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Despite losing record, Memphis has talent

Nov. 02, 2012 @ 12:05 AM

Memphis has a football team coming Saturday to Joan C. Edwards Stadium without much fanfare.

The team is 1-7 in its last season of Conference USA play and the Tigers have lost three straight entering a 2 p.m. game against Marshall.

But despite the team's difficulties this season, there is plenty of talent on the roster that makes the Tigers a dangerous opponent.

Jai Steib is the team's leading rusher with 241 yards and quarterback Jacob Karam has completed 60 percent of his passes while throwing only two interceptions.

The biggest issue for the Tigers has been costly fumbles that have killed drives. Memphis has fumbled the ball 24 times and lost 14 of the fumbles on the season.

The propensity for fumbling the football has offset Karam's ability to take care of the ball in the passing game.

When Karam is able to get into rhythm with the passing game, he has a dangerous target on the outside in wide receiver Marcus Rucker, who has caught 31 passes for 388 yards and three touchdowns.

Rucker has been a consistent force for the Tigers during his career and is quickly moving up the record books for Memphis.

Coming into the weekend, Rucker could move into the top five all-time at Memphis for receptions if he catches seven balls against the Thundering Herd. He would pass former NFL greats Isaac Bruce and Russell Copeland in the process.

Rucker is also 68 yards away from Bruce for eighth place all-time in career yards. He currently sits at 1,528.

With one more touchdown reception, he will also tie Bruce for sixth-place in the Memphis record books with 15.

On the defensive side of the football, senior cornerback Robert Steeples is tied for second nationally with three fumble recoveries.

While the Tigers offense has statistically struggled, the pieces are certainly there to pull the upset if the Herd allows them to get into a rhythm.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Marshall leads the all-time series with Memphis, 5-2.

That figure includes four straight Marshall victories. Two of the Herd wins came by one point -- last year's 23-22 win at Memphis and the Herd's 17-16 win in Huntington in the 2008 season.

Memphis' last win in the series was 24-21 in 2007 at home, a Thursday night televised game. The game was played 48 hours after Memphis defensive lineman Taylor Bradford was killed.

AWARD WATCH: Memphis sophomore Martin Ifedi was added to the midseason watch list for the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award.

Ifedi is tied for 21st in the nation with 0.88 quarterback sacks per game. He has seven sacks and 9.5 tackles for lost yardage.

SMU semior Margus Hunt and Tulsa junior Jared St. John also joined the list.

Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or gtraylor@herald-dispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).

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