Eye of the Tiger

BlueRaiderZone.com looks at Saturday's match-up between the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders and the Memphis Tigers

Middle Tennessee travels to Memphis for an in-state match up against the Tigers this Saturday. This is a contest of evenly matched teams with similar stories. Both teams play in mid-major conferences. Both teams have let games slip away that probably should've been victories. And most importantly, both teams are looking for a win this weekend.

The Tigers enter this game coming off an emotional victory over Marshall. Memphis suffered a terrible loss earlier in the week when defensive lineman Taylor Bradford was shot and killed. The team rallied together just two days later and was able to defeat the Thundering Herd 24-21 behind 346 passing yards from Will Hudgens.

Hudgens, a junior, broke his leg in each of the past two seasons, both times ending his season. Coming into this season he had only played in five games for his entire career. Hudgens had a career day against Marshall by completing 30 of 45 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns.

T.J. Pitts and Joseph Doss lead a two-headed Tiger rushing attack. Pitts, a 5-10 203-pound senior, has rushed for 227 yards on 54 carries. Doss, a 5-9 196-pound sophomore, has rushed 50 times for 179 yards.

The Tigers have eight players who have caught at least one touchdown. Leading the way in yards and receptions is junior Maurice Jones. Jones, a 6-2 225-pound receiver from Nashville, leads Memphis with 19 catches for 305 yards.

Memphis (2-3) ranks fifth in Conference USA in both total offense and total defense. The Tigers average 419 yards per game on offense but allow 412 yards per game. Middle Tennessee gives up 418 yards per game on average to the opposition while only posting 311 yards on offense. Despite the 108 yard difference in offensive production, Middle actually averages one point more than Memphis per game.

The Tigers are familiar with Sun Belt competition. Memphis traveled to Arkansas State on September 27 to face the Indians. The Tigers held a 31-6 halftime advantage but ASU rallied back and defeated Memphis 35-31. The Indians used a punt return for a touchdown and three Corey Leonard touchdown passes to pull off the second half comeback.

Middle Tennessee (1-5) is coming off what would've been a historic victory over Virginia. The Blue Raiders led the game 21-20 with a minute remaining before the Cavaliers made a final drive and kicked a last second field goal to win the game. Quarterback Dwight Dasher completed 17 of 33 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.

Saturday's contest is the first of a five game series between the teams. Middle travels to Memphis this year, next year, and in 2010. The Blue Raiders will host the Tigers in 2009 and 2011. Saturday's kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. inside the Liberty Bowl.

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