 31 yards lost on sacks.

“In 23 years (of coaching),” Silverfield said, “I’ve never had a running game as ineffective as it was (against Cincinnati).”

Perhaps Memphis can get well against the Bulls. After all, USF ranks last in the 11-team AAC in scoring (18 points per game). The Bulls are seventh in points allowed (35.2).

Still, Jeff Scott, a former Clemson assistant who is in his first year running the USF program, said he is optimistic his Bulls can snap their five-game losing streak. If nothing else, they are well rested as they come off their bye week.

“We’ve had good energy in practice, guys flying around,” said Scott, who has had 18 first-time starters this year, including five freshmen. “I’ve been pleased.”

Meanwhile, Memphis’ defense has been a disappointment under new coordinator Mike MacIntyre, who came over from Ole Miss. The Tigers’ defense is eighth in the league in points allowed (36.2) and last in yards given up (556.8). The Tigers have been particularly bad on pass defense, ranking last in the conference (406.4).

An interesting matchup will be Memphis senior quarterback Brady White against a Bulls pass defense that leads the league in fewest yards allowed per game (183.8).

White, who has completed 62.5 percent of his passes this season, ranks second in the league in passing yards (338.2 per game).

White’s two biggest weapons are sophomore running back Rodrigues Clark and junior receiver Calvin Austin, both of whom rank third in the league in their specialty. Clark is averaging 87.4 rushing yards; Austin is averaging 109 yards in receptions.

USF’s most productive player is sophomore Johnny Ford, who leads the league in kick-return average (25.9) and ranks second in all-purpose yards (124.5).

But the Bulls are last in the league in third-down conversions, last in getting their defense off the field on third down and thus last in time of possession.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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