Tigers try to regroup after loss of Kenny Gainwell heading into season opener

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Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell (19) carries the ball against the Penn State in the first half of the NCAA Cotton Bowl college football game, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

MEMPHIS — It’s the two words college football fans have been waiting to hear for months, especially here in Memphis.

Game Week.

After praying for months just to have a college football season, it is finally game week for the Tigers as they get set to take on Arkansas State Saturday night in primetime but not before the U of M  is hit with another dose of disappointing news.

Kenny Gainwell, not only the best running back on the Tigers roster.

Not only the best running back in the AAC but one of the best in the country deciding on Sunday to opt out of the 2020 season because of family concerns over COVID-19.  Instead, Gainwell will put his focus on preparing for next year’s NFL Draft.

That decision, while the right one to make for the player, does put a serious dent in the Tigers game plan against the Red Wolves with just six days to revamp.

Just another hurdle to clear for first year head coach Ryan Silverfield.

“There has been adversity.  That’s the name of the game in college football,” Tigers coach Ryan Silverfield said.  “I think programs around the country are facing some adversity.  There’s always going to be new and challenging but our young men, our student athletes are strong-minded and steadfast, so I appreciate their approach.  I’m probably the one that gets more rattled than anybody but I’m proud of the way our guys have stayed focused,” Silverfield said.

“What makes us all a little more comforting is we have great coaches that understand how to game plan, to take advantage of our personnel.  You’re right.  We do have great personnel.  I like our entire offense.  I think we have a lot of guys that are excited to step in and pick up major roles and continue to develop and continue to do what we’re supposed to do offensively.  We have a history of good offense here.  That’s my job as the head coach is to make sure I put our guys in the best position to have success on the field.”

As for safety protocols leading up to the season opener, Silverfield says the Tigers were all tested on Sunday and will be tested again on Wednesday as part of the conference’s 72-hour COVID-19 protocols.

The Tigers will also be tested within 48 hours after the Arkansas State game on Saturday.

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