The Tigers’ game Saturday, Sept. 7, against Duke at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium isn’t just the season’s first for the University of Memphis. It’s also a relevant measuring stick because the fourth game last season was played at Duke and the Tigers were on the short end of a 38-14 score.
“Statistically, Duke dominated us last year,” second-year Tigers coach Justin Fuente said. “They outgained us in every aspect of the game. We’re looking forward to seeing how far we’ve come.”
Although the Tigers only trailed 17-14 at the half, Fuente is right about the stats: Duke had 500 total yards on 84 plays and Memphis had 152 total yards on just 50 plays.
The Tigers won their last three games in 2012 and finished 4-8 while Duke played in the Belk Bowl and finished 6-7. The Blue Devils, coached by former Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe, opened last week by crushing North Carolina Central 45-0.
Duke used two quarterbacks in week one. Anthony Boone started and completed 16-of-20 passes for 176 yards and also rushed for 24 yards on six carries with a touchdown. Brandon Connette also played and was 5-of-8 for 55 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He rushed five times for 22 yards and a touchdown.
University of Memphis fans will see the debut of redshirt freshman quarterback Paxton Lynch when the Tigers open their season Saturday, Sept. 7, against Duke at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
Memphis fans are eager to see the debut of redshirt freshman quarterback Paxton Lynch, who unseated last year’s starter Jacob Karam. Lynch is 6-6 and earns props for a big arm. Or as running back Brandon Hayes said: “The ball gets on you quickly. If your hands aren’t ready, it’ll go through your hands.”
Fuente said they would not simplify things for Lynch’s first start.
“He is a pretty laid-back kind of guy,” Fuente said. “So I don’t anticipate him being a wreck out there. We will call the game and let him go.”
Fuente himself was a college quarterback, first at Oklahoma and then at Murray State. Asked if he remembered his early game action in college, Fuente recalled throwing an interception against San Diego State that was run back for a touchdown.
“But I was not a good player to begin with,” Fuente said, smiling. “So that was my excuse.”
Extra Points: Fuente opened his Monday media luncheon by saying that he was going to relax the team’s policy on giving access to redshirt freshmen and true freshmen. “Trying to meet you guys in the middle,” Fuente said. ... After Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. kickoff against Duke, only three other Memphis games have been assigned start times. On Sept. 14, the Tigers play at 6 p.m. at Middle Tennessee State; on Oct. 12 they play at 11 a.m. at Houston; and on Oct. 30 here they play at 7 p.m. against Cincinnati in a game televised on ESPN2. ... Through game day, fans can buy tickets for the Duke game at area Kroger locations for just $5. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Mid-South Food Bank as part of the Million Meals Challenge competition.