Saturday, October 31, 2015

#16 Tigers 41, Tulane 13

Posted By on Sat, Oct 31, 2015 at 11:05 PM

Memphis football fans have now worn two Halloween costumes since the Tigers last lost a game. In coming from behind to beat the Green Wave Saturday night at the Liberty Bowl, Memphis improved to 8-0 on the season and earned its 15th consecutive victory, a program record that's been growing for weeks now. Junior quarterback Paxton Lynch passed for 343 yards (his seventh consecutive game over 300) and tossed his 18th touchdown pass of the season to lead a Tiger offense that gained 581 yards (compared with 270 for Tulane).

"We knew going into the game they were very good up front," said Memphis coach Justin Fuente. "They possessed the ball almost the whole first quarter. We felt our best chance was to lean on them a bit, and we weren't getting that opportunity. But once we got settled down, and found some rhythm, we were able to have success."
Paxton Lynch - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Paxton Lynch

Behind third-string quarterback Jordy Joseph (making his first start), Tulane swallowed 11:13 of playing time on its opening possession before taking a 6-0 lead with a three-yard touchdown run by Dontrell Hilliard. (The PAT was blocked by Memphis linebacker Jackson Dillon.) Hilliard scored again on a 43-yard gallop early in the second quarter to give the Green Wave a 13-0 lead, the fourth time this season the Tigers have allowed at least 10 points before scoring themselves. (Fuente considers a generally "over-anxious" group of players responsible for the trend.)

Memphis finally got on the scoreboard almost five minutes into the second quarter when sophomore Doroland Dorceus completed a 76-yard drive with his seventh touchdown of the season, a two-yard run. Two Jake Elliott field goals and a safety after a botched Tulane punt attempt game the Tigers a 15-13 lead at halftime. (Elliott added a third field goal in the second half to tie Joe Allison for second in Memphis history with 51 for his career.)

The score remained tight until a five-minute stretch late in the third quarter and bridging the fourth, when the Tigers put up 19 points. Freshman tailback Jamarius Henderson took a screen pass and sprinted down the left side of the field for a 43-yard touchdown, and sophomore wideout Anthony Miller took a handoff from Lynch on a reverse, changed directions, and followed a Lynch block into the left corner of the end zone for a 15-yard score.
Doroland Dorceus - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Doroland Dorceus

Jarvis Cooper completed the game's scoring with a one-yard touchdown run with 8:16 left in the contest. The Tigers have now scored at least 40 points in six of their eight games.

Fuente dismissed any notion of the Tigers looking past Tulane, the Green Wave having entered the game as heavy underdogs. "We don't talk about [the spread]," he said. " I don't know if they're aware of it or not. The kids felt like they should win the game. When things don't go well and you're supposed to win, how do you respond to that? That's a different feeling than when no one thinks you can win."

Lynch acknowledged some frustration at having to watch so much football after the game's kickoff as Tulane bled the clock on its opening drive. "It's very hard," he said. "You get warmed up for the game, you're ready to go in, and they take the whole first quarter. You just have to stay locked in and be ready when it's your turn." Lynch completed 26 of 42 passes without an interception.

Phil Mayhue led the Tiger receivers with seven catches for 107 yards. Mose Frazier also caught seven passes for 75 yards. Dorceus led the Tiger ground attack with 45 yards while Lynch added 43.

The Tigers host Navy next Saturday in the first of three consecutive showdowns that will determine who plays in the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship. Navy beat USF Saturday to improve to 6-1 on the season. The Midshipmen, like the Tigers, are 4-0 in AAC play.



Thursday, October 29, 2015

AAC Picks (Week 9)

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 8:00 AM

LAST WEEK: 6-0
SEASON: 52-13

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FRIDAY
East Carolina at UConn

SATURDAY
Tulane at Memphis
USF at Navy
UCF at Cincinnati
Tulsa at SMU
Vanderbilt at Houston
Notre Dame at Temple


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Three Thoughts on Tiger Football

