Before every football game this year, The Blue Zone is going to sit down with a football writer from the opposing school’s student newspaper to get the scoop on their team and season.
This week, The Chronicle’s Daniel Carp spoke to The Daily Helmsman's Sports Editor Bryan Heater about this weekend’s contest between Duke and Memphis.
The Chronicle: Most Duke fans haven't seen much of Memphis this year. What has been the overarching theme to the Tigers' season?
Bryan Heater: We’re really trying to rebuild the program right now. There’s 124 teams in the FBS, we’re probably down there around 118 or 119. Offensively Memphis runs a spread offense, but it's pretty different from most spread offenses you’ll see. The quarterback isn’t taking snaps out of the shotgun all the time and there’s a big emphasis on running as well.
TC: Memphis had some quarterback woes during the offseason. After losing their top two quarterbacks to transfers, who have the Tigers turned to as their next signal caller?
BH: We have a really young team. Jacob Karam, who is our starting quarterback, will be making his fourth career start this weekend. Coming into the season he had only thrown 18 passes for his career. Our backup, Will Gilchrist, is a converted wide receiver who has never thrown a pass in a college game. That left us coming into the season being very inexperienced at the quarterback position.
TC: Searching for its first win of the season, what will be the keys to Memphis' gameplan this Saturday against Duke?
BH: Their gameplan for this week is going to be to not get away from the run like we did last week. That also comes with not falling behind quickly. We finally had some success throwing last weekend against Middle Tennessee State but because we fell behind and fumbled the ball six times last weekend we ended up having to pass and get away from the run. That’s definitely going to be a big focus.
TC: In his weekly press conference, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe talked about the Tigers' strengths on special teams. How big of a role will the kicking game play in this weekend's contest?
BH: Right now special teams has been our forte. Our punter, Tom Hornsey, is honestly one of our biggest assets. He’s had a number of punts downed inside the 10-yard line, so he’s very good at placing the ball down there. Paulo Henriques has been our placekicker and a large percentage of his kicks are touchbacks. So that definitely helps Memphis not have to worry about kickoffs getting returned for touchdowns. Special teams is actually what has kept us in a lot of these games.
TC: Finally, what is your prediction for the game?
BH: Duke 34, Memphis 17