Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Three Thoughts on Tiger Football

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 10:53 AM

• The "Magnifico Miss" will magnify with every Memphis win.
How significant will that blown call — Joey Magnifico's "no-catch" on the Tigers' final drive at Temple — be for the U of M? There are blown calls that impact a drive. There are blown calls that impact a game. And, now and then, there are blown calls that impact an entire season. Rarely do such calls happen in October, but let's see how the rest of the season unfolds in measuring how much damage was done last Saturday in Philadelphia. Would the Tigers have won the game with a first down on Magnifico's catch? You'd have to measure the odds as at least 50 percent, with enough time on the clock — at the time of the blown call — for the Tigers to reach the end zone, or at least set up a short field-goal attempt for Riley Patterson (and three points would have earned Memphis the win).

A win would have kept the Tigers undefeated and in the national rankings. It would have kept them in the discussion — perhaps leading the discussion — for the lone "Group of Five" entry in the New Year's Six bowl games. Now? There's still an American Athletic Conference championship to grab. A 10-2 regular season would likely get Memphis back into the national rankings. But that's the catch (pardon the pun) with the "Magnifico Miss": the better the Tigers do, the more painful that call (and loss to Temple) becomes. Lose two or three more games, and it's an unfortunate stub of the toe on this season's march to December. Should the Tigers regain their footing and enter national discussions again . . . it would be a bone bruise.
click to enlarge Mike Norvell - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Mike Norvell

• There's no whine in Mike Norvell.
The Tiger coach is remarkably composed for a man still shy of his 40th birthday and competing for recognition at college football's highest level. The first thing he mentioned at his weekly press conference Monday wasn't the missed call, but the Tigers' three turnovers on their first 16 offensive plays. Those played a larger factor in the loss than the "Magnifico Miss." Furthermore, Norvell acknowledged fault himself: "There were probably five different play calls I would like to have back in that game. Everybody is involved. I didn't have my best day on Saturday when it comes to calling plays and things we wanted to do." His team's conference schedule doesn't allow time for sulking, much less complaining about an official's call. Saturday night at the Liberty Bowl, Memphis plays a Tulane team that has improved since beating the Tigers handily (40-24) last year in New Orleans. The loss at Temple hurt, but not as much as a two-game losing streak would.

• The new sheriff likes the lay of the land.
I sat down with Laird Veatch, the new Memphis athletic director, earlier this week (for an upcoming feature in Inside Memphis Business). First thing to come across was his enthusiasm. (He's the first AD I've interviewed who is younger than me, so let's acknowledge strength in youth!) He's genuinely excited to be at the U of M, and considers the opportunity for impact here greater than that he made at his previous stint (Florida) or even the experience he enjoyed at his alma mater (Kansas State). "You look at it from a business standpoint," he noted. "A big company versus a midsize-company. It's less bureaucratic. The structure here, with the trustees and the president, their engagement . . . there's the right level of oversight and accountability, but we're also able to work together, make decisions, and move things forward. That's an exciting place to be." Veatch recognizes the value of presence in leadership, something Norvell has developed in a short time, and a certain basketball coach has in abundance. There's reason for his enthusiasm.

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