Posted By on Wed, Oct 28, 2015 at 8:00 AM

• The 2014 Tigers broke a 10-year-old program record by scoring 471 points for the season. (They averaged 36.2 points over 13 games.) This year's Memphis offense is making last year's look like merely a warm-up act. Through seven games, the Tigers have scored 342 points, an average of 48.8 per game. Should that average hold, they'll break the season scoring record in the Houston game, their tenth of the season. The Tigers will almost certainly become the first team in U of M history to reach the 500-point plateau, especially considering they could play as many as 14 games (counting a bowl game and a possible appearance in the first American Athletic Conference championship game). Need more perspective on how far Justin Fuente has brought this program in his four years on the sideline? The 2011 Tigers needed five games to score their 66th point of the season, a total Memphis put up in 60 minutes in Tulsa last Friday night.
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• I bring this up every season, and will continue to do so until the university and Liberty Bowl management get it right. Where are the names of honored Tigers at the Liberty Bowl? The U of M has retired the jersey of six former players: John Bramlett, Isaac Bruce, Dave Casinelli, Charles Greenhill, Harry Schuh, and DeAngelo Williams. But you'd never know on game day at the Liberty Bowl. There's a handsome display highlighting these Tiger greats at the team's training facility on the south campus. There needs to be at least as much — visible to the public — when the Tigers are playing in front of their adoring fans. (More and more of whom have become "adoring" this season.) It can be temporary: a banner, a flag, or a group of banners and flags. But these honorees need to be brought out of hiding by the program that chose to honor them. How about in time for Senior Day (Thanksgiving weekend) this season?

The Tigers' greatest weakness hasn't hurt them this season. At least not yet. Memphis ranks dead last in the AAC in pass defense, allowing 342.1 yards per game through the air. But they've beaten the league's top two passing teams not named Memphis (Tulsa and Cincinnati). We knew entering the season the Tigers would have some growing pains on defense, having lost eight starters from the 2014 unit. Pressure on opposing quarterbacks has been sporadic, though best, it seems, in tight games late, like the wins over Bowling Green and Cincinnati. The secondary has struggled and given up some big plays (see last week's Hail Mary before halftime in Tulsa), but rookies like Chris Morley and Arthur Maulet have also come up with a pass-breakup here, an interception there to help secure victories. Tulane shouldn't be much of a test this Saturday, and Navy will aim to beat the Tigers the same way they do any opponent: on the ground. Houston is the highest-ranked passing team left on the Tiger schedule (269.6 yards per game, currently fifth in the AAC). It will be interesting to see if the Memphis defense can do some late-season growing, display the week-to-week improvement Fuente craves and preaches. With the Tiger offense roaring, there's room for the Memphis defense to bend. But how much?

Friday, October 23, 2015

#18 Tigers 66, Tulsa 42

Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 10:51 PM

With their defensive players apparently prepping to play Saturday, Memphis and Tulsa went ahead and played a football game Friday night in Oklahoma. Behind 447 yards and five touchdowns (one of them rushing) from junior quarterback Paxton Lynch, the 18th-ranked Tigers earned their seventh win of the season and school-record 14th straight dating back to the 2014 campaign. Memphis accumulated a total of 704 yards of offense (a season high) to give coach Justin Fuente a victory in his first visit to his hometown since taking over the Memphis program in 2012.
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The game was the Tigers' fifth this season in which the teams combined to score at least 70 points, and the combined point total of 108 is the highest in an FBS game this season.  Memphis has now scored a total of 342 points for the season, putting the team well ahead of last season's record-setting 471 points (in 13 games).

Starring alongside Lynch were receivers Mose Frazier (10 catches for 128 yards) and Anthony Miller (five for 106). Doroland Dorceus had his best game on the ground this season with 138 yards on 32 carries while freshman Jamarius Henderson added 112 yards on 14 attempts. In scoring 12 points, junior kicker Jake Elliott moved into third place on the Memphis career-scoring chart (now behind only Stephen Gostkowski and DeAngelo Williams). Lynch has now thrown 17 touchdown passes on the season with only one interception.

Tulsa scored touchdowns on consecutive possessions in the third quarter to close within seven points (42-35), but Memphis answered with a scoring drive capped by a three-yard bootleg by Lynch. 

Among the game's 15 touchdowns,six went for at least 30 yards, including a desperation heave by Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans that was caught on a deflection as the first half expired by Golden Hurricane wideout Keyarris Garrett. Garrett finished the game with 14 receptions for 268 yards and three touchdowns. 

Tulsa had 535 yards of total offense, the third time this season the U of M defense has allowed at least 500.

