Tigers Eye Limiting Miscues at SMU
Oct. 26, 2012
After the team's best rushing performance since 2009, the University of Memphis will look to extend its run-game performance while limiting turnovers when the Tigers take on SMU Saturday in Dallas.
Homecoming kickoff on the SMU campus is set for 2 p.m. at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the Memphis Radio Network and flagship station WREC while video will be streamed on Rice Athletics' web site, GoTigersGo.com, and the site's All-Access link. All-Access is a pay site which streams live events and other content about Memphis Athletics. The site costs $9.95 per month.
The Last Meeting
September 24, 2011
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Memphis is 1-6 on the year including a 1-2 record in Conference USA play. The Tigers had three turnovers lead to 21 points in last week's 35-17 loss to UCF.
Now, Memphis takes on an SMU team which leads the nation in total takeaways (25), interceptions (16) and pick-sixes (6). Last week the Mustangs returned three of six interceptions for a touchdown and also scored on a fumble return en route to a 72-42 win over Houston.
With last week's win, SMU improved to 3-4 and 2-1 in C-USA.
In last week's win against Houston, junior linebacker Kevin Pope recovered two fumbles including one for a touchdown and was named the C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week. Junior linebacker Randall Joyner is the Mustangs' leading tackler with 54 total stops including three interceptions.
"Defensively, they don't get enough credit," said Memphis head coach Justin Fuente earlier in the week. "They've been good up front over the last couple of years. They've done a great job rushing the passer and still covering down in the back end."
Offensively, the Mustangs feature running back Zach Line, a first team All-C-USA selection both in 2010 and 2011. This year he has four, 100-yard games and for the year has tallied 717 yards and has scored all five rushing touchdowns.
Much like Memphis quarterback Jacob Karam, who earned his degree from Texas Tech and transferred to UM immediately eligible, so did SMU starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert who took 27 credit hours last spring to graduate from Texas and become immediately eligible to play for the Mustangs.
Gilbert has completed 161-of-317 passes for 1658 yards and 11 touchdowns. In last week's win over Houston, he threw four scoring passes, completing 23-of-38 passes for 265 yards.
"I thought that he played much better and he started the game throwing the ball more accurately," said SMU head coach June Jones about his starting signal caller. "I think he'd like to have a couple things back, but that's the way quarterbacking is, you keep working at it, and get better and better."
"I think when you look at him, he continues to get better in that offense," Fuente said. "He has a lot of tools and is a highly intelligent kid. He's just an awfully good football player, and has been for some time."
While the Tigers are looking for just their second win on Saturday, Fuente said the team continues to improve.
"I just know from an accountability level, from a discipline level and when you look at our guys playing with emotion and intensity, I know as a program we have improved," he said. "I see it every day. I know as individuals, we've gotten better. They're more dedicated now so that's always encouraging."
The statistical numbers certainly agree with Fuente's assessment.
Through seven games of the 2012 campaign in comparison to the same point of the 2011 season, Memphis has made improvements or is even in 24 of 37 NCAA statistical categories (65 percent).
Some of the Tigers' biggest improvement has come on the defensive side of the ball. Memphis has dropped its total defense yardage by almost 100 yards - from 499.14 yards per game allowed through seven games of the 2011 season to 413 yards this season. The Tigers were ranked 117th in total defense in 2011 and this year rank 76th.
Fuente said to have an opportunity Saturday in Dallas, the Tigers will have to do a great job on both sides of the ball as well as special teams.
"Hopefully, we can build on the performance last week," he said. "Our kids came out and really competed on both sides of the ball. We made our share of mistakes but I think it's pretty plain to see we're getting better every week."
Saturday's game will be the first of two on the road for the Tigers. Memphis plays at Marshall next week. SMU will be playing its second straight at home Saturday and travels to UCF next week.