In the Memphis Tigers’ first three games, their defense showed that it could handle being the team’s best unit and was making noise throughout the nation. Now in the waning weeks of the season, it seems they have reverted back to their previous struggles.
Through the team’s first three games, Memphis was a top five unit in the nation in yards allowed per game, passing yards allowed and points allowed per game.
Now in Week 12, their positioning has changed drastically as their rankings in each of those categories are all now ranked 49th or worse. The biggest drop off is total yards allowed per game, which went from 226.3 (fifth best) to 411.9 (71st).
With that kind of decline, it is no surprise that games against lesser talented teams like Tulsa and Temple were so close, all being decided by a combined three points.
Their game against Houston this past weekend was yet another game that nearly got too close for comfort, ending 45-27. Houston did have a great first half where they scored 20 points, making the most out of four of their six drives.
When the game started, it looked like it was going to be the same that we have seen in the past two games in which the Tigers allowed at least 42 points. But before things could get out of hand, they tightened up in the third quarter.
They also allowed 256 total yards, with 157 coming from the air, 157 rushing and two touchdowns.
They did a better job of limiting them in the second half where they held them to seven points and 49 total yards, a big change from what we saw in the first half.
It does not help that they committed two defensive penalties which gave Houston 30 free yards.
Xavier Cullens led Memphis with nine tackles, and Bryce Huff led with 2.5 tackles for loss.
Their pass rush got better as the game progressed, and they ended up with two sacks. Morris Joseph recorded the first, and Thomas Pickens had a key sack in the third quarter that led to a forced fumble.
What Memphis has going for them is their offense has shown to still be dynamic and able to score on anyone which has kept the Tigers in games, but a slip up could lead to a potential collapse in games that count.
In their final two games, they will be facing the South Florida Bulls and the Cincinnati Bearcats. These two teams are fellow American Athletic Conference teams that have offenses that are ranked 110th and 62nd in the nation respectively in terms of yards allowed per game.
Those numbers may not be the best, but with the way the Tigers’ defense has been playing as of late, it is no guarantee that these will be runaway games.
For the Tigers to be able to reach their full potential, they have to be better about playing good defense in all four quarters, instead of just the final two.