The Tigers improve to 7-0 (3-0 in the American Athletic Conference), while Tulsa falls to 3-4 (0-3). Memphis returns to the Liberty Bowl on Halloween night to host Tulane.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

AAC Picks (Week 8)

Posted By on Thu, Oct 22, 2015 at 8:00 AM

LAST WEEK: 5-1
SEASON: 46-13

THURSDAY
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Temple at East Carolina

FRIDAY
Memphis at Tulsa

SATURDAY
Tulane at Navy
Houston at UCF
UConn at Cincinnati
SMU at USF


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Three Thoughts on Tiger Football

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 8:00 AM

• With half the regular season now in the books, what are Paxton Lynch's chances for American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year? In two words, very good. The junior quarterback is being mentioned as a Heisman Trophy dark horse, so the AAC POY would seem to be his for the taking if his second half approximates the numbers he put up over the season's first six games. With 1,919 passing yards, Lynch is on track to shatter the Memphis record of 3,220 set by Martin Hankins in 2007. He's completed 71.4 percent of his passes and thrown 13 touchdowns with but a single interception (a deflected pass in last Saturday's win over Ole Miss). His counterpart this week at Tulsa, Dane Evans, is the only AAC quarterback to throw for more yardage, but Evans is merely fourth in the league in pass efficiency (Lynch is first). Another contender to follow is Houston quarterback Greg Ward, the AAC leader in total offense (359.2 yards per game). Evans is second in the category (353.3) and Lynch third (339.7).
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• With the capacity crowd at the Liberty Bowl last Saturday, Memphis has taken over the AAC attendance lead with an average of 49,048 per home game. 22nd-ranked Temple (6-0) is second with an average of 45,242. Over the Liberty Bowl's first half-century, the Tigers' top attendance average for an entire season is 41,175. These are numbers every bit as important to the U of M's case for a "Power Five" invitation as the win-loss record. (And yes, the two are directly related.) There's nothing Tiger fans can do on the gridiron to help Memphis secure the attention of the Big 12, but filling seats at the Liberty Bowl, helping sell the impression the U of M has become a "football school" . . . this is a significant part of the ongoing dance. It will be interesting to see how much that average figure drops (will it drop?) over the Tigers' last three home games, all against teams that don't draw the way an SEC foe does: Tulane (October 31), Navy (November 7), and SMU (November 28). Of course, if the home team is closing in on a Top-10 ranking, do the opponents even matter? They sure don't at football schools.

• Friday night will have a let-down quality to it. Tulsa is not a Top-20 program from the SEC. That said, I've come to like this series, the Golden Hurricane being one of only three AAC teams Memphis can actually call rivals, having played at least 25 times. (The Tigers own a 15-10 edge in the series.) Only Cincinnati (33 games) and Tulane (31) have been on the other sideline more often among current AAC teams. You know the game will mean a little extra to Tiger coach Justin Fuente, this being a homecoming for the Tulsa native. (The Tigers handled Tulsa last year in Memphis, 40-20.) Rest assured, points will be scored. While the Tigers are averaging 46.0 points per game, the Golden Hurricane is putting up 33.3 (and 550.5 yards of offense per game). But the Tulsa defense is allowing a whopping 525.0 yards per game, almost precisely what the Tiger offense is averaging (532.8).

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mayor Strickland, Meet Coach Fuente

Posted By on Mon, Oct 19, 2015 at 8:00 AM

I've got my first piece of advice for Memphis mayor-elect Jim Strickland: Buy Justin Fuente lunch. Matter of fact, with a little over two months until Strickland's first term as mayor begins, he'd do well to meet the University of Memphis football coach for a weekly pow-wow. Nothing formal. No agenda. Just a conversation between leaders on the nature of overcoming formidable challenges. Because one of these men has become the personification of establishing new standards for what seemed (not that long ago) a lost cause. Have lunch with the coach, Mr. Strickland. And do more listening than talking.

Before I go further, let's clarify: Running a major U.S. city is considerably harder than running a football program. Justin Fuente has yet to balance the cost of paving streets with those for policing the same streets. And whatever budget problems the U of M athletic department may face, they pale in comparison with those of a city with a shrinking tax base and citizens largely opposed to even a hint of paying more for the services their city provides. If I were to guess, Strickland would switch jobs with Fuente long before the coach would give thought to such role reversal. (Strickland's predecessor, it should be noted, has been far more competent at his job than was Fuente's.)
LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski


There are some lessons to be taken from the Justin Fuente Story in Memphis. A program that rested at the bottom of the FBS barrel in 2011 now finds itself undefeated (6-0), in the Top 25, with crowds in excess of 40,000 now routine at the Liberty Bowl. All of this under the watch of a 39-year-old man who had never held a program's top job before moving to Memphis. How has Fuente done it? And what could a city mayor take from his formula? Here are three components — they're not secrets — to Fuente's success.

