• The Tigers’ win over Tulane last weekend was big. Not gargantuan, but big. For a program struggling as mightily as this one, any win is big. This was the first road win for coach Larry Porter and Porter’s first victory over a Conference USA opponent. And, importantly, it guarantees improvement over last season’s 1-11 record. Baby steps, maybe, but significant.
The Green Wave outgained the Tigers 459 yards to 289. Tulane had 26 first downs to 15 for the Tigers. So how does Memphis win by a comfortable 16 points? Big plays. Tulane was marching downfield looking to expand a three-point lead early in the second half when freshman Bobby McCain picked off a Ryan Griffin pass and returned it 79 yards to pay dirt. Less than five minutes later, Tiger quarterback Taylor Reed scored after Memphis had blocked a Tulane punt. A 12-point swing in a game decided by 13 (both point-afters were missed). The last three seasons have been all but devoid of big plays for the U of M. Nice to see two in the same quarter.
• Senior wideout Tannar Rehrer is climbing up the Tiger chart for single-season receptions. With four games left on the schedule, Rehrer has 46 catches, placing him 12th on the list. With 24 receptions, Rehrer would become only the second Tiger to grab 70 passes in a single season (Isaac Bruce caught 74 in 1993). With a current average of 5.8 per game, the Utah native should come close.
• The Tigers have a woeful 1-6 record against this week’s opponent, the UCF Knights. (The only Tiger win came in 1990, six years before UCF became a Division I-A program.) Over the years, boosters and former players have told me UCF is the model for what the Memphis program can be in terms of stadium and facilities. The Knights play in a stadium a fraction of the Liberty Bowl’s size (capacity: 45,000), but one with modern accommodations, and one often filled to capacity with fans cheering on a program with a short but successful history. (The Knights have played in three of the six C-USA championship games, winning in 2007 and 2010.) UCF stumbled last week, losing to UAB in C-USA’s biggest upset of the season. The Knights (3-4) are tops in C-USA in both total defense (261.3 yards per game) and scoring defense (16.3 points per game).