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November 11, 2013

Fuente focused on USF

Memphis Tigers head coach Justin Fuente was happy that his team downed UT-Martin, despite not playing to its capabilities. The win moved the Tigers to 2-6 on the year and, mathematically, there is still a chance for Memphis to get to a bowl game.

However, that would mean sweeping their last four games, starting with a trip to the South Florida Bulls this Saturday. To even have a chance at accomplishing that feat, Memphis is going to have to address the turnovers and penalties, two things that have plagued the Tigers all year.

"I'm not exactly thrilled with the way we conducted ourselves or the way we went about our business, but we're in the process and making those things change," Fuente said. "I was very excited to see our guys continue to battle in the face of adversity."

Like the Tigers, South Florida has had all sorts of problems on the offensive side of the ball. They rank near the bottom of almost every major statistical category on offense, including points per game (15.4, 121st FBS), rushing yards (101.6, 113th) passing yards (154.4, 112th) and total yards (256.0, 121st).

The Bulls have some talent though, and Fuente knows winning on the road isn't going to be easy.

"This is a team that has made huge strides from their first game of the season. Defensively, they are very, very good. Their defensive front is large, athletic and well coached. They have a very good defensive front. Obviously, I know coach (Willie) Taggart's mindset, the way he'd like the offense to look was different than when he inherited that program, but he's finding ways to meld those two together to the way he wants it to look."

Also like the Tigers, the Bulls defense is what has kept them in a lot of their games. The Bulls are 46th in the country in total defense (379.5 ypg), but they haven't been able to get to the opposing team's quarterback, ranking 81st nationally with just 1.75 sacks per game.

That's good news for Tigers freshman quarterback Paxton Lynch, who has ate the turf on numerous occasions. The Memphis offensive line is giving up 2.5 sacks a game, so facing a team that hasn't had a great push at the line of scrimmage is good news for the unit. In a best case scenario, Lynch would have a serviceable amount of time to drop back and make his reads.

He's been hurried way too much this year and it has resulted in some very ill advised decisions.

"I feel like that from a confidence level and a competitive level, I've seen him throwing the football in the open field. Around the guys I think he's feeling a lot more comfortable with himself and much more comfortable around the guys. Despite all the things that have gone on the thing I'm most proud of is that he shows up every single day and works his tail off. If you watch him, he just continues to improve and make better decisions and feel better about himself."

Memphis has a tough challenge ahead of them, but a win at South Florida would do wonders going into the team's last three games, which includes a matchup at Louisville. The Tigers are making progress, despite a record that might indicate otherwise.

• Fuente said the team has submitted its punishment for offensive lineman Tony Mays, who was ejected against UT-Martin for coming into contact with a ref in a scuffle, to the league offices and is awaiting word on whether it suffices with them.
• Fuente also said that freshman running back Marquis Warford was benched last game for not upholding to the standards expected by the team. However, he also noted that he was encouraged by how he's handling the circumstances and will evaluate him during the week.

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