He didn't listen. At Fuente's introductory press conference shortly after the Tigers' 2011 season (2-10), a veteran Memphis journalist noted how many men he'd seen take the Memphis job, explain a vision for success, and ultimately land, at best, in mediocrity. What made Fuente different? To the rookie coach's credit, he graciously said, essentially, "I don't know." How could he, having no baseline for his own performance as a head coach. But Fuente had a plan. And it began with forgetting what's happened before. Focus on what can be done moving forward, as individuals and as a program. Cynicism can be contagious if it's allowed in the room. Building and selling a football program — or a city, for that matter — requires a short memory if tough times are to be put in the past tense. Justin Fuente had nothing to do with Memphis football before the 2012 season. He embraced that.

He counts small victories. Among Fuente's opening remarks after the upset of Ole Miss last Saturday: "We're bowl-eligible, and I'm happy about that." Let me speak for the entire pool of reporters in that room: No one was thinking "bowl-eligible!" No one but Fuente. We were thinking, 13 wins in a row . . . Top 25 . . . can this team go undefeated? . . . is a New Year's Six bowl game possible? Fuente doesn't allow any big-picture projections to interfere with his team's task at hand: winning the next game. It's as hopelessly cliche as it gets: One game at a time. "We have to go 1-0 this week." Well, the Memphis Tigers have gone 1-0 for the equivalent of an entire season, 13 games. Bowl-eligibility in these parts was once a goal to be achieved around Thanksgiving. That goal was secured this season two weeks before Halloween. Budget policy, crime-fighting, better schools, talent retention . . . these are major challenges for a city. Our new mayor needs to find small wins when he can, and emphasize each of those wins as steps in the direction we must go.

He got lucky. Paxton Lynch took a Memphis scholarship because Florida State didn't offer him one. Or Miami. Or Alabama. Or Michigan or UCLA. Having thrown 13 touchdown passes (and but one interception) in his team's six wins this season, Lynch has made a national name for himself. The junior quarterback has won 16 of his last 19 starts — at Memphis! — and is making the across-the-field throws that have NFL scouts grabbing their cell phones. Fuente recognized the possibilities in recruiting Lynch and had the patience to redshirt him as a freshman in 2012, allowing a year of development — in body and mind – for the raw talent. A football team will go as far as its quarterback can take it. Here's hoping mayor-elect Strickland can find an overlooked gem (somewhere, anywhere) who can approach problem-solving a little differently and perhaps make a throw into the corner of that metaphorical end zone a town calls prosperity. It can happen. We've seen it at the Liberty Bowl. After all, luck is merely where preparation meets opportunity.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Tigers 37, #13 Ole Miss 24

Posted By on Sat, Oct 17, 2015 at 4:52 PM

If it's not the biggest win in Memphis Tiger history, it will lead the conversation for years to come. After falling behind by 14 points in the game's first six minutes, the Tigers scored 31 unanswered points, held 13th-ranked Ole Miss scoreless in the fourth quarter, and completed the program's 13th consecutive win. Now 6-0 on the season, the Tigers will surely enter the AP Top 25 as they stare at a second half of the season packed with American Athletic Conference foes.

"I couldn't be prouder to be associated with this city, this community, and this program today," said Memphis coach Justin Fuente after the game. "The 8:30 Tiger Walk this morning was unbelievable. We want to encourage them to keep coming, make this place a true home advantage." The crowd of 60,241 was the seventh-largest to see a Tiger game at the Liberty Bowl. The upset was also witnessed by a national TV audience, courtesy of ABC's cameras.
Paxton Lynch delivers. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Paxton Lynch delivers.

"[Ole Miss] is really talented," said Fuente. "You could see that on the field. But our kids clawed, fought, and scratched, and found a way to win the game." The win is just the Tigers' third (in 29 games) against an SEC opponent since the monumental upset of Tennessee in 1996 (the last time Memphis beat a nationally ranked opponent). The Rebels beat second-ranked Alabama four weeks ago, but now find themselves 5-2 on the season.

Tiger quarterback Paxton Lynch likely climbed some NFL draft boards by completing 39 of 53 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns, one thrown with surgical precision over 31 yards to Mose Frazier, extending the Tiger lead to 31-14 early in the third quarter. Lynch threw his first interception of the season in the second quarter, a pass deflected by Tiger wideout Jae'lon Oglesby. He now has thrown 13 touchdown passes.

