Memphis can’t overlook FCS foe Stephen F. Austin

NCAA Football

Oddsmakers don’t like the chances of FCS school Stephen F. Austin handing the host FBS Memphis Tigers a loss on Saturday, but it’s not surprising that neither coach is expressing that sentiment.

The Lumberjacks (6-3) are riding a six-game winning streak as they come to town for the finale of a season that saw its Southland Conference cancel fall sports, but allowed football teams to line up nonconference schedules.

“They’re coming in hot. This is the last game of their regular season. They’re going to lay it all on the line. … We know they’re going to give us everything we can handle,” Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said Monday.

Stephen F. Austin coach Colby Carthel said his team is “going to go out there and swing for the fence. … They’re (big) favorites for a reason. If you’re in that game in the fourth quarter, crazier things have happened.”

The Lumberjacks are listed as a 30-point underdog.

Memphis (4-2) will be the fourth FBS team the Lumberjacks have faced. They began the season on the road against UTEP, UTSA and SMU. Stephen F. Austin lost all three, but were within two touchdowns in the first two, before a 50-7 walloping in the third.

Those uneven showings are why the Lumberjacks “want to come out and make a good showing,” Carthel told the Daily Sentinel in Nacogdoches, Texas.

“We’re playing this game for a reason and glad we’re playing it, and to have an opportunity to see what a perennial Top 25 program looks like,” he said, noting that Memphis tangled with Penn State in the Cotton Bowl last December. Despite a 14-point loss, the Tigers finished the season 12-2.

Stephen F. Austin’s defense is allowing 18.6 points and 350.7 total yards per game, and perhaps especially noteworthy to Memphis, just 148.3 on the ground. The defense has harvested 22 turnovers.

The Tigers rushed for only 98 yards in squeezing out a 34-33 win over South Florida last time out on Nov. 7, and managed just 5 net yards rushing in getting crushed by then-No. 7 Cincinnati the week before, 49-10.

Part of the problem is teams loading up the front, daring Memphis to throw, Silverfield said. The Tigers trailed USF by 14 at the half and by 13 with 4:36 left in the game.

“We haven’t been able to run the ball as well in the first half, and then we’ve gotten behind in some of these games, and so, with having to throw the ball more in the fourth quarter, that may have hurt our run game numbers,” Silverfield said. “We try to be as balanced as we can, but sometimes the game is going to dictate that as well.”

Memphis quarterback Brady White has completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,128 yards and 22 touchdowns, with five interceptions. Wide receiver Calvin Austin III has 36 catches for 647 yards and seven scores, while tight end Sean Dykes has 32 receptions for 435 yards and six touchdowns.

The Lumberjacks will be facing a defense that is allowing 37.7 points a game, with 374.8 yards passing.

SFA quarterback Trae Self has 1,884 yards passing and 14 touchdowns, with five interceptions. He has completed 59.8 percent of his passes.

Freshman running back Jaquarion Turner has 519 yards on 118 carries, including a 208-yard game two weeks ago at Eastern Kentucky.

–Field Level Media

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