Memphis (0-1) at Arkansas State (0-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 8, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: ASU Stadium (30,406) -- Jonesboro, Arkansas. Television: ESPN3. Home Record: Memphis 0-1, ASU 0-0. Away Record: Memphis 0-0, ASU 1-0. Neutral Record: Memphis 0-0, ASU 0-0. Conference Record: Memphis 0-0, ASU 0-0. Series Record: Memphis leads, 28-23-5.
GAME NOTES: The Arkansas State Red Wolves will try to bounce back as they return to Jonesboro for their home opener against the Memphis Tigers this weekend.
Memphis had an undesirable start to the Justin Fuente era as the Tigers fell to the UT Martin Skyhawks of the FCS, 20-17, in their opening game of the 2012 season at home. Heavy storms caused the game to be delayed nearly three hours before the contest could be resumed. UT Martin's kicker Cody Sandlin sent Memphis to an 0-1 record by drilling a 43-yard field goal with only four seconds left. The Tigers were outgained, 392-358, as they suffered their fifth defeat in a row dating back to last season.
Arkansas State was overmatched in its opener as it lost, 57-34, on the road to the fifth-ranked Oregon Ducks. Although they lost convincingly, the reigning Sun Belt Conference champions exhibited a balanced and powerful offensive attack by racking up 530 total yards against their Pac-12 foe. Head coach Gus Malzahn's career coaching record entering the Memphis game is 0-1 after his new team's failure in Eugene. Malzahn spent the past three seasons as Auburn's offensive coordinator. While on Auburn's staff, Malzahn was awarded the 2010 Broyles Award, recognizing him as the top assistant in the nation after his Cam Newton led offense powered the Tigers to a 13-0 record and BCS National Championship.
This will be the 57th meeting on the football field between ASU and Memphis. The Red Wolves have won three of the last four games, including last season's 47-3 rout of the Tigers at ASU Stadium. The Tigers hold a 28-23-5 advantage in the series which began in 1914.
Fuente's has a long way to go to transform Memphis's offense into anything that resembles the high-scoring units he worked with as TCU's offensive coordinator previously. The Tigers finished last in the C-USA in rushing offense (84.0 ypg), passing offense (190.3 ypg) and scoring offense (16.3 ppg) in 2011 and had two quarterbacks transfer out of the program during the offseason.
Texas Tech transfer Jacob Karam made his debut in the loss to UT Martin, but he managed to complete only 12 of his 28 attempts for 157 yards and a touchdown. Senior wideout Marcus Rucker caught the only passing touchdown and finished with a team-best 45 yards on three receptions. Kevin Wright was also involved in the passing game as he caught four passes to extended his streak to 13 consecutive games with a reception, which matches the length of his career.
Junior running back Jerrell Rhodes was the Tigers' most effective weapon with 106 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Rhodes's failure to secure the ball led to two costly fumbles which UT Martin recovered. Karam was second on the team with 52 yards on the ground.
Last season, Memphis was just as poor defensively as it was on offense. The Tigers finished last in the nation in pass defense (299.4 ypg) and near or at the bottom of the C-USA in every other major defensive category in 2011. Their struggles continued into the 2012 season opener as the Tigers allowed their FCS opponent to gain 25 first downs and 392 yards of total offense.
The Tigers' defense ended UT Martin's first two drives with red zone stops and forced three turnovers in the game. Lonnie Ballentine was responsible for two of those turnovers as he recorded the first two interceptions of his career.
ASU recorded over 300 yards of total offense for the 11th consecutive game in its season opener at Oregon. Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin became the program's all-time leader in total offense (9,075 yards) and passing yards (7,721) during the course of their loss to Oregon. Aplin completed 29-of-44 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns, while also contributing 37 yards and a score on the ground.
Senior wide receiver Josh Jarboe also wrote his name in the Red Wolves' history books in week one. Jarboe tied the school record with 13 receptions, which he turned into 66 yards and a touchdown. Julian Jones showed his speed could provide another vital weapon for Aplin this season. Jones caught two passes for 80 yards and a score versus Oregon. Running back David Oku contributed 81 yards in his debut with the team.
The Red Wolves, like nearly every other team in the NCAA, were not equipped to slow down Oregon. The Ducks kept ASU back-peddling all day as they amassed 605 yards of total offense.
Arkansas State's defense was actually solid in 2011, with an allowed average of just 325.7 yards per game and a Sun Belt Conference leading average of 19.3 points permitted per contest. Nathan Herrold finished the bout with Oregon with 11 tackles, marking the fourth time in his career he has registered double-digit stops in a game.
Senior defensive back Chaz Scales recorded the second interception of his career in week one. Scales has now picked off the opposing QB in two straight games, as his first-ever interception came in last season's GoDaddy.com Bowl loss.
The Red Wolves may have not measured up against Oregon's elite offense, but they showed off the ability to move the ball down the field with success in the losing effort. ASU should have no problem ending its current two-game losing slide against the rebuilding Tigers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 35, Memphis 14
09/05 10:33:52 ET