Sitting at 4-4 coming off their bye-week, the Memphis Tigers football team faces many questions, and a lot of people are unsure where the answers may come from.
While the Tigers suffered a big loss when freshman quarterback Seth Henigan was unable to play two weeks ago against Central Florida, their lack of urgency throughout the entire contest raised a lot of red flags. Their 24-7 loss marked their fourth setback in the last 5 contests. Backup quarterback Peter Parrish attempted to rally the troops, but a swarming UCF defense forced him into 3 interceptions.
The Tigers defense performed at its traditional level against the Knights, which, to say the least, leaves a lot to be improved upon. They surrendered 215 yards rushing to UCF, allowing the Knights to put the game away late in the second half. Memphis’s lack of defensive adjustments from their last defeat against Tulsa was evident, and UCF made sure to expose those weaknesses against the Tigers.
University of Memphis student and fan Martrell Brown understood the Tigers would have to regroup after losing a lot of key players from last year’s squad. Though he did not foresee the team unravelling in this manner, as he thinks the team lost a few contests that should have gone in their favor.
“Coming into the season, I knew that there were a few areas that the team would have to get better in, but I did not think that their defense and special teams, particularly the kicking, would be as weak as it has been so far.”
Simply put, the expectations placed upon the shoulders of the Tigers coming into this season may have been too much. Despite being picked to finish 5th in the preseason polls according to the American Athletic Conference, the flaws that the Tigers have were overlooked severely. There were three areas that the team failed to address during the offseason, and it’s come back to bite them in the worst way possible.
First of all, the defense under defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre was expected to take steps forward this season. Led by veterans at all three levels of the defense, many people thought there would be a chance for this unit to be special. However, that’s simply not been the case at this point. Memphis is ranked at the bottom portion of the AAC (and the country) in rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and points allowed per contest. While Memphis has not been known for having a staunch defense lately, this year’s woes have pushed the issue to prominence.
Second, the kicking issues cost the Tigers games against Tulsa and UTSA as well. Punter Joe Doyle served as the kicker for the first few games while freshman kicker David Kemp recovered from an injury. Kemp made his debut against the University of Tulsa on October 9, and he failed to rise to the occasion by missing two field goals and an extra point, though. The Tigers ended up falling 35-29 in defeat, and those seven points left off the board cost the team a much-needed victory. Kemp entered the season ranked as the sixth-ranked kicker in the nation, but it is an understatement to say that Tiger fans miss kicking legend Riley Patterson.
The third and final critical factor that the Tigers didn’t foresee was the overload of pressure put on the shoulders of star receiver Calvin Austin III. While many knew that the team would be reliant on him, no one would have assumed that he would be the sole source of offense among the receiving corps. Tight end Sean Dykes and sophomore receiver Javon Ivory have flashed in spurts, but Austin’s production demands double teams from opposing defenses. This may take its toll on the number of targets the speedy receiver sees as the season continues.
Despite the amount of losing that’s been taking place lately, Memphis student Madison Pence feels that the team has improved every game, and that it is only time before the team puts together a full game of good play.
“I have seen a lot of good football from the Tigers this season, but not a complete game of dominance as of yet. It’s going to come soon, it’s just a matter of time.”