• Perspective Victory
In respect to Tiger coach Justin Fuente’s distaste for the expression, we’ll steer clear of “moral victory.” The opening game of the season could be described as an aesthetic victory (thanks to the crowd and new video board at the Liberty Bowl). And last Saturday’s five-point loss at Arkansas State can be placed in a new category: perspective victory.
When you shave 39 points off the margin of defeat in a single year — while again playing on foreign soil — progress can be measured, even in a defeat. Whereas the 2011 Tigers entered halftime in Jonesboro down 30-3, this year’s bunch led, 21-17. After three quarters last year, it was 47-3, Red Wolves. Last Saturday, 28-27, Tigers.
There are still some ugly numbers. The Memphis defense gave up 619 yards on an astounding 97 plays. Were it not for two big special-teams plays (and that’s progress, too), the score would have been more lopsided. Two games in, the Tigers have not tallied a quarterback sack. But for now, let’s lean on that 39-point improvement. It’s a nice bit of perspective for the young season.
• Punting Prowess
You’ll never see a punter endorsing soft drinks or cereal. But the star of the Tiger team through two weeks is, unquestionably, junior punter Tom Hornsey. Through two games, Hornsey is averaging 45.9 yards on 12 punts. (Entering this season, his career average was 42.3.) Against Arkansas State, Hornsey dropped seven of his eight punts inside the Wolves’ 20 yard line (four of them inside the 10). Ironic twist on the game stats: Among the reasons the A-State offense accumulated so many yards is the distance they had to travel to the Tiger end zone.
To date, Hornsey has accumulated 7,960 yards with his powerful right leg. Barring an injury, he’ll likely break Jeff Fite’s Tiger record (9,939) with his senior season still to play. Or maybe the Tiger offense finds its groove, reducing Hornsey’s time on the field. When your team has to punt, though, it’s nice to have a weapon taking the deep snap.
• Retired (and Invisible) Numbers
Go to a Tiger basketball game and you can gaze up at the retired jerseys of Memphis hardwood legends. Visit FedEx Park and you can see the jerseys of honored Tiger baseball players painted on the rightfield wall. So why is it that if you go to the Liberty Bowl for a Tiger football game, you’d never know DeAngelo Williams played there unless you saw him yourself?
I remain mystified by the absence of a display (of some kind) that salutes the five Tiger football players who have had their jerseys retired. (In addition to Williams, the honorees are Dave Casinelli, Harry Schuh, Charles Greenhill, and Isaac Bruce.) A few cans of paint would seem to do the trick. And there’s plenty of room on the rim of the Liberty Bowl. Contrary to some opinion, the U of M has a football history. It just needs to do a better job of celebrating it.