Saturday, September 22, 2012

Duke 38, Tigers 14

Posted By on Sat, Sep 22, 2012 at 8:34 PM

The Memphis Tigers are 0-4 for the first time since 1998. The U of M led Duke 14-7 in the second quarter, and was down only 17-14 midway through the third before allowing the Blue Devils to score three unanswered touchdowns. Coach Justin Fuente has matched Chuck Stobart's futility at the start of his Memphis career (Stobart won his fifth game in 1989).

The game was somehow more lopsided than the final score suggests. The Duke offense ran a total of 83 plays for 500 yards. Memphis snapped the ball 48 times and gained 131 yards. (The Tigers' lowest output over their first three games was 293 yards against Arkansas State.) Duke quarterback Sean Renfree completed 26 of 37 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns. Conner Vernon caught eight of the passes for 120 yards and a pair of scores.

The Tigers played without their top tailback, Jerrell Rhodes, who stayed home for personal reasons. Reserves Carl Harris and Brandon Hayes combined for only 48 rushing yards. Memphis quarterback Jacob Karam completed 13 of 22 passes for 82 yards. The U of M didn't turn the ball over against Duke, but committed eight penalties that cost the team 89 yards.

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A pair of special-teams plays led to both Memphis touchdowns. Punter Tom Hornsey pinned the Blue Devils on their own 3 yard line with a 52-yard boot to open the second quarter. On the next play, Memphis freshman linebacker Wynton McManis jumped in front of a Renfree pass and returned the interception four yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Tiger lead. After Duke tied the game (on a four-yard scamper by Brandon Connette), Tiger sophomore Bobby McCain returned the kickoff 95 yards to the Duke 5 yard line. The jaunt was the longest Memphis kickoff return since Kevin Cobb's epic 95-yarder against Tennessee in 1996. A two-yard run by freshman Tevin Jones gave the lead back to the Tigers, 14-7. Memphis wouldn't score another point over the remaining 39 minutes of the game.

The Tigers now have two weeks to prepare for the Rice Owls, who visit the Liberty Bowl on October 6th. Perhaps the last competitive selling point the Memphis coaching staff has is the team's 0-0 record in Conference USA play. The Tigers have not won their C-USA opener since 2000.

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