The University of Memphis defense pitched its first shutout since 1994 and the Tigers rushed for 180 yards as they beat Louisiana-Monroe 28-0 Saturday night at the Liberty Bowl in front of 20,801. Despite a number of offensive miscues, the Tigers managed to get into the end zone four times, all on rushing plays -- two by quarterback Travis Anglin and two by running back Darche Epting.
The Memphis defense, ranked fourth in the nation coming into the game, thoroughly manhandled the over-matched Indians. ULM only gained176 total yards and 10 first downs in the game. Much of the yardage came late in the fourth quarter when Memphis was playing its second and third defensive units.
Head coach Rip Scherer said he was happy to get the first win of 2000, evening the Memphis record at 1-1, but the offensive problems obviously have him worried. We shot ourselves in the foot with turnovers. The game should have been out of reach by halftime, Scherer said. We just have to do a better job of coaching.
The Tigers did manage to rush for 180 yards, but the passing game was still weak. Anglin was 11-22 for 80 yards. Weve got to get some things fixed offensively, Scherer continued. Nobodys making excuses. No one is lashing out. The fact is weve got to get better on offense.
The win over ULM came at a price. First-string tailback Sugar Sanders reinjured the ankle that had kept him out of the opener. His backup Dernice Wherry, who rushed for a career best 75 yards, left the game after a lineman fell on him injuring his shoulder. Starting corner back Marcus Smith injured an ankle on the opening kickoff and went directly to the locker room. Redshirt freshman Jason Brown played well in Smiths place. Starting guard Josh Eargle injured a knee and is out indefinitely.
Next on the Memphis schedule is Arkansas State (0-2). The game is set in Jonesboro for the first time since 1956. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.
Memphis special teams player Quincy Stevenson blocked a kick inside the ULM 10 yard line. He has a heart as big as this stadium, said Memphis coach Rip Scherer of the 5-6 walk-on from East High School. You just love guys like him. Hes not even on scholarship.
Senior Billy Kendall, the Tigers all-time leading tight end, extended his streak of catching at least one pass to18 games. Kendall started the streak when he was a sophomore.
Ryan White had two field goal attempts blocked. Scherer attributed the blocks to taking too long to get the ball snapped and kicked. Weve got to improved our snap-to-kick time, Scherer said. White is working with a new snapper and holder this year.
Memphis ran a successful onsides kick with free safety Idrees Bashir running under the kick and catching the ball in the air. Bashir was busy. Besides playing defense and special teams, he lined up at receiver for the first time in his college career. He had a pass thrown his way, but it was under thrown.
Defensive coordinator Tommy West got one of the game balls. I think he has done a great job of taking our defense to another level, Scherer said. Hes got them playing hard.
(You can e-mail Dennis Freeland at email@example.com)