Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Three Thoughts on Memphis Tiger Football

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2011 at 7:00 AM

• A team has to cooperate on both sides of the ball to allow the kind of comeback UAB pulled off in the fourth quarter last Saturday at the Liberty Bowl. On offense, Tiger quarterback Taylor Reed threw six consecutive incomplete passes, which both stalled Memphis drives and killed the clock. Three-and-out on the ground (clock running) is one thing. But three-and-out with the clock not moving is kindling for a comeback flame.

On defense, the Tigers simply could not stop Blazer quarterback Jonathan Perry. Even when conditions were favorable. On third-and-ten from the Memphis 37-yard-line with 2:50 to play, Perry had time to look downfield and complete a 12-yard pass to keep UAB’s game-winning drive alive. A stop there and UAB is forced to risk fourth-and-long or attempt a field goal beyond 50 yards to take the lead. Coach Larry Porter emphasized that everybody deserved blame for the Tiger collapse, and he’s right.

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• Football on Thursday night will never feel normal, but the Tigers have actually played 30 games in advance of the weekend (they’re 13-15-2). These midweek games cause flashbacks to the Tuesday-night game in October 2009 (against East Carolina) when it seemed there were more players and game-day officials in the Liberty Bowl than fans. Memphis entered that game with a record of 2-5 and was beaten up, 38-19, in front of an ESPN2 audience. The weather was wet and dreary, but not atypical for fall in the Mid-South. The Tigers lost their last four games that season, by which time coach Tommy West had already been fired. Gotta wonder if a 2-8 team can rally after only four days to recover from a late-game collapse. We’ll know the strength of this team’s backbone by the end of the first quarter.

• Thursday night’s football game will be the third-most significant University of Memphis sporting event this week (and quite possibly the fourth-most). The 10th-ranked men’s basketball team opened its season yesterday with a 97-81 win over Belmont. FedExForum packed 16,294 people into the stands for a Tuesday game that tipped off before lunch. This Friday, the 5th-ranked women’s soccer team hosts a second-round match in the NCAA tournament against none other than the Louisville Cardinals. (Should the Lady Tigers win, they’ll host a third-round match Sunday afternoon.) The week makes for a sad commentary on the reality of major-conference realignment. Any league in the country would be improved with the addition of a basketball program like Josh Pastner’s or a soccer program like Brooks Monaghan’s. But it just doesn’t matter. No sport generates revenue (potentially) like football. Rooting for Memphis to gain a dance card to the Big East these days is like rooting for the girl with “a nice personality” to be named Prom Queen.

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