The Memphis Tiger football team is already at a cross roads this young season after another blowout loss. It is gut check time and they are going to need to find some sort of inspiration after being outscored in their first two games by a combined score of 106-17. The offense appears inept and the defense is giving out big plays like we give out candy to trick-or-treaters.
If Memphis is going to right the ship the defense is going to have to improve tremendously. In the two games Memphis has played the defense has given up 1256 total yards and has yet to hold an opponent under 600 yards. Big plays (plays of more than 20 yards) have killed the Tigers this season, they gave up eight big plays to Mississippi State and five to Arkansas State. Memphis needs to have more gap discipline at the line of scrimmage to prevent rushers from getting to the second level and the secondary needs to get deeper in coverage to stop opposing quarterbacks from throwing over their heads.
The offense also needs to improve drastically if the Tigers are going to have any chance of winning games this season. Averaging 8.5 points per game is not going to cut it offensively and they need to find a way to get their playmakers going. It does not help that starting tailback Jerrell Rhodes is still injured and will not be back until next week at the earliest. Rhodes’ injury means that Billy Foster and Artaves Gibson need to step up and carry the load on the ground.
Also, no receiver has emerged as a guy that defenses should fear. Marcus Rucker can be that guy, he leads the team in receptions and touchdowns this year and if the offensive line can find a way to give the quarterbacks (Reed or Summerlin) more time in the pocket his numbers should improve drastically.
So can this team gain some form of respect and find the courage it takes to save this season and finish with a decent record? Yes they can and starts with a home game this week against FCS foe Austin Peay State University. Memphis cannot afford to take any opponent for granted, even one like Austin Peay who staggers in with a 9 game losing streak. Coach Porter knows this saying at his Monday luncheon, “We will respect them…they are a good team.”
Conference play begins next Saturday with Southern Methodist coming to town and hopefully the Tigers will be ready.
When asked about realistic goals for the rest of the season Coach Porter said, “We still got ten games left. We are still in a position to compete for a conference championship, still in position to go to a bowl, but right now we are out of the National Championship picture.”
Coach Porter is right in his assessment of the young season, but Memphis has a lot of work to do if they expect to compete for a C-USA championship.
CJ Hurt covers Memphis Tiger football for Memphis Sport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from the football games this season.
Photo by JD Meredith