I think it is safe to say that Memphis is officially in free fall mode. The Tigers started the season on fire jumping out to an 8-0 start and the highest ranking in school history. Along came Navy, Houston, and Temple and now the Tigers are 8-3. I took a moment to look back at yesterdays game (mixed in a little with the Houston game) and came away with 5 thoughts:
5 Straight Quarters
On November 7th Memphis lost its undefeated status at the hands of an incredibly solid, and under valued, Navy team. The Tigers were dominated on both sides of the ball. Fast forward to the 14th and Memphis seemed to bounce back against Houston. The Tigers opened the game in top shape and twice had 20 point leads against the Cougars, including early in the 4th quarter.
Since scoring early in the 4th against Houston the Tigers has since played 5 straight quarters of poor football. This is especially a concern in regard to the offensive side. Memphis had been among the nations leaders in regard to overall offense.
The Tigers have managed 14 drives since going up 20 early in the 4th against Houston and the entire Temple game. Those 14 drives have resulted in 0 touchdowns, 1 turnover on downs, 1 fumble, 1 interception, 2 missed field goals, 4 made field goals, and 5 punts.
The once high-powered Memphis offense has only managed 275 yards over those 14 drives. The Memphis defense, surprisingly, has bent and given yards but not completely broken in half all things considered. Needless to say, the Memphis offense needs to get back on track or the Tigers slide will certainly continue.
Paxton Lynch clearly is bothered. He looked flat and emotionless yesterday against Temple. To his credit it appeared as if Lynch hurt his ankles as he was tackled in the first quarter. Regardless, in the 5 quarter stretch mentioned earlier, Lynch has gone 29-43 for 207 yards with no TD's or picks. In the Tigers 8 wins Lynch has averaged 339 yards per game as well as 2 touchdowns.
For Memphis to be good they need Lynch to be good. I would find little fault in the Memphis staff benching Lynch after the first quarter against SMU and giving him time to rest. With Lynch clearly out of sync and seemingly hobbled with injured a little rest may not be a horrible thing for him leading in to bowl prep. The rest would also provide the Memphis staff time to give backup Clay Holgorsen game time experience. Again, highly doubtful that this happens but I wouldn't blame Memphis one bit.
Memphis has to be one of the leaders if not the NCAA leader in targeting calls this season. I personally have not kept track of how many calls the Tigers have been called for targeting but I would not be surprised if they average nearly 1 a game. It is important to note that not all Memphis targeting calls have stood through review.
Saturday against Temple was no exception. Early in the second half against Temple, LB Jackson Dillion was ejected due to targeting. Although the play stood I feel like the Tigers
may should appeal the ejection of Dillion from the game and, subsequently, the first half against SMU.
Late in the game on a kick return Memphis TE Alan Cross was also called for targeting as he blocked on the return. Cross was ejected, rightfully so, and will miss the first half of the SMU game. This is disappointing for Cross as the SMU game will be senior day for Memphis.
Reggis Ball And Undisciplined Defense
Senior safety Reggis Ball has been a solid defensive player for Memphis this season. He is one of the vocal and emotional leaders of the defense, a defense which has often been described as undisciplined. Ball has recorded 48 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, and 3 interceptions. He has also been a knucklehead for Memphis this season.
Ball is one of the many Tigers to have picked up a targeting flag. The worst of Ball's antics was last Saturday against Houston when Ball seemingly tried to injure Demarcus Ayers by continuing to drive Ayers legs through a tackle despite Ayers already being down. Yesterday against Temple, Ball made an amazing interception. Ball promptly spiked the heck out of the ball picking up a personal foul. When one of your defensive leaders acts in such a way it is no wonder that the entire defense lacks discipline.
Temple fans, likely the student section, broke out in an "overrated" chant as the clock neared zero's yesterday. I have never understood why fans do this. It makes absolutely no sense and is just dumb. Temple fans please don't think I'm singling you out. We hear this chant every year in various sports. Just realize when you chant something like this really what you're doing is diminishing your victory by dumbing down your opponent.