If last weeks win over East Carolina was one of the biggest wins in Tiger football history, Saturdays loss at UAB has to be one of the most disappointing. Heres why:
* Memphis failed, once again, to build momentum after a significant victory. Tiger football could have taken a great stride towards football respectability with a follow-up win after the East Carolina game. They could be 5-2 going into this weekends homecoming game against Houston. Instead they lost to a team that didnt even play football until six years ago.
* For the second game in a row, the Tigers' all-Conference placekicker, Ryan White, had a field goal blocked. East Carolina blocked two the week before and Memphis has suffered five blocked field goals this year. For a team with as little punch as the Memphis offense, to waste a scoring machine like White is inexcusable. Even the worst teams in college football can kick field goals. Memphis has had this problem since the second game of the year. And they have not fixed it.
Obviously thats coaching. The responsibility falls on me, said a dejected Rip Scherer after the game. Thats embarrassing, its just plain embarrassing.
* The special teams made plenty of other mistakes besides the blocked field goal. None was more critical than the penalty flag on the fourth quarter kickoff after UAB had taken the lead with a touchdown. Ryan Johnson took the ball one yard deep in the end zone, and ran it back 101 yards for an apparent touchdown. But a penalty flag nullified the run and Memphis never challenged again.
* The offense was again inept, gaining negative yardage in the crucial fourth quarter. The offensive line, which had played so well the week before, was completely dominated by the Blazer defensive line. Scott Scherer rarely had time to throw and the Memphis running backs could only manage 57 yards on 35 carries. The offense hasnt gotten better. In fact, based on the results at UAB, it may have gotten worse.
* Memphis again fell apart in the fourth quarter, letting a 9-3 lead turn into a 13-9 defeat. While the Memphis offense went backwards, UAB had 52 rushing yards and 38 yards passing and, most importantly, 10 points in the final period.
It was the third consecutive game that the Tigers failed to score in the fourth period. Memphis has been outscored an astonishing 68 to 22 in the fourth period this year.
* It was another missed opportunity. In 1996, after beating Tennessee, the Tigers lost the next game. Now with a big win over East Carolina, Memphis lost a winnable game and failed in one of Scherers missions: to win over the hearts and minds of the Memphis sports fans. Missed opportunities are the theme of the six-year Scherer tenure.
The coach was right. It is his fault. The buck stops with him. His team wasnt ready to play and they seemingly have not gotten better as the season had progressed. Rip Scherer is a man who takes his job personally. He must have had a long, miserable trip home from Birmingham.
(You can write Dennis Freeland at firstname.lastname@example.org