ORLANDO - There are some standout performers for Memphis, as well as top-notch overall units.
Regardless of whether it would be special teams, offense or defense, Memphis makes big plays. In fact, one could present the argument that the Memphis Tigers are the nation’s most exciting team to watch based on the big plays in all three phases of the game.
The exciting statistics are not always good for the Tigers, however, as some of the following categories will display.
Team Statistics to Watch
Memphis has been terrible with turnover margin, gaining two fumble recoveries and one interception, while losing seven fumbles and being intercepted four times. That combination placed the Tigers at No. 122 of 130 teams in turnover margin for the FBS. If Memphis adds to its turnover woes against UCF, it could cost them the game.
To date, Memphis converted 46.9% of its third downs, but also allowed 43.7% percent of their opponents to convert third downs. There’s a similar trend with the red zone and Memphis Football.
The Tigers scored 23 of 27 times when inside the opponent’s 20 yard line. That’s a 85.2% success rate, good for No. 65 nationally. Defensively, Memphis allowed 25 of 27 trips into the red zone to turn into points, for a porous 92.6% success rate for the opposition and ranked No. 116 in the nation.
Special Teams Making a Difference
The Memphis punt returners average 16.6 yards per return, including one punt return for a touchdown by their star wide receiver that could be the play of the year in college football.
The Tigers also hold opposing teams to an average of just 1.4 yards per punt return.
The only area that Memphis special teams did not consistently outperform its opponents would be field goal kicking. The Tigers are only seven of 12, with kicker Joe Doyle going seven of 10, and kicker David Kemp missing two attempts and no makes, for a 58.3% overall success rate.
Rushing Attack Thriving
During the past three games, Memphis rushed for 157 yards and one touchdown at Temple, 151 yards and two touchdowns at Tulsa, and 200 yards and three touchdowns against Navy.
It’s a deep group of running backs, with the top three statistical rushing leaders combining for 1,050 yards and 13 touchdowns so far in 2021. With the passing game also doing well, the Tigers present a potent all-around offense for the Knights to go up against.
He’s Only a Freshman
Directly from Denton, Texas, quarterback Seth Henigan made his mark by throwing for 2,153 yards, 16 touchdowns and only four interceptions from 227 passing attempts. The last statistic might be the most impressive.
Only being intercepted 1.8% of the time as a true freshman, in a high-powered offense, that’s quite remarkable for a signal caller that was playing high school football in the Lone Star State just last fall.
Further, Henigan threw for at least 215 yards in all but one game this year, when Memphis defeated SEC foe Mississippi State 31-29 and Henton passed for 159 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Henigan’s top three passing statistical games include 463 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions when the Tigers played and lost to Tulsa 35-29, 417 yards and five touchdowns when Memphis won a shootout at Arkansas State 55-50, and during a home loss to now No. 24 ranked University of Texas San Antonio by the score of 31-28, he threw for 329 yards and one touchdown.
Big Play Receiver
To say that Calivin Austin III provided dominant performances this year would be an understatement. He provided a 200-yard receiving game, a 239-yard receiving game, and Austin gained at least 100 yards from five of the seven games he played in this season.
Overall, Austin’s 50 receptions, eight touchdown catches, and 17.1 yards per catch average provided stern evidence that he deserves to be considered one of the nation’s best overall wide receivers.
Defensive Lineman Stands Out
At 6’4”, 295 pounds, defensive tackle John Tate IV created plays this season. He’s racked up 26 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and two passes broken up. His statistics might not be the most important aspect of what he does either.
Tate’s talent and size mean opposing teams need to scheme against him, and that helps the linebacker unit flow to the football better, and that’s been evident with the following two linebackers for the Tigers.
Linebackers to Watch
While the Memphis defense struggled as a whole by giving up 30.4 points per game this season, there would be one player that did his job extremely well and currently No. 3 in the nation with 77 tackles. That would be linebacker JJ Russell. He also added 3.5 tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, and forced a fumble. Russell would not be the only talented Memphis linebacker either.
Xavier Cullens already made 48 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, one sack, three quarterback hurries, and one pass breakup. Within just about any other team, Cullens would be the top tackler on the team, or at least the top linebacker in tackles.
The Memphis linebacker core is experienced and talented. Russell and Cullens are seniors. They make big plays and their experience probably helped them along the way.
Key Performer in the Secondary
Memphis safety Quindell Johnson produced in several categories, including 62 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one quarterback hurry, and five passes broken up. Of all the players that UCF signal caller Mikey Keene needs to know where that player lines up, it could be Johnson.
He’s a jack-of-all-trades that will play a vital role in this Friday night’s contest, like he already did for Memphis this season. His penchant for being near the football can lead to turnovers and negative-yardage plays.
Memphis created big plays this season, and it also allowed a number of big plays this season. It will be up to UCF to come up with a formula for combatting the Tigers and their penchant for creating momentum-changing plays this Friday night in the Bounce House.
For UCF insights, college football news, and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast. It will be found on iTunes and Spotify. For more UCF and recruiting information, go to Twitter: @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!