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Heartbreaking loss for Memphis football

By Hunter Field
On September 17, 2013

  • The University of Memphis football team lost their second game of the season Saturday. The Tigers fell to the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State University 17-15 on the road. David C. Minkin

The University of Memphis football team could not get out of its own way Saturday. The Tigers shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with critical penalties and turnovers.

Memphis opened the season 0-2 for the sixth straight year, losing 17-15 to the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State University (2-1) in Murfreesboro.

The blue and gray will be haunted by Saturday's mistakes that cost them 62 yards of penalties in the first half. The Tigers finished the game with 15 penalties for 145 yards, which is the second highest in U of M history. The most costly penalty negated an 80-yard kickoff return by Memphis junior Bobby McCain.

The Memphis offense did look better Saturday compared to the season opener against Duke on Sept. 7.

Tiger redshirt freshman quarterback Paxton Lynch threw for 170 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. As a team, the Tigers rushed for 180 yards, 81 of which came from senior Brandon Hayes.

Mistakes plagued Memphis' opening drives this weekend. The Tigers got inside the MTSU 20-yard line on their third drive of the game, but Kenneth Gilstrap intercepted Lynch's pass to keep U of M off the scoreboard.

After allowing a seven-yard touchdown pass from MTSU quarterback Logan Kilgore to Kyle Griswould, the Tigers got on the board with a 21-yard field goal from freshman Jake Elliot.

The Tigers stalled a Blue Raider's drive, but Lynch threw his second interception inside his own 20, which set up another MTSU touchdown on a run by Parker Jordan.

Elliot made another field goal before the half from 41 yards to cut the Memphis deficit 14-6 entering the break.

The Tigers opened the half with another field goal by Elliot from 37 yards to make it 14-9.

The Memphis defense continued to frustrate Kilgore and the Blue Raiders. MTSU gave the ball back to Memphis at their 40-yard line. Following a few big runs from the Tigers Hayes and freshman Marquis Warford, Lynch hit sophomore tight end Alan Cross from one yard out to give Memphis the 15-14 lead. 

Memphis got the ball several more times but could not capitalize. Kilgore received the ball for the final time with 4:17 on the clock. He drove down the field to set up the winning kick from freshman Cody Clark.

Despite the miscues, the Tigers had the opportunity to win the game. They clung to a one-point lead with less than two minutes to go. Kilgore, who threw for 224 yards and one touchdown, completed an 18-yard pass and 25-yard pass to allow Clark's game-winning field goal from 40 yards.

The Tigers received the ball at their own 25-yard line, but could not muster enough offense to get down the field with 1:49 left on the clock. Lynch completed two long passes to get Memphis to the Blue Raider's 35-yard line. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the MTSU defense sealed the game with two huge sacks as the clock wound down.

Despite the disappointing loss, one Memphis player continued to shine. Senior punter, Tom Hornsey averaged 49.6 yards per punt on five punts. He boomed a 68-yard punt and pinned the Blue Raiders inside their own 10-yard line twice. His performance garnered this week's Ray Guy Award Player of the Week.  
Memphis returns to the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Sept. 21 to take on Arkansas State at 3:30 p.m.

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