• “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.” I’ve been thinking of this quip lately in watching the Tigers struggle under first-year coach Justin Fuente. Bill Parcells delivered that line, of course, during his days as coach of the New England Patriots. He’d had some differences with Patriots owner Bob Kraft over personnel decisions and summarized the feud with the best kitchen analogy he could summon.
The line is pertinent this fall for Justin Fuente, as he’s cooking primarily with ingredients left behind by his predecessor, Larry Porter. Through Fuente’s first eight games as Tiger coach, exactly 11 players he brought to Memphis have played in blue and gray. Only five of them have started a game: Jacob Karam (QB), Anthony Brown (LB), Antonio Foster (OL), Wynton McManis (LB), and Jai Steib (RB).
This isn’t to serve as an excuse for the rookie coach. The lone win and seven losses are all part of Fuente’s record, not Larry Porter’s. But for a game that requires a minimum of 30 to 40 “ingredients” (read: players) to win consistently, the 2012 Tigers are dreadfully undermanned. A grocery sack half-empty.
• If you didn’t know better, you might think the Tigers play games with a brand of football a little more slick than those other teams use. The U of M has lost more fumbles (14) than any other team in C-USA. And the Tiger defense is tied with SMU and Tulsa for the most fumbles recovered (11) in C-USA. The combined total of lost fumbles through eight games is just shy of the total for last season, when the Tigers lost 10 and recovered 18. For what it’s worth, Marshall has only lost six fumbles this season.
• Saturday’s game at Marshall could get ugly. The Thundering Herd enters the game leading Conference USA in total offense (542.9 yards per game) while the Tigers are dead last (286.5). Marshall’s Rakeem Cato is the top passer in the league, averaging 368.6 yards a game with 23 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. On the ground, tailback Kevin Grooms averages 6.1 yards a carry.
On the other hand, the Herd defense won’t be confused with the 1985 Chicago Bears. Marshall has given up at least 45 points in five games (one of them a victory) and allows an average of 464.5 yards per game. For the Tigers to earn their first win in Huntington (they’re 0-3), they’ll have to eat up clock with their running game and give the Herd offense no extra series with turnovers.