Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Three Thoughts on Memphis Tiger Football

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Tony Pollard's epic kickoff return against Temple would not have happened with Justin Fuente on the sideline. Fumbling the football was a hate crime under Fuente, and Pollard coughed up his first return last Thursday night, inside the Tigers' 10-yard line. The Memphis defense rose to the occasion and minimized the damage, holding Temple to a field goal (and a 6-0 lead at the time). One reporter Tweeted, "Freshmen who fumble on kickoff returns don't become sophomore kickoff returners." (That wise guy was me.) Ask Brandon Hayes or Doroland Dorceus — starting tailbacks both — about the Fuente's wrath when the pigskin gets slippery. And for a redshirt-freshman to commit the crime?

Pollard, of course, returned to the field for Temple's very next kickoff. And he now lives in Tiger history for ending a kickoff-return-touchdown drought that stretched 19 years and 11 months, since Kevin Cobb's ESPY-winning return in the upset of Tennessee on November 9, 1996. In addition to his 95-yard jaunt, Pollard had 46 yards on three other returns. He was an integral part of the Tigers' 7-point win. Better yet, Pollard's heroics prove there is, in fact, a place for forgiveness in college football.

click to enlarge Anthony Miller - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Anthony Miller
• Remember when the Tigers could win a football game if they played a perfect game? Mistake-free in all three phases, with a big play here or a key turnover there. As recently as 2013, Memphis needed what amounts to an A+ performance to earn a W.

Last week at the Liberty Bowl, the Tigers beat a solid Temple team . . . and didn't play anywhere near a perfect game. The first half featured four punts, a missed field goal (by Jake Elliott!), Pollard's fumble, and three consecutive series that ended after three plays. For the game, Temple ran 88 plays to the Tigers' 58. The Owls accumulated 531 yards of offense to the Tigers' 323. Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson had a pedestrian outing (17 completions, 174 yards, no touchdowns, sacked four times) and the U of M's top playmaker, Anthony Miller, caught exactly one pass . . . for a single yard. Stack up all those numbers . . . and we have a Memphis victory? This is big-picture progress. Coaches like to teach — and players like to learn — after wins.

• With his 71-yard touchdown gallop against Temple, Doroland Dorceus moved into a tie for sixth place in Memphis history with 21 career touchdowns. With three more, he'll pass Carlos Singleton and Curtis Steele and move into fourth on the chart. (He's reached the end zone in each of the Tigers' five games this season.) His 1,414 career yards now rank 18th in Tiger history and he can crack the top 10 with 400 more this season. Look for a big game from Dorceus Friday night at Tulane. He was born in New Orleans.

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