First, Memphis sophomore running back Kenneth Gainwell opted out of the season. Then, after two games, the Tigers' top receiver, Damonte Coxie, opted out.
Last year, the two combined for 3,345 yards of offense and 25 touchdowns. Nevertheless, the Tigers this season are averaging 38 points.
The weapons might change for Memphis but the high scoring doesn’t, and this is what Temple will have to deal with when the Owls (1-1 overall and in the American Athletic Conference) visit the Tigers (2-1, 1-1) for a noon Saturday game.
Memphis suffered its one loss to SMU, 30-27, in a relatively low-scoring game considering the potent offenses of both teams. This past week, the Tigers overcame a 21-point deficit to defeat UCF, 50-49, in a pinball AAC encounter.
The Owls, coming off Saturday’s 39-37 home win over South Florida, at least have recent history in their favor. Temple beat defending champion Memphis, 30-28, in last year’s controversial finish. That was the game in which a fourth-down catch by Tigers tight end Joey Magnifico that would have been a first down was overruled with 1 minute, 50 seconds remaining.
Was it a catch?
“I am sure Joey will be in the stands with a sign saying ‘I caught it,’ ” Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said.
Silverfield wasn’t using that as an excuse. He put it succinctly when discussing the game last year.
“They flat-out kicked our tail,” he said.
Memphis is over that game and over losing two key offensive components. At least the Tigers still have Brady White, the sixth-year graduate student who began his career at Arizona State. White has already earned his master’s degree and is working on a doctorate degree.
In the win over visiting UCF, he completed 34 of 50 passes for 486 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 30 yards and a score.
Last year, Temple did a decent job on White, who completed 28 of 43 passes for 363 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. What Memphis will miss is Gainwell, who rushed for 106 yards (5.6 avg.) and one touchdown.
Temple has scored 68 points and allowed 68. Both games came down to late-game two-point conversions, with the Owls failing on one in their 31-29 loss at Navy and then stopping one in Saturday’s victory over South Florida.
The Tigers are allowing just 3.6 yards per rush, but teams have been passing at will, with 1,376 yards and nine touchdowns.
This could mean a big day for Temple quarterback Anthony Russo, who has completed 70.8% of his passes for 476 yards and five touchdowns. The one negative: He has thrown three interceptions.
If Russo and the offense are mistake-free, they can battle against any team in the AAC.
The Tigers "are an all-around good team, but we are going to focus on us,” said Temple linebacker Will Kwenkeu, who had seven tackles including a sack, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry in last week’s win over USF.
That might be a good outlook because thinking of stopping the likes of White and Memphis' offense can be a daunting task.