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November 2, 2009INSIDE SLANT
For Memphis, a season-long chain of mistakes added about a dozen more links during the first half of its 38-19 home loss to East Carolina on national television Tuesday night.
"Keystone Kops couldn't make it more slapstick," declared one headline in the Memphis Commercial Appeal after another poor performance by the Tigers (2-6, 1-4 C-USA) heading into their bye weekend.
The trouble started with an offsides penalty on the opening kickoff. Memphis also muffed a punt on its 10-yard line, sailed a snap over the quarterback's head for an 11-yard loss and fumbled on a hook-and-ladder play. The defense didn't help, surrendering 162 rushing yards-before intermission.
"We didn't do any of the things that we thought we had to do to win the game," head coach Tommy West said. "East Carolina does a really nice job of being a team that doesn't make mistakes to lose the game. We could be that team to beat them. We made too many mistakes."
The self-destructing Tigers finished with four turnovers and allowed season-high totals in rushing yards (275) and total yards (497).
"It's disappointing," West said. "I don't think Chris (Hobbs) meant to drop the punt. He was just trying to make a play and the ball came out. We can't do that. I don't think Will [Hudgens] meant to throw it high and I don't think that Duke [Calhoun] meant to drop it. That is kind of what is happening right now."
• K Matt Reagan is 7-for-7 this season and 28-for-30 for his career on field-goal attempts of 30 yards or closer. He had his career-long streak of 35 straight PATs snapped in the fourth quarter of the loss to East Carolina.
• WR Carlos Singleton had a season-high nine catches for 70 yards and a touchdown against East Carolina to move into second place in school history with 154 career receptions. He passed Damien Dodson (147, 1996-99) and trails only teammate Duke Calhoun (194).
Next Game: Memphis at Tennessee, Nov. 7-The Tigers are 1-20 against their Volunteer State rivals, with just a 21-17 victory in 1996 to their credit. The Volunteers have started to jell under first-year head coach Lane Kiffin, pounding Georgia 45-19 on Oct. 10 before dropping a 12-10 heartbreaker to No. 2 Alabama courtesy of a last-second blocked field goal.
This Week 'S MISSION: Memphis turned it over four times (three fumbles) against ECU and has committed 19 turnovers so far this season. Ball security is critical if the Tigers plan to survive at Tennessee, where they are 0-11 all-time. "We are going to do everything we can to win in Knoxville," head coach Tommy West said. "We've never done that in the history of the school. We're going to try to find a way to do that."
November At A Glance: The Tigers play three of their last four on the road, including games at Tennessee, No. 18 Houston and always dangerous Tulsa. Even the home game against UAB on Nov. 14 isn't an automatic win with the way that quarterback Joe Webb is making plays with his feet (820 rushing yards, six TDs) and arm (933 passing yards, seven TDs).
Quote To Note: "Grown people that have got any kind of guts to them at all keep trying. Cowards quit. That is what I'll tell them. That's what happens in life. It doesn't always go the way you want it to go. It's not going the way I want it to go right now."-Memphis head coach Tommy West.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Looking Good: QB Will Hudgens set career highs for completions (33) and attempts (48) and posted his second career 300-yard game (313) against East Carolina. LB Winston Bowens had a career-high 12 tackles and SS Marcus Ball added a career-high 12 stops against the Pirates. Matt Reagan has made five straight field goals, including kicks of 45 and 48 yards, and has averaged 45.3 yards per punt this season, including 13 of 50-plus yards. RB Curtis Steele has a shot at a second straight 1,000-yard season with 594 yards on 110 carries.
Still Needs Work: Memphis surrendered a season-high 497 yards of offense in its loss to East Carolina, the fifth time this season that the defense has allowed at least 400 yards. The Tigers have been outscored 145-77 in the second half through eight games.
Star Watch: WR Duke Calhoun-His streak of 45 consecutive games with a catch is third nationally after Central Michigan's Bryan Anderson (48) and Buffalo's Naaman Roosevelt (46). He has three 100-yard games and three games with nine or more receptions this season and has scored in five of his last six contests.
Critical Decision: Judging by the "crowd" at the Liberty Bowl for Tuesday's loss to East Carolina (announced at 4,117), the fans have already thrown in the towel on 2009. Embattled head coach Tommy West is in a tough spot, trying to either salvage this season with veterans or build for a future he might not be a part of by giving younger players a shot.
• A breakout season for redshirt freshman WR Marcus Rucker was anticipated after his MVP performance in the spring game (126 yards and a touchdown). After a slow start, he has scored on receptions of 22 and 43 yards in his last three games.
• LB Greg Jackson (bruised leg, shoulder sprain) and DE Justin Thompson (season-ending knee surgery) did not play against East Carolina. Players injured in the loss the Pirates included WR Cam Baker (hip) and CB D.A. Griffin (ankle).