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What can the Tigers really do this year?

 

First games don’t determine the season, but they do let us know what to expect for the year. by J.R. Moorhead
Special to the Tri-State Defender

First games don’t determine the season, but they do let us know what to expect for the year. It’s truly the first time the players strap it up and see how they compare to the next guys. Oh yes, football is back. And for the University of Memphis Tigers on Thursday night, that meant being humbled (59-14) by the SEC’s (and No. 20-ranked) Mississippi State Bulldogs.

 
 University of Memphis Tigers Andrew Ene-Ita (l-r), Khiry  Battle and Lonnie Ballentine are pumped up as they enter the field to play No. 20-ranked Mississippi State. (Photos by Warren Roseborough)

 
 Billy Foster (left) and his Memphis teammates celebrate as he scores the Tigers first TD of the season.

I could give you an overview of the game, but I’m not. Instead I’m going to give you three things to expect this season and three things you shouldn’t expect.
After the season opener, I believe it is evident that you should expect the Tigers to be heavily penalized this season, for young talent to emerge, and for a QB controversy to develop over the next few weeks.

Memphis had 8 penalties for 55 yards, not including the one that was declined and another penalty for a personal foul that was offset. On Memphis’ first and second drives, they were penalized on their first offensive play; and on their first drive they had a penalty on the second play that was declined.

After Jerrell Rhodes and Billy Foster both went down with injuries, true freshman running back, Artaves Gibson, stepped up and carried the ball 17 times for 85 yards against a tough Mississippi State defense. Red shirt freshman receivers Kevin Wright and Reggie Travis combined for eight catches for 80 yards.

With those contributions in mind, it’s safe to say that U of M Head Coach Larry Porter has been doing a fine job in recruiting some talent for the years to come. Porter seemed extremely pleased with the way true freshman Taylor Reed “settled the offense” when he came into the game after starting quarterback Andy Summerlin was injured towards the end of the first quarter. Reed finished the game going 23-35 for 149 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

QB controversy? Well, I think Porter will stick with Summerlin next week, but if he doesn’t perform well in the first half of the Arkansas State game don’t be surprised to see Reed get a little playing time.

Clearly, this season will be another growing year for the Tigers, as Coach Porter continues to build to a better future with his new players. Now, here is when the realist in me takes over and I have to say a few things that the true blue fan might not want to read.

I don’t think that Memphis will be generating much from ticket sales, stopping many opposing offenses, or getting to a bowl game this year. The “true” Memphis’ football fans were at the game last night. Unfortunately, there were only just under 34,000 people attending the game, in a bowl that holds over 62,000, and more than half of those people were wearing maroon. Considering this is the biggest game by market standards that Memphis will play this year, it shows the lack of support from the city of Memphis for the Tigers football program.

That, however, is not the worst of the true fans’ problems this season, only the beginning. The Tigers team defense looked horrid. Anytime an opposing player got into open space, he scored. MSU recorded a school record 645 yards of total offense and scored six times from 25-plus yards out, including an 80 yard reception and two rushes from 66 and 46 yards for scores.

  Don’t look for Memphis to have a winning record this season. The way I see it, Memphis wins against Austin Peay and Marshall at home, and at MTSU and Tulane on the road. I don’t see them winning at Rice, UCF or USM, or beating SMU, ECU or UAB at the Liberty Bowl. This scenario leaves Arkansas State as a toss up next week. Factoring in the Mississippi State loss, the Tigers likely are staring at a 4-8 or 5-7 type of a season.

Bottom line: Coach Porter is pushing a lot of the right buttons, but for things to gel the way he envisions, it’s just going to take a little time. With that said, let’s not forget the most important thing – football is here!

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