Tigers See Bye Week as Advantage

DON WADE | Special to The Daily News

Most of the college football world is in the midst of game week. The University of Memphis is not, having to wait until 3:30 p.m. Sept. 7 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium to play Duke.

“I’d rather be playing as soon as possible,” Tigers defensive end Terry Redden said.

“They always think they’re ready,” coach Justin Fuente said after Tuesday’s practice, the team’s first after two days off.

Starting quarterback Paxton Lynch and the Memphis Tigers have an extra week to prepare for the season opener against Duke, as the U of M has a rare opening-week bye.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Fuente is hoping that more practice time leads to more consistency. He characterized Tuesday’s effort as “not bad.” Players, too, understand that though they are geared up to play now, there is still much work to be done.

“We have to stay focused to detail,” said running back Brandon Hayes, who led the 4-8 Tigers in rushing last season with 576 yards and six touchdowns. “We’ve just kind of been shooting ourselves in the foot a little bit (in practice) with ball security and a lot of little penalties.”

Duke, 6-7 last season and coached by former Ole Miss head coach and Tennessee assistant David Cutcliffe, opens at home Saturday against Football Championship Subdivision foe North Carolina Central.

“We get to see our opponent play and another week to prepare,” Hayes said. “It’s definitely an advantage.”

Fuente sees another advantage: He’s in his second season at Memphis, and his staff understands the system he brought with him from his days as an assistant at TCU.

“I don’t know how to measure it,” the coach said, “but I’m much more comfortable.”

More time before the first game also could make redshirt freshman and starting quarterback Paxton Lynch more comfortable, too. Lynch has a much stronger arm than last year’s starter, Jacob Karam, with his out-pattern throws arriving with zip and his deep throws having good carry.

“He’s a freshman,” Fuente said. “He continues to get better and we continue to develop him. I’m pleased with the way he works.”