‘No Tigers No’: Why Memphis lost to UT-Martin

The first words out of Coach Fuente’s mouth during the postgame press conference were “That was rough.”  Rough indeed, as the Fuente era began with a loss to FCS foe UT Martin in the first home game of the year for the Tigers.  It was no ordinary game thanks to a two hour and forty minute rain delay, and with that loss, it marks the sixth straight home opening loss for Memphis.  The Tigers lost on a last second field goal after Keiwone Malone fumbled the ball on a punt recovery.  While that mistake was certainly costly, and led to the Skyhawk’s game winning field goal, it was not the only reason Memphis lost.  Below are the “No Tigers No!” moments from the Tigers’ home debut.

Photo by Justin Ford

1.  The Tigers’ defensive line was ineffective.
It was clear within minutes that Memphis missed Dontari Poe (No. 11 pick to the Kansas City Chiefs), as the defensive line allowed UT Martin tailback Jason McNair to explode for a 52 yard gain early in the first quarter.   The night did not get any better for the Tigers’ defensive line as they watched the Skyhawks run for a staggering 181 yards.  In addition to giving up entirely too many yards on the ground, Memphis did not register a single sack (or even quarterback hurry) the entire game.  This unit will need to improve if Memphis is going to have a chance at some wins this season.

2.  The rain delay affected the flow of the Tigers’ game.
When asked if he thought the rain delay had any effect on his team Coach Fuente simply said, “I think it was our offense’s inability to get anything going more so than anything else… The delay was the same for both teams.”  Of course, Fuente is not going to use the delay as a reason for the Tigers’ loss, but I am.  Anytime you go from playing full speed to stopping for nearly three hours your body tightens up and players get stiff, it is just a fact.  Memphis was leading before the delay 10-7, but allowed 13 points after the extended intermission while scoring only seven leading to their defeat.

3. Memphis had costly penalties  that extended drives for the Skyhawks.
This is perhaps the most frustrating issue that Memphis had to deal with during the game, especially after the delay.  The Tigers’ had one penalty before the game paused because of the weather, but they added in five penalties after the break.  A facemask penalty on one drive and a horse collar penalty on another allowed UT Martin to convert two different third and longs.  Both of those penalties allowed the drives to continue marching down the field for points.  In addition, there was another facemask penalty on an incompletion after the play was dead that might have lead to the game being put out of reach had UT Martin not missed the field goal.  “I knew they were going to play hard,” Coach Fuente said about his team’s struggles late with penalties. “We played smart at times, and that is not the reason we lost.  It is one of the reasons though.”  Memphis cannot continue to shoot themselves in the foot if they are going to win games this year.

4.  Fumbles killed the Tigers’ drives and led to the game winning field goal
The Tigers lost three fumbles on the day, and Jerrell Rhodes was responsible for two of them.  Rhodes was impressive running the football, gaining 117 yards and getting a touchdown on the ground.  Yet, two costly fumbles stopped the offense’s drives and prevented them from scoring any points. He is going to have to do a better job securing the football if he wants to be the workhorse Memphis needs him to be this season.  The Malone fumble was a tough pill for Fuente to swallow, “It is hard. I guess he fumbled the ball,” he said with a dejected look on his face. “They reviewed it, and that is all I can ask… the only way I could have a beef is if they did not review it.”  Malone’s fumble gave the Skyhawks the ball on the Tigers’ 27-yard line with 17 seconds left in the game, setting UT Martin up for the game winning field goal.

5. Jacob Karam was inadequate for most of the game
“He valued the ball which I appreciated,” Fuente said when asked about the quarterback’s performance, and that is all that you can say about Karam’s first start.  He was just 7-20 for 98 yards and no touchdowns before his last drive.  However, that last drive he went 5-7 for 59 yards and threw the game tying touchdown.  Karam did a decent job running the ball as he rushed for 63 yards, but his performance in the passing game is going to need to improve in order for Memphis to stretch the field and stop opponents from loading up to stop the run.

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CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport.  Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from different college football games throughout the Mid-South.


  1. Just when you thought the future of the Big east couldn’t get worse

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