Ole Miss All-America Robert Nkemdiche - a defensive tackle - was lost for the game carrying the ball on a third-and-one play early in the second quarter. He suffered a concussion on the play. "Every time he goes in on offense, they give him the ball," said Tiger linebacker Jackson Dillon. "So we just swarmed him."

Ole Miss opened the scoring with a trick play just 20 seconds into the game. Rebel receiver Laquon Treadwell took a lateral pass from Chad Kelly, then tossed a lob to Quincy Adeboyejo who pranced down the right sideline for a 68-yard touchdown.

"I thought it was a great call for them," said Fuente, "knowing how excited we were to play. We over-committed and they hit us. We didn't make a tremendous amount of adjustments. We were able to put some pressure on the quarterback, keep the ball in front of us." The Tiger defense came up with two fourth-down stops, one at the Rebel 34-yard line late in the second quarter that ultimately led to a six-yard scoring strike from Lynch to sophomore Anthony Miller. For the game, Miller caught 10 passes for 132 yards.

Ole Miss marched 68 yards in just over a minute of playing time and pulled within ten points (31-21) on a touchdown pass from Kelly to Treadwell midway through the third quarter. A 24-yard field goal by Gary Wunderlich with 16 seconds to play in the period brought the Rebels within a touchdown of the lead. But the Tigers chewed up much of the clock in the final period behind the running of Jarvis Cooper (76 yards on 17 carries), extending their lead with a pair of field goals by Jake Elliott, who moved into fifth place on the Memphis career-scoring chart (256 points).
Drew Kyser clears a path for Jarvis Cooper. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Drew Kyser clears a path for Jarvis Cooper.

Alan Cross caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Lynch to open the Memphis scoring in the first quarter, breaking the Tiger career record for scores by a tight end (13). Cross was effusive in his praise of Lynch after the big win. "He's come a long way," said Cross. "I've seen him go from a young man to a man in just the snap of a finger. Today he kept his composure, made some good reads, made some good slide protections. He's a good leader."

The Tigers outgained the Rebels, 491 yards to 480, and held Ole Miss to 40 rushing yards on 24 carries. Sophomore safety Chris Morley led Memphis with seven unassisted tackles, one of them in the Rebel backfield.

Noted Fuente, "I think there was a point in the first quarter when the guys were like, 'Yeah, maybe Coach hasn't been lying to us. Maybe we can do this.' My message has been you don't have to be better than you are. You don't have to be somebody you're not. Your best you is what we need. We need you to prepare, we need you to play well. They settled down and made some plays."

When asked about the remarkable progress the Memphis program has made in less than four years on his watch, Fuente deflected the spotlight as best he can. "If you think there have been distractions before, wait till now," he said. "I'm going to continue to try and protect them, but I know the attention will come. I appreciate [the magnitude of today's win], and I don't want to diminish that. I respect that. But it cannot be our focus. We are in the middle of a season. I'm going to relish it for a few hours with my family, but then we have to turn the page."

On the next page will be a Friday-night tilt at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane lost at East Carolina today to fall to 3-3 on the season. The Tigers will return to the Liberty Bowl on Halloween when Tulane comes to town.




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Friday, October 16, 2015

AAC Picks (Week 7)

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2015 at 8:00 AM

LAST WEEK: 5-2
SEASON: 41-12

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FRIDAY
Cincinnati at BYU
Houston at Tulane

SATURDAY
Ole Miss at Memphis
UCF at Temple
USF at UConn
Tulsa at East Carolina

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Three Thoughts on Tiger Football

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 9:40 AM

Four of the ten biggest crowds for Tiger games at the Liberty Bowl have featured the Ole Miss Rebels. The 1991 game (a 10-0 win for Ole Miss) drew 65,483, a crowd second only to the one that saw Memphis upset Tennessee in 1996 (65,885). Other Ole Miss games in the top ten: 1987 (64,187, a Tiger win), 1989 (59,795, Rebels), and 1999 (57,523, Rebels). Saturday's crowd would need to be 55,174 to crack the stadium's top ten, and I'm convinced we might see such a gathering. Attendance will surely top 40,000, making this th
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e first time in 12 years that Memphis draws such a crowd for three consecutive home games. Sure it's an early start (11 a.m.). But it's also the first Saturday home game for the Tigers in six weeks, an absurdly long time to go without weekend tailgating, even if scrambled eggs are on the menu.

