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November 10, 2013

Tigers Pull Away to Win on Strength of Maturing Offense

When homecoming comes around for any sports team in college, it's a beautiful day for the fans. There are special activities galore, and the fans are happy and hyped before kick-off.

If the home team loses, however, their fans may suddenly go from being in a partying mood to wanting to go somewhere and dump their heads into a bucket of water.

This wasn't the case for the Memphis Tigers football team on Saturday. The Tigers went into Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and got their second victory of the season against UT-Martin. They won the game by the final score of 21-6 and they did it in style, especially in the fourth quarter.

Freshman quarterback Paxton Lynch played smart in this game and made no mistakes running the offense. He saw the holes in UTM's defense and capitalized on them. Lynch failed to throw over 200 yards, but he managed a healthy 189 yards on 15-of-22 attempts. You could say that the one interception he threw early in the game hurt, but with the game in doubt in the fourth quarter, Lynch and the Memphis offense turned up the heat.

It all started with a 20-yard run by Lynch that would eventually set up his touchdown pass to Brandon Hayes. At first it seemed that Lynch was about to go down for a loss of yards, but he was able to escape the pass rush.

Once he got away, he took off looking as if he's one of the running backs on the depth chart. But no, he plays the most important position on the field. Lynch once again showed that he is a mobile player when forced to run the ball.

The Lynch hook-up with Hayes on a screen pass went for 12 yards and Memphis took a 14-6 lead with 7:56 left in the game.

On UTM's next possession, the Tigers were able to force a turnover as Anthony Watson picked off Jarod Neal's long pass downfield. It was a good day for Watson as he got the first interception both of the season and his career as a Tiger.

If you thought Memphis was done putting points on the board (and many did), you were wrong. Memphis struck once again with an eight-yard run by freshman Sam Craft.

The touchdown by Craft basically put the game away and sealed Memphis' second win of the season in eight (8) games.

The Memphis offense has been inconsistent at best and often ineffective all season long (minus the Arkansas State game) and it was time for the offense to breakthrough for a big day. There was no telling when Lynch and company would step up and produce.

Saturday was more of the same at times. Memphis had a respectable number of total yards (342) and converted well on third down (6-of-13), but 12 penalties for 123 yards in loss killed momentum. Cutting down on penalties should be a point of emphasis for Fuente and his staff.

With the score being 7-6 heading into the fourth quarter, some people were on the edge of their seats praying for a win. Others were just walking out.

The ones who stayed and prayed were rewarded.

Many fans probably have given up on this Memphis team due to the fact that they may not go bowling this season, but they need to be patient with the progress coach Fuente and his team are making. Wins are not going to happen overnight and fans should be happy that this team refuses to give up. They are playing like warriors until the final whistle.

After Saturday's win, the fans should at least celebrate with the team and smile for once. Enjoy this victory and praise the team for how hard they played.

Before this game, the offense would get into the fourth quarter of a close game and act like babies trying to find their way. Against UT-Martin, with the game on the line, they stopped crawling and stood tall on two feet and took down the Skyhawks like grown men. And that is measurable progess.


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