MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Memphis Tigers can score points in bunches and stifle an opponent when they need. Getting started is proving to be a problem that coach Justin Fuente wants to fix.
The Tigers trailed Tulane 13-0 before reeling off the final 41 points to remain undefeated, and that moved Memphis up a spot to No. 15 on Sunday. Yet Memphis still has found itself in a double-digit hole in five games only to win, including against Kansas, USF, Bowling Green and Mississippi.
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Fuente says he thinks his Tigers are a bit overanxious, trying to do too much early.
”I’ve tried to kind of convey that message, obviously I haven’t. I’d be willing to convey any other message y’all think may work, be able to get it across,” Fuente said. ”But I don’t feel like it’s a lack of preparation, you know? When I watch us out there, it seems like we’re anxious to play. It just takes us a little while to settle in.”
Kansas led Memphis 10-0 before the Tigers won 55-23. Bowling Green was up 27-17 with Memphis pulling out its closest win this season, 44-41. South Florida scored the first 10 points of a 24-17 win by Memphis, and Ole Miss jumped out to a 14-0 lead before the Tigers scored the next 24 points en route to a 37-24 upset.
The Tigers won the toss against Tulane and deferred to the second half. Tulane held the ball for 11 minutes, 13 seconds in scoring a touchdown, and the Green Wave led 13-0 just 16 minutes into the game.
”We’ve done that all season,” Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch said. ”We’ve been down behind two scores, so I think we just got Coach Fu (to) pull us aside and tell us that we need to relax and stop beating ourselves and dropping passes and getting penalties against us.”
Memphis dropped too many passes on a rainy night. The Tigers also had hurt themselves with eight penalties for 106 yards. Offensively, Memphis had failed to score only once inside an opponent’s 20 this season until the Tigers’ opening drive against Tulane. Lynch was sacked, then Jake Elliott missed a field goal.
Fuente said he saw players trying to do too much, running before catching the ball or thinking of what they would do once they caught the pass.
”But for whatever reason, there seemed to be a little excitement or overexcitement or whatever the term is that prevents us from just playing football going into the game,” Fuente said.
Now the Tigers (8-0, 4-0) enter the toughest portion of their schedule with so much more than just their 15-game winning streak on the line. They host Navy, then hit the road to play No. 18 Houston and 23rd-ranked Temple in their chase for a second straight American Athletic Conference title and the best bowl in school history.
Lynch said the Tigers know falling behind again and again isn’t good, even if they have the nation’s third-best offense averaging 48.9 points per game.
”But our defense starts stepping it up after a little bit and our offense gets to clicking after we get that first touchdown, and we realize we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot and get to work,” Lynch said.
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