Tiger Tails: A look at Memphis' First Game
According to ticket sales, 34,000 fans gathered at the Liberty Bowl for Thursday night's opener with Mississippi State. In his second season, Tigers Head Coach Larry Porter was hoping for a better showing than last years 49-7 loss in Starkville.
Early on they looked good, forcing the Bulldogs to punt after just five plays on their opening drive. The Tigers were then pinned deep in their own territory, and penalties put a halt to the drive.
"I felt we gave them to much early with penalties," Porter said. "Field position was defiantly a factor and it put our defense in bad situations and couldn't respond." he adds.
State's second drive was much different. It took just two plays for Chris Relf to connect with Chad Bumpas on a 44-yard touchdown pass.
"Once the ball got to the secondary it was hard to bring it down," Porter said. "They had speed and momentum and couldn't bring it down. To give up that much is unacceptable regardless of who's playing back there."
The Bulldogs added two more touchdowns and a field goal to take a 24-0 lead. On offense the Tigers struggled until an injury to quarterback Andy Summerlin forced true freshman Taylor Reed in the lineup.
"I thought he came in with tremendous poise," Porter said. "He settled our offense some and we were able to sustain drives and move the ball. We got in rhythm."
"Coming in I got to see how fast the game was on the sideline first," Reed said. He adds, "Then coming in I felt we could move the ball and we did."
Just before the end of the half, the Tigers scored for the first time on a 21-yard run by Billy Foster. But at the half the game was already out of reach as State lead 31 to 7. The second half was experience for the young Tigers.
"That's probably the best team we've played all year and the speed was different," Reed said. He adds, "That's what I've learned."
One more score in the Fourth quarter was all the Tigers could get against the tough SEC defense. Now it's back to the drawing board to begin preparation for next week's game against Arkansas State.
"I think this is a strong group," Porter said. "Whats missing is the confidence. You saw some rhythm when Taylor got in. We can build off of that. I'm proud of my team. They fought until the end. We cant sustain losing like that, but i see a bright future ahead." he adds.