Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Three Thoughts on Tiger Football

Posted By on Tue, Sep 3, 2019 at 10:04 AM

• Memphis allowed only 10 points against an SEC team.
The Tigers allowed only 10 points. To a team from the mighty SEC. You have to go back 14 years to find a game in which Memphis allowed so few points to an SEC foe . . . and the Tigers lost that game. (Ole Miss won the 2005 contest at the Liberty Bowl, 10-6.) If new defensive coordinator Adam Fuller wanted to make his presence felt in a program built recently on offensive firepower, his unit accomplished the feat in the season-opener. Only once last season did the Tigers allow a team fewer yards than they surrendered (173) against Ole Miss, and that was an FCS program (Mercer).

Nine members of the Tiger defense contributed at least three solo tackles against the Rebels. Memphis accumulated an astonishing ten tackles behind the line of scrimmage (Bryce Huff, J.J. Russell, O'Bryan Goodson, and Joseph Dorceus had two each). The Rebels were one for 10 on third down conversions and held the ball just over 21 minutes of game time. It was a dominating, statement game for a defense recently accustomed to giving up at least 30 points, win or lose. The Rebels play in the SEC but they are not Alabama or Georgia. Some perspective should be retained. But for one game, a statement game? The Memphis defense showed up. (NOTE: The last time the Tigers allowed as few as 10 points and beat an SEC foe: a 19-3 win over Ole Miss in 1993.)
click to enlarge Memphis coach Mike Norvell - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Memphis coach Mike Norvell

• The Tigers have a stud in punter Adam Williams.

He won't appear on the cover of a media guide, as Tom Hornsey did in 2013 (the year he won the Ray Guy Award). But Williams was a difference-maker in Saturday's win. He narrowly missed pinning Ole Miss inside the Rebel five-yard line twice before finally doing so late in the fourth quarter on the play that preceded Huff's sack of Matt Corral for a safety. (The Memphis offense then consumed the game's final 6:27.) Williams averaged 43.8 yards on his six kicks, almost precisely his average (43.2) as a freshman last year. There will likely be games (blowout wins) in which Williams's impact is negated. But it's healthy to recognize that new special teams coordinator Pete Lembo has a legitimate weapon on fourth down. Combined with a stingy Tiger defense, Williams may decide another game or two.

• Stick to the "1 and 0" philosophy.
Under poor leadership, the Tigers would overlook this week's opponent (Southern). They might even gaze around their first road game (September 14th at South Alabama) and set their sights on Navy (at the Liberty Bowl, September 26th). I don't see this happening. To a man, players and coaches I've spoken to stress "the next game is the biggest game" on the schedule. It's a quaint notion with Southern coming to town, with the Tigers' three toughest opponents not appearing on the opposite sideline until November for crying out loud. But the notion is smart if this team wants to raise its ceiling for achievement in 2019. Wins must be accumulated. The opponents are scholarship players, too, we'll be reminded.

Few Memphis supporters anticipated the 3-1 Tigers traveling to Tulane last season and getting spanked by the Green Wave. That was the first of three losses in four games for a team coming off a Top-25 finish in 2017. Win the next game. The Tigers have two months of football ahead in which this approach must be standard, however quaint.

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