After Memphis put the finishes touches on their first win of the season, 27-6 over Austin Peay before an announced crowd of 18,808 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, the mood was ecstatic. After snapping an 11-game losing streak, that was totally understandable.
"It feels great," junior safety/linebacker Akeem Davis said simply. "I mean, the guys are happy. It's definitely a feeling that we can embrace and get used to, because I believe in my heart that this feeling will continue."
"Regardless of the team or the outcome, I mean, it's good to get that win, to be honest," said senior Billy Foster, who ran for 70 yards on 17 totes whle also adding 118 yards (including a 93-yard touchdown) on four catches. "We needed it."
Article Continues Below
Memphis head coach Larry Porter was relieved to pick up just the second 'W' of his young coaching career so far.
"All and all, this victory was well needed. It is much easier to correct errors coming off of a victory as opposed to a loss. And that is what we will do. We are going to continue to build from this point forward."
After firing defensive coordinator Jay Hopson during the week, Porter knew his defense would have some tough adjustments to make. He is pleased that his defense improved but he expects better performances as his players learn what co-coordinators Mike Dubose and Galen Scott want from them.
"I am very happy with the job that we did this week, but we have got to continue to grow. When you make a change like we did, the transition is very difficult," Porter commented.
"Tonight, we experienced a change in philosophy, technique and personnel. It is a growth process that we will continue over the next two or three weeks, but I do know that the defensive staff has tremendous chemistry and that they are working very hard together.
"In the end, we just have to eliminate big plays and play a quality brand of football, and that is what we intend to do."
Freshman signal caller Taylor Reed, who completed 20-of-30 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns, was a god send. Foster was very complimentary frosh from Eldorado, AR.
"Taylor's young but he's improving every week," he noted. "Practice-wise and it's showing up on the field. So I respect Taylor a lot, stepping up as a freshman."
The respect is mututal. Reed singled out Foster and others as the reason for the success of the Tiger offense.
"I think that you have to give the credit to those skill guys for making plays. When you have guys like Billy (Foster) turning nothing into something, it is a great feeling. And I don't think I got sacked all night, so credit the offensive line for their performance."
Several players had career firsts, including Reed's first 300-yard passing game, senior Tanner Rehrer with his first career TD and Taurean Nixon, who nabbed his first interception.
"It felt great," said an excited Rehrer. "We had a double-post called and I looked back and I knew I had the dude beat but Taylor got flushed out of the pocket. He kept his eyes on me. I was nearing the sideline and knew I was gonna have to tap my toes.
"It was a great feeling."
Nixon has been looking for a pick all season, and he finally got one in the second quarter on a pass that Martin Ifedi batted high into the air. The subsequent drive led to a 30-yard Paolo Henriques field goal for a 10-0 halftime lead.
"I've really been trying to get an interception since Week One," Nixon admitted. "Once I (saw) that ball in the air I took the opportunity and made the play. So I was really happy about that."
Nixon knows that, as a sophomore DB who played extensively for Coach Porter last fall, he must be a leader for the defensive secondary. Even though he is still young, he knows the corners on the other side of the field will be even younger and more inexperienced than he is.
"It puts extra pressure on me to be more of a leader," he explained, "because the person on the other side, nine-times-out-of-ten, is gonna be a freshman or something like that. It puts more pressure on me to have to teach them what goes on on both sides of the ball.
"So they pretty much have me as a field corner this year, to try to eliminate those big plays."
The Tigers know that SMU next Saturday will be a tough challenge but the momentum of the victory has them feeling confident.
"We've gotta come and put a complete game together," Rehrer observed. "Next week, we've got SMU. We're rolling now, let's get a win streak going."
[b]Bonus audio files, entire interviews with Tiger standouts[/b]
Leroy Watson, Jr. is Managing Editor of TigerSportsReport.com and may be reached via e-mail: Leroy@tigersportsreport.com or on Twitter: @leroywatsonjr