Wed04162014

Sports

Tigers take defeat No. 6 in ‘getting better’ stride

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Homecoming was the backdrop as the University of Memphis Tigers squared off against Central Florida with the intent of stealing a victory from the favored Knights.

UCF, however, was not in a giving mood, ultimately asserting dominance en route to a 35-17 victory that made the homecoming festivities leading up to the game the highlight of the annual celebration.

That's not to say the Tigers got manhandled. Memphis actually had more offensive yards than UCF, but the 6 penalties for 61 yards and the 3 turnovers were the difference in the game.

Memphis has been turning the ball over too much this season, and their giveaways have been at catastrophic times. How does this make Coach Justin Fuente feel?

"It drives you nuts," he said, "It goes back to being accountable all the time. It's got to mean more to you to hold on to the ball." He was most certainly referring to Memphis' fumble on the one-yard line while trying to tie the game in the first quarter.

That fumble didn't lose Memphis the game, but it definitely killed any momentum the Tigers were looking to build and set the tone for the rest of the way.

With the loss, Memphis (1-6) was left knowing that even the mathematical chance of playing in a bowl game had evaporated, even if they win out. But was that ever the goal for a team coming off of a 1-11 season?

Coach Fuente may seem hard nosed but he is the first to acknowledge that the effort is there.

"Our kids came out and really competed on both sides of the ball," he said. "We made our share of mistakes but I think it's pretty plain to see we're getting better every week."

If this season is going to be treated like a growing year, than this coming weekend's game (Oct. 27) in Dallas against Southern Methodist is another great chance for the Tigers to make strides going forward.

The Mustangs are 3-4 overall and 2-1 in C-USA. Their conference record is deceiving because they beat UTEP and Houston, but lost to bottom-dweller Tulane.

For the Mustangs, there is strength in run defense. SMU ranks atop C-USA in that category and they are the 27th best in the NCAA. Since the Tigers rely on their running game to get their passing game going, this could be the story of the game.

Will Memphis move the chains early, or will they fall behind and continue a familiar pattern?

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