Monday, September 12, 2016

Three Thoughts on Memphis Tiger Football: Week 2 - Kansas

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 8:33 AM

• Kansas. Hmmm. Interesting opponent this week. This is the school that, on the hardwood, broke the hearts of Memphians worldwide in 2008. Perhaps even more sensitive to the Bluff City touch these days, Kansas is a member of the "Power Five" conference that earlier this month summarily rejected the University of Memphis as a viable candidate for expansion. Whether or not the players in uniform this Saturday are motivated to beat the Jayhawks, you can count on a motivated fan base showing up or tuning in.

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Kansas blew out FCS foe Rhode Island in its opener then, last Saturday, fell behind Ohio 25-0 and lost at home, 37-21. The Bobcats carved up the Kansas defense, rushing for 329 yards. KU's offense was quarterback Montell Cozart (198 yards and two touchdown passes) and not much else (26 yards on the ground). Last year, you'll recall, the Tigers had their way in Lawrence with a 55-23 win, merely an early slap for Kansas in an 0-12 season. This is a program desperate for merely the scent of a victory over an FBS team. There's no reason the Tigers should give them one at the Liberty Bowl.

By the way, the last time Memphis enjoyed 2-0 starts in consecutive seasons: 2003 and 2004.

• Much has been said and written about the speed of the Tiger offense, and rightfully so. Against SEMO, the Tigers ran 73 plays in 27:59 of possession time. But speed could be an equally valuable component of the Memphis defense. No fewer than seven Tigers had tackles behind the line of scrimmage against the Redhawks. Linemen got through for these takedowns (Michael Edwards and Donald Pennington), but so did linebackers (Genard Avery and DeMarco Montgomery) and even defensive backs (Jonathan Cook, Dontrel Nelson, and Austin Hall). Swarming would be a good word to describe what we saw from the Memphis defense on September 3rd. As with every stat or observation from the opener, though, this comes with a qualifier: FCS opponent. Can the Tiger defense keep up with offenses like Bowling Green's, Ole Miss's, or (gulp) Houston's? I continue to believe it will be the Memphis defense that determines how far the 2016 Tigers rise. More backfield meetings with players in other colors would be a healthy trend.

• Pardon this annual gripe if you've read it before. But it's an oversight the U of M needs to correct (and I'm convinced it will be corrected, when the right stars align). There is no visible recognition of the Tigers' six retired jerseys at the Liberty Bowl. The stadium being a city-owned facility, I can understand a possible issue with something permanent (read: paint) saluting Dave Casinelli, John Bramlett, Harry Schuh, Charles Greenhill, Isaac Bruce, and DeAngelo Williams. But can a banner not be raised? Perhaps a flag (or six)? Tiger football is gaining traction in these parts, but has a ways to go before it can be considered a strong regional draw amid SEC programs in all directions. There actually has been very good football played at the Liberty Bowl (and before 1965, Crump Stadium). Why retire jerseys at all if you're not going to have the names (and numbers) in front of the faithful on fall Saturdays? Let's make this happen while I continue the campaign for a Larry Finch statue.

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