Battle Tested Memphis Brings Talented Defense Into Bowl Matchup With Utah State

Dec 26, 2022, 4:06 PM | Updated: 4:11 pm
Utah State football team rushes onto the field prior to their game against Weber State on Saturday, September 10.

LOGAN, Utah – With a winning season on the line, quarterback Cooper Legas and the Utah State Aggies have a talented Memphis Tigers defense to prepare for.

Utah State (6-6, 5-3) will face the Memphis Tigers (6-6, 3-5) in the SERVPRO First Responders Bowl.

“The records can be deceiving,” Aggie head coach Blake Anderson said of the Tigers.

“They play a tough schedule. They play good people. They’re always competitive week to week, even with the best teams in their league. That’s just who I’ve come to know them to be for quite a long time. That’s a good football team.”

RELATED: Utah State Football In Heyday Of Unflattering Bowl History

Memphis Tigers Defense

The Tigers have forced at least one turnover in 14 of their last 17 games. As a team, Memphis picked off eight passes and recovered six fumbles this season, finishing with a plus four turnover margin. Utah State finished with one of the worst turnover margins in the country at minus seven.

Four Memphis defenders received American Conference accolades following the season.

Defensive back Quindell Johnson was named All-American Athletic Conference first team. The redshirt-senior DB finished with 73 tackles, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and four interceptions to lead the Tigers secondary.

RELATED: Utah State Football Looks To End Season On High Note With Bowl Win

Earning second-team All-AAC accolades was linebacker Xavier “Zay” Cullens.

Another fifth-year senior, Cullens finished his senior season with a team high 104 tackles and contributed all over the field. He also forced four fumbles, piled up 7.5 tackles for a loss, intercepted three passes and had two sacks.

“Always seemed to be in the right place at the right time,” USU head coach Blake Andersson said of Cullens. “Some guys just have a knack for that, it seems to be his thing.”

Defensive lineman Jaylon Allen and defensive back Davion Ross were named Honorable-Mention All-AAC. Allen finished with 56 tackles along the Tigers front. Ross had 40 tackles, picked off one pass while breaking up five others.

Utah State vs. Memphis Tigers

The First Responders Bowl will be the first meeting between these two programs since 1977 when Utah State fell 31-26 in Memphis. The Aggies are 3-4 all-time against the Tigers. Gerald R. Ford Stadium in Dallas, TX will serve as the backdrop for the second neutral-site game between the two teams. Utah State defeated Memphis 28-14 in a game played in Salt Lake City, UT in 1967.

RELATED: Home for The Holidays: First Responder Bowl Homecoming For Several Aggies

Blake Anderson faced Memphis once as the coach at Arkansas State. The Red Wolves opened the 2020 season with a 37-24 loss at Memphis.

Memphis is 6-8 all-time in bowl games. The program has enjoyed unprrecendented success in recent seasons. This is the ninth-straight season in which the Tigers have been bowl eligible, which ranks ninth amongst all NCAA teams and is the best stretch of any non-Power 5 team.

The Tigers are 1-0 in bowls under head coach Ryan Silverfield, who has led the program to three straight bowl appearances as head coach.

RELATED: ‘All Hands On Deck’ As Utah State Prepares For First Responders Bowl

The Aggies are looking for their second straight bowl win after an inspired run in 2021 saw them follow up the programs first Mountain West conference championship with a 24-13 win over Oregon State in the inaugural Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl. USU will play in the postseason for the 10th time in the past 12 years.

How To Watch

Kickoff for this game is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. (MST) on Tuesday, December 27 and will be televised on ESPN.

Every Utah State football game can be heard on the KSL Sports Zone with Scott Garrard and former Aggie quarterback Kevin White on the call.

Coverage of Utah State University Athletics from KSL Sports can be found here. 

  • Utah State Aggies Scoreboard

  • Utah State Aggies Team Leaders

  • Utah State Aggies Standings

Utah State Aggies

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Battle Tested Memphis Brings Talented Defense Into Bowl Matchup With Utah State