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October 31, 2013

Offense Struggles Again in Loss to Cincinnati

On Wednesday night at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, the Tigers were still looking for their first win in the American Athletic Conference. They went up against the Cincinnati Bearcats, who came into the game 3-1 in conference play. Their offense averaged 467 yards per game.

It was no secret that the Bearcats could move the ball down the field, but could Memphis match the firepower that Cincinnati was bringing to the table?

The Tigers tried, but it didn't happen.

Both teams started off sluggish on offense until Memphis was able to score late in the first quarter with a seven yard touchdown catch by Tevin Jones, which was his first touchdown reception of the season and his career.

After that, Memphis went into a drought on offense. Going into halftime, Memphis only had 58 yards of total offense.

As for Cincinnati, they had accumulated over 200 yards of total offense and scored 14 points. Their offense was able to move the ball, which wasn't a surprise at all. And late in the first half, they began putting the ball into the end zone.

Veteran quarterback Brendon Kay ended the night with 321 yards passing on 27-of-35 attempts and one touchdown. He showed leadership at his position.

Despite critical turnovers and missed chances, Memphis had their best chance to win the game with Cincinnati leading 27-21 in the fourth quarter. But the Tiger offense fell back into old bugaboos, leaving redshirt freshman QB Paxton Lynch basically running for his life on every possession.

Trailing 27-14, Lynch (under pressure) hurled a critical interception with 8:26 remaining in the game. The Memphis turnover led to a Cincinnati score. Due to repeated critical mistakes, Memphis lost to the Bearcats by the final score of 34-21.

Boiling the loss down to its simplest terms, Lynch needs more time to get rid of the ball and the receivers have to catch the football.

Lynch couldn't match Kay's stat sheet as he completed just 17-of-33 passes for a sickly 140 yards (his lowest output of the season) with two touchdowns and one interception. The running game was effective when Brandon Hayes toted the rock (17 carries, 76 yards) but Memphis finished with a total of just 92 yards on the ground.

What's the problem with the offense? Who would you blame for the horrible display that was being showcased in Memphis? The attendance for the game was 22,571 and it was good to see that number. Those fans could have stayed home to watch the World Series or the Memphis Grizzlies' season opener against the San Antonio Spurs for crying out loud.

This tough loss cannot be blamed on the coaches or the referees. The Tigers just didn't produce on the offensive side of the ball.

Let's be honest here: the unit hasn't produced since the Arkansas State win. They are still learning the ropes, but when will they get it together? The Tigers are now 1-6 overall with an 0-5 conference record. Some fans predicted that the Tigers would go bowling this season, but that is now a far-fetched idea.

The worst thing the offense did Wednesday night was all the dropped balls by the Tiger receivers. Memphis had six dropped passes. Keiwone Malone, Tevin Jones and Mose Frazier each was credited with two dropped passes. Sam Craft dropped one in the fourth quarter that somehow didn't make it into the stat book.

For our money, it looked like Jones could have been charge with at least two more drops.

The receivers made Lynch look bad out there. So now, he was scrambling for his life and his receivers were putting the ball on the ground. Lynch can't pass the football and then go catch it for the receivers on this team.

Speaking of putting the ball on the ground, true freshman Marquis Warford continued his season-long struggle with fumbles, losing one in the first half that led directly to a Cincy touchdown. He got no more carries on the night.

Outside of Hayes and his determined running, there were no positives by the Memphis offense at all. Give a round of applause to the defense for giving the offense chance after chance to put some points on the board.

Memphis came into the game with only 10 total offensive touchdowns. In 22 trips into the red zone, they had scored only 10 TDs with six field goals. That is not acceptable and it will not produce wins on the field.

The 232 total yards of total offense versus Cincinnati is not acceptable, either. If this team could generate more points, Memphis would be nearly bowl-eligible already.

Whether fans like it or not, Memphis lost and they will continue to lose if the offense can't move the ball down the field and put points on the board. The defense will continue to stand firm as the leaders they are, but the offense are the babies of the team.

They are still crawling, trying to find their way, but it's past time for them to grow up and walk.


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