Back home, No. 16 Memphis focused on next game vs. Tulane
Justin Fuente isn’t peeking at the daunting schedule that awaits No. 16 Memphis after Saturday night. The coach’s focus on one opponent at a time is so strong that his quarterback insists he doesn’t know how long the Tigers’ winning streak really is.
The Tigers concern themselves with only one issue right now, and that’s win this week. It’s the approach that got Memphis the highest ranking in school history.
”It definitely feels cool,” Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch said. ”You see that and other schools, their ranking keeps going up. We just know if we keep winning ballgames and doing what we need to do, and take care of business, the sky’s the limit for us.”
First, the Tigers play Tulane on Saturday night before turning their attention to hosting Navy and later visiting No. 18 Houston and No. 21 Temple. Fuente also finds himself making sure the Tigers balance staying confident while still working to improve despite having won 14 straight games.
”My job is to make sure we balance that confidence and make sure we balance that confidence with an understanding of why you feel that way because of the hard work you put in and attention to detail,” Fuente said.
Tulane coach Curtis Johnson has been impressed with what Fuente has done at Memphis (7-0, 3-0 American Athletic Conference).
”He’s doing a phenomenal job,” Johnson said. ”He’s got those guys playing at a high energy level. They are playing well.”
The Tigers are coming off a 66-42 win at Tulsa on a short week after their upset of Mississippi, while Tulane (2-5, 0-3) has lost three straight, including a 31-14 loss to Navy last week.
”For me, it was the toughest loss of the season,” Johnson said.
Here are some other things to watch Saturday night between Memphis and Tulane:
PASSING FANCY: Lynch is coming off a career-best 447 yards passing, and he is averaging 338 yards per game, which is seventh nationally. He’s even better completing 71.6 percent of his passes – second best in the country. The Memphis quarterback also ranks eighth nationally averaging 355.9 yards total offense per game. Even better? He’s only been intercepted once all season. ”The quarterback makes all the difference,” Johnson said. ”Lynch does a phenomenal job. He can run it, throw it and do all kinds of things, so you have to find a way to stop him and try to get him to do one thing and not the other.”
CAN THEY TOP THEMSELVES: Memphis set a school record with 704 yards total offense in the win at Tulsa. The Tigers also had two 100-yard receivers and two 100-yard rushers, and now they should have back a couple running backs who were banged up in the win over Ole Miss. Jarvis Cooper didn’t play against Tulsa and was Memphis’ leading rusher before that game, while Sam Craft was limited.
STREAKING MEMPHIS: Not only do the Tigers have the nation’s third-longest winning streak at 14 games behind only No. 1 Ohio State (21) and No. 5 TCU, they also are tied for the third longest conference winning streak with Baylor and Appalachian State with nine straight wins. Ohio State has won 11 straight in the Big Ten, while TCU’s streak is 10 in the Big 12.
SKIDDING GREEN WAVE: Not only has Tulane lost eight straight to Memphis, the Green Wave has lost their last 39 games against ranked opponents. Tulane’s last upset of a ranked team was in 1984 against then-No. 19 Vanderbilt in Nashville.
PRESSURE TIME: Tulane is averaging 2.29 sacks per game, which ranks 48th nationally. The Green Wave averages eight tackles for loss per game, second in the American. Senior defensive end Royce LaFrance leads Tulane with four sacks this season.
AP Freelance Writer Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tennessee, contributed to this story.
AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org
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