The term “statistics can be misleading” is meant for players like former Gilroy High and Monte Vista Christian standout Brendan Doyle, who is second on the tight end depth chart on the University of Memphis football team.
On Friday, the Tigers (9-3) play Iowa State in the 65th annual Liberty Bowl in their own stadium. This is a golden opportunity for Memphis, which finished fourth in the American Athletic Conference behind SMU, Tulane and University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA).
In Iowa State, the Tigers get a second crack at toppling a Power Five program. They lost to Missouri—which was ranked No. 9 in the country at the time—34-27 on Sept. 23. A redshirt sophomore, Doyle and his teammates are ecstatic that they’ll be playing in their hometown bowl for just the second time in program history.
“I think it’ll be a great experience, especially playing a Power Five team,” Doyle said. “The fan base is always bigger with Power Five teams, and it’s just a different experience when you play teams like that. Obviously, we are in a different conference and not being a Power Five team, we want to show those schools we can play ball, too.”
For perspective, the Power Five Conferences are the Southeastern Conference (SEC), Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big 12, Pac 12 and Big 10.
They are considered the elite football programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Memphis is a FBS school but not a Power Five conference program.
The Liberty Bowl is contractually obligated for a SEC-Big-12 matchup; however, the SEC failed to have enough bowl-eligible teams this season so it was a no-brainer to try to get the hometown team in the game.
The majority of bowl games tend to lack excitement and buildup because both squads are playing away from home, and the results are largely inconsequential from a national perspective.
So, whenever the hometown team is playing in its backyard, it adds a little spice to the mix.
Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium has a capacity of 58,325, but the Tigers never had a sellout this season.
However, Memphis had a season-high attendance of 45,085 for the Missouri game and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the stadium at or close to capacity for the Liberty Bowl.
Memphis has a lot of momentum riding for it under second-year coach Ryan Silverfield. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound Doyle has thoroughly enjoyed his time in the program.
“It’s been great, been a grind and I’ve been loving it,” he said. “I’m just happy to be here and happy I’m on a winning team. I’ve been getting a lot better, too, which is good.”
Doyle’s stat line is anything but gaudy. He has seven receptions for 34 yards, but four of those catches have been for touchdowns, including two TDs in a 59-50 win over South Florida on Nov. 6.
In that contest, he was targeted three times and had two receptions for three yards, both for scores.
It’s never a bad day when you reach the end zone two times. Doyle has found his niche as a solid blocking tight end and opportunistic inside the red zone.
The Tigers have a potent run game and most of Doyle’s TDs come when he’s initially blocking but then goes on a design route, often a slip screen.
The defense is often fooled, as they are expecting a run play in those situations.
“My blocking sets up those opportunities to score,” he said. “I can step out in the flat and it’s an easy catch for me to get into the end zone. So, the run game definitely sets that up.”
Doyle played his first two years of high school at Gilroy before transferring to MVC, where he established himself as one of the best players in the area.
After a standout season at the College of San Mateo—one of the premier community college programs in the nation—Doyle had the grades to transfer early and landed in Memphis in January 2023.
Doyle said he’s in on a fair amount of snaps because Memphis has a tight end in “90 percent” of its formations. He said CSM helped him get ready for the rigors of football at the FBS level.
“CSM prepared me extremely well with mental toughness and the grind of the game,” he said. “I would say the biggest adjustment moving to the Division I level is everyone was that top guy at their [community college]. So what separates you is the little things. When you’re tired on a 14-play drive, can you remember what to do on that specific play? It’s very important to get the little details right because that is what separates you from other players on the field. And if you make a mistake on this level, I feel like it’s going to get exposed very quickly.”
Doyle spent last summer in Memphis so he hasn’t been home since April. However, his parents John and Tiffany attended “at least half” of the team’s home games and Brendan also has his fiance living with him in Memphis.
“It’s been very important to have [that support],” he said. “My parents being here at some of the games has meant a lot. It would be sad not having family watching my games. So, I’m very fortunate to have that.”