"It was a hard-fought battle."
"It didn't turn out the way we wanted to."
"That was a tough football game against a really good program."
"We came up a little bit short but I was awfully proud of the way our kids continued to fight and battle and play for each other."
For University of Memphis Tigers head football coach Justin Fuente, that string of thoughts was all part of the emptying up that must be done when your young-but-improving team loses a dogfight (24-17) at home in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium against a tough group of Knights from the University of Central. An interception in the end zone with less than 30 seconds left snuffed the Tigers' chance to tie the game.
"We have regrouped and we're ready to go begin our preparations for an undefeated Houston team this Saturday," said Fuente on Monday at his weekly press conference.
"They have skill kids all across the board and a defense that is much improved from a year ago. We'll have to do a great job on both sides of the ball and on special teams in order to give ourselves a chance."
The Tigers (1-3, 0-1) have a serious challenge ahead in trying to stop Houston wide receiver Deontay Greenberry and the Cougars' passing game
"It's a group effort. We'll have to do a good job of getting pressure on the quarterback either through bringing people from the secondary or from the linebacker core or just our front three," said Fuente.
Houston's quarterback is freshman John O'Korn and Fuente said the Houston coaching staff has excelled bringing him along in a short amount of time.
"He's probably more athletic than other people give him credit for. They've got a good scheme and players around him. I think his development's accelerated. It's pretty impressive to watch."
O'Korn will face a U of M defense that has stood out so far this season.
"The kids (on Defense) have confidence in the scheme, they have confidence in what they're doing and where they're supposed to be. I think the coaches have done a great job of instilling that in them. I think they feel like they should play well," said Fuente.
"They've done a great job when bad things happen of just playing the next play, and not pointing fingers. We've got some guys that have played really well – the linebacker core, the defensive front. We have some guys in the secondary that didn't play as much last year that have really stepped up and developed."
NOTE: Memphis' Oct. 19th game against SMU will kickoff at 11 a.m. at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The game is the ESPN Regional American Game of the Week. Most households who have Comcast Cable in the Memphis area will be able to see the game on Comcast channel 30. The game will also be available online at WatchESPN.com.