Memphis Tigers

OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 01: Riley Ferguson #4 of the Memphis Tigers throws the ball during the first half of a game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Oxford, Mississippi.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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Memphis promotes Darrell Dickey to offensive coordinator

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Chip Long is off to call plays at Notre Dame, and now Tigers head coach Mike Norvell has moved his remaining staff up a line.

The Tigers announced Sunday associate head coach/running backs coach Darrell Dickey has been bumped to offensive coordinator, Kenny Dillingham, who spent last season as a graduate assistant working with the quarterbacks, is now the full-time quarterbacks coach, and offensive line coach Ryan Silverfield has added a run game coordinator title.

“The interest generated by our opening was remarkable,” Norvell saida. “But after the process of visiting with a number of coaches and coordinators from a variety of schools and just about every conference across college football, I feel the best option to continue our high standard of offensive success is to promote from within our staff. Our players have done a great job in adjusting to the offensive system we brought here this past season, and I believe next season, we have a chance to build off what we did as a unit.  With these changes, as well as Coach (wide receivers coach David) Johnson and myself, I feel like we will continue to have one of the top offensive staffs in the country.”

Dickey has spent the last five seasons on staff at Memphis, serving as offensive coordinator and running backs coach for Justin Fuente before he left for Virginia Tech. Dickey is best known for his run of four consecutive Sun Belt championships from 2001-04 as the head coach at North Texas.

“Coach Dickey brings a wealth of experience coordinating explosive offensive units and I believe that with the offensive staff we have in place, the brightest days ahead for this Memphis Tigers’ offense. Darrell does a tremendous job of leading men and developing relationships not only with players, but also with everyone associated with our program. He has done an outstanding job over the last five years here in Memphis developing a running backs group that I believe is one of the most dynamic in the country.”

Memphis finished the 2016 season ranked 33rd nationally in yards per play and tied for 15th in scoring despite losing first-round pick Paxton Lynch at quarterback.

Notre Dame names Memphis’ Chip Long as new OC

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Two weeks after his offensive coordinator left for a Group of Five program, Brian Kelly has plucked his replacement from the same FBS level.

In a press release, Notre Dame announced that the head coach has named Chip Long as the Fighting Irish’s new coordinator.  Long spent the 2016 season at Memphis, his first year as a coordinator at any level of football.

He will replace Mike Denbrock, who left in late December for the same job at Cincinnati.

“Chip will be given the full responsibility to call plays in 2017,” said Kelly in  statement. “His offense at Memphis displayed a unique blend of physicality, athleticism, versatility and explosiveness. Chip’s play-calling created mismatches all over the field and did it in a number of different ways. He likes to use players who can fill numerous roles in an array of formations, whether that be two and three tight ends or multiple running backs.

“Chip has experience coaching at almost every position on the offensive side of the ball. He’s worked for and learned from some of the most respected offensive minds in college football — Bobby Petrino, Mike Norvell and Jeff Brohm — to name a few.”

Prior to Memphis, Long spent four seasons at Arizona State as tight ends coach.  He also served as the Sun Devils’ recruiting coordinator, and was considered one of the top recruiters in the Pac-12.

He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant, first at Louisville (2006-07) and Arkansas (2008-09).  His first on-field coaching role came at Illinois in 2010 as tight ends coach.  He spent two years in that position before moving on to ASU.

“It’s an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to serve as the offensive coordinator at the University of Notre Dame,” said Long. “The challenge to lead at a University with such high standards is incredibly motivating. I’m very grateful to Brian Kelly and Jack Swarbrick for extending this opportunity.

“It’s Notre Dame: the values, the culture, and the leadership. My wife, Kari, and I are excited to move to South Bend and to join the Notre Dame family.”

Anthony Wales runs Western Kentucky past Memphis in Boca Raton Bowl

Western Kentucky running back Anthony Wales finds a gap between Memphis defenders during the Boca Raton Bowl NCAA college football game Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016, in Boca Raton, Fla. (Adam Sacasa/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
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The Boca Raton Bowl boiled down, essentially, to one statistic: the ability of Memphis to stop the run. The Tigers ranked a respectable 44th in the country in rushing defense over their eight victories… and a dreadful 125th in their four losses, allowing an average of 372 yards and five touchdowns on 6.7 yards per carry.

Memphis couldn’t stop the run on Tuesday night, and Western Kentucky had its way with the Tigers, ending the best 2-year run in program history with a 51-31 victory.

Playing in his final collegiate game, Anthony Wales recorded the best night of his career. The senior rushed 35 times for a career-high 245 yards and three touchdowns, essentially breaking open what was a tight, 21-17 game himself. Wales’s first scoring dash came at the end of the first half put WKU up by 11 — Memphis would climb no closer than 13 the rest of the night —  his second score pushed the game into blowout territory and his final score, a 1-yard jaunt around right end with 2:18 remaining, ended any hope of a Memphis comeback.

Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White, playing back home in South Florida, was hyper-efficient as usual. White came into the night averaging 10.4 yards per attempt — which would be the most in FBS over the past three years if not for Baker Mayfield‘s 11.1 average — and improved upon that absurd number by completing 20-of-30 passes for 336 yards (that’s 11.2 yards per attempt) with three touchdowns against one interception. And White actually threw four touchdowns but had this beauty taken away by scoring technicality.

That’s offensive tackle Forrest Lamp finding the end zone on what was scored a 9-yard run, giving WKU a 14-10 lead it would not relinquish.

Memphis (8-5) struggled to run the ball, averaging only 2.5 yards on 31 carries, but Riley Ferguson still got his, completing 25-of-43 passes for 372 yards with four touchdowns and one pick.

The win closes a 2-year run under head coach Jeff Brohm — who has already left for Purdue; Nick Holt served as interim head coach on Tuesday — in which the Hilltoppers (11-3) posted a 23-5 overall record, a 17-1 mark against Conference USA competition, two C-USA titles and two bowl victories over American opponents. Those five losses: to No. 5 LSU in 2015, to No. 1 Alabama earlier this season, and losses of three, one, and three points.

What comes next will fall on the shoulders of new head coach Mike Sanford. Considering the trajectory of this program from Willie Taggart to Bobby Petrino to Brohm and now to Sanford, whatever comes next should still be pretty darn good.

Western Kentucky and Memphis in Boca Raton Bowl shootout

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 14: Quarterback Riley Ferguson #4 of the Memphis Tigers throws the ball during the first half of a game against the Tulane Green Wave at Yulman Stadium on October 14, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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Someone wake up Morty Seinfeld because we’ve got a barnburner in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Western Kentucky holds a 28-17 lead over Memphis and, as the score suggests, each defense has had trouble getting a handle on the opposing offense.

After a three-and-out to open the game, Western Kentucky scored touchdowns on its next four possessions. The Hilltoppers got touchdown passes from Mike White to Stevie Donatell, offensive lineman Forrest Lamp (though this technically went down as a run) and Nicholas Norris and a 2-yard plunge from Anthony Wales.

Western Kentucky had a chance to blow the game open just before the halftime horn. After accepting the ball at their own 15 with 35 seconds left, Western Kentucky appeared to set up to take a knee but instead handed to Wales, who ran mostly unimpeded down the left sideline for 53 yards. White threw to the end zone on the next play but was intercepted in the end zone.

White hit 13-of-18 passes for 184 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, while Wales rushed 15 times for 144 yards and a score.

Memphis scored on two long touchdown passes from Riley Ferguson and, with two field goal attempts from Jake Elliott (one good, one a rare miss), the Tigers have only been truly stopped on a three-and-out to open the game and a four-and-out to close the half. Ferguson has hit 14-of-22 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns, while five Tigers have rushed 16 times for 66 yards.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 20 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 10:  Anthony Wales #20 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers rushes against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 20 bowl menu, which is a little thin volume-wise for the second consecutive day but could prove to be a very entertaining single-game fare.

WHO: Memphis (8-4) vs. Western Kentucky (10-3)
WHAT: The 3rd Boca Raton Bowl
WHERE: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida
WHEN: 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Western Kentucky ended the 2016 regular season as Conference USA champs, winning eight of their last nine and scoring at least 44 points in every single one of those games. The Hilltoppers scored 50 or more in six of those contests.  Memphis, meanwhile, allowed at least 42 points in four of its last six games; you see where this is going, right?  This stand-alone Tuesday night bowl game has all of the makings of a defense-optional affair with offensive fireworks as far as the eye can see.  To further that point: WKU scored 10 points in a loss to top-ranked Alabama; the only teams to put more on the scoreboard against the Crimson Tide in the regular season were Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Auburn.  Both teams had to replace prolific quarterbacks this offseason — Brandon Doughty for WKU, Paxton Lynch for the U of M — and each of the successors were more than respectable, with Mike White throwing for 4,027 yards and 34 touchdowns for the Hilltoppers, Riley Ferguson 3,326 and 28 for the Tigers.  Don’t sleep on Anthony Wales, though, as the WKU running back ran for 1,376 yards this season (6.8 ypc) and whose 24 rushing touchdowns were second nationally to Navy’s Will Worth‘s 25.  Hell, he averaged exactly four yards a carry against a ‘Bama defense that gave up just 2.03 yards per carry on the season, far and away the best figure at this level of football.  Speaking of running the ball, the Hilltoppers were fourth in the country in stopping it, giving up just 99.1 yards per game.  Aerially?  That same defense was 11oth in the FBS in giving up 268.7 passing yards per game.  Again, almost every single sign is pointing toward a shootout.
THE LINE: Memphis, +5
THE PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 48, Memphis 44