The best part of the Tigers’ 34-29 loss to SMU – if there can be a best part – was linebacker Ryan Coleman tying an NCAA record by returning two fumbles for touchdowns.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
On one, Coleman basically swiped the ball and ran in for a 15-yard score. On the other, he was in the right place at the right time to scoop up a fumbled punt return and run in 19 yards for the TD. It’s enough to make one wonder: Is this guy always finding footballs?
“Actually,” Coleman said, “I found one under my bed.”
Unfortunately, wins have been more elusive for the University of Memphis. The Tigers are 1-5, 0-3 in the new American Athletic Conference, heading into a 7:04 p.m. kickoff Wednesday night, Oct. 30, against Cincinnati (5-2, 2-1) in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
It’s a matchup of two defenses ranked in the top 20 in the country. The Bearcats, coached by former Auburn and Ole Miss coach Tommy Tuberville, are giving up just 286.9 yards per game (eighth in the nation). The Tigers are allowing 331 yards per game (14th in the country). And prior to SMU rolling up 460 yards of total offense on the Tigers, they had held their previous four opponents to less than 300 yards of total offense each.
Now, the Tigers’ defense gets to show what it can do on national TV.
“You have an image to uphold,” Coleman said.
“A look in the mirror, in effect,” said defensive end Terry Redden.
The game is also a potential recruiting tool, if the Tigers can play well.
“We played Central Florida pretty tough, so on any day anything can happen,” coach Justin Fuente said.
NOTES: Tuberville was 2-0 vs. Memphis when coaching Ole Miss, winning 34-3 in 1995 and 30-10 in 1998 … Memphis holds an 18-12 series edge on Cincinnati, but the Bearcats won the last meeting, in 2004, 49-10 … Memphis is one of six FBS programs which have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. The others are East Carolina, Michigan State, Ohio State, Syracuse and Wisconsin ... Cincinnati has a decisive win over a Big Ten team, 42-7 over Purdue, and a large loss – 45-17 to Illinois.