• The Tigers' next win over an SEC foe will be huge, and a significant notch on Justin Fuente's program-changing belt. Since that epic win over Peyton Manning and friends 19 years ago, the Tigers are a woeful 2-26 against the nation's top conference, the only wins coming over (you guessed it) Ole Miss in 2003 and 2004. I've never thought it healthy to measure the Memphis program against the country's most powerful league. It's virtually impossible for a Tiger coach to recruit players already on the radar of SEC teams, particularly if Nick Saban is in the room. But as the U of M continues to dress itself for a potential dance with the Big 12, every headline-grabbing win essentially counts as two. To beat Ole Miss on ABC as the country awakens to college football in mid-October? The Top-20 ranking that follows would be some well-applied make-up.

• How will the bye week and early kickoff impact the Tigers? In a sport as brutal as football, a week off never hurts a team. Doesn't mean an inferior squad will beat a team it otherwise wouldn't, but in a game between equals (or close-to-equals), consider a bye a booster. Rhythm and timing are important components of the game, but nothing like basketball or baseball, where sitting can lead to stagnation. Better yet, the Memphis coaching staff has seen Ole Miss play two games since the Tigers last took the field. Memphis may not win this week, but it won't be for lack of preparation. As for the early kickoff, I'm convinced it will impact Tiger Lane more than it will anything inside the Liberty Bowl. If you surprised a team on Saturday morning with an early kickoff time, that would be one thing. Both teams have known this will be a brunch affair for more than a week. Just expect more tasty beverages to be consumed after the game than before.

One final (bonus) thought just for this week. The last time Memphis hosted a game with a 5-0 record, the opponent (in 1961) was . . . Abilene Christian. The Tigers won in front of a homecoming crowd at Crump Stadium, 35-0. In other words, Saturday's game — against 13th-ranked Ole Miss! — is a special, once-in-this-lifetime (so far) event. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

AAC Picks (Week 6)

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 8:00 AM

LAST WEEK: 8-0
SEASON: 36-10

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THURSDAY
SMU at Houston

SATURDAY
UConn at UCF
Tulane at Temple
East Carolina at BYU
Navy at Notre Dame
Syracuse at USF
Louisiana-Monroe at Tulsa


NOTE: Next week's picks will be posted a day later than usual, on Friday.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Tigers 24, USF 17

Posted By on Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 9:32 PM

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Call it a good business trip. The record-breaking Tiger offense was held almost 30 points under its average over the season's first four games. But the maligned Tiger defense locked up South Florida, holding the Bulls scoreless over seven consecutive drives from the second quarter to the fourth, enough to allow Memphis to score 24 unanswered points and secure the third 5-0 start in the program's history.

Sophomore quarterback Paxton Lynch completed 20 of 33 passes for 305 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. (Lynch has now thrown for 10 touchdowns this season without an interception.) Lynch also ran for a touchdown to complete a 93-yard scoring drive late in the third quarter, giving Memphis its first lead of the game (17-10). Two possessions later, tailback Doroland Dorceus took a screen pass from Lynch and galloped down the right sideline for a 55-yard touchdown that extended the Tiger lead to 24-10. 

The Tigers fell behind 10-0 and didn't score until almost two minutes expired in the second quarter when Lynch connected with Sam Craft for a 20-yard strike. Craft was one of nine different Tigers to catch passes from Lynch. (No one had more catches than Phil Mayhue's four.) Kicker Jake Elliott hit a 49-yard field goal in the third quarter after a rare miss (from 36 yards) in the first.

The Tigers lost a pair of players to targeting penalties (helmet-to-helmet collisions, judged to be intentional). Cornerback Dion Witty was ejected in the first quarter and wideout Mose Frazier (on a USF punt) in the second.

Memphis outgained USF, 425 yards to 377. The Tigers improve to 2-0 in American Athletic Conference play, while the Bulls (1-3 overall) are 0-1 in the AAC.

The Tigers will enjoy a bye next week before Ole Miss (currently ranked third in the country) visits the Liberty Bowl on October 17th. Memphis will face the Rebels riding a 12-game winning streak, the longest in program history.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

AAC Picks (Week 5)

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 8:00 AM

LAST WEEK: 4-2
SEASON: 28-10

THURSDAY
Miami (FL) at Cincinnati

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FRIDAY
Memphis at USF
Temple at Charlotte
UConn at BYU

SATURDAY
Air Force at Navy
UCF at Tulane
East Carolina at SMU
Houston at Tulsa


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