Tigers Work to Close Fourth Quarter


So far, the University of Memphis football team has been in the game come the fourth quarter. But, so far, they’ve been unable to take advantage of that situation in a 28-14 loss here to Duke and in a 17-15 defeat last week at Middle Tennessee State.

The University of Memphis Tigers hope to rebound from an 0-2 start with Saturday’s matchup at home against Arkansas State.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“We’ve played two, really tight, closely-contested football games and came up a little bit short,” Tigers coach Justin Fuente said. “We play another quality opponent (Arkansas State) this week and we’ll have to play really well to give ourselves a chance to win. We’ve played well enough the last two weeks to give ourselves a chance to win, we just haven’t been able to take the next step.”

The Red Wolves, a Sun Belt team that two years ago was coached by Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and last year by Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, is off to a 2-1 start under first-year coach Bryan Harsin. The lone defeat came at Auburn, 38-9, and the offense is averaging 544 yards per game; the Tigers are averaging 293.5 yards per game.

Game time at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium this Saturday is 3:30 p.m.

“They’ve been pretty explosive,” Fuente said. “We’ve got to handle the line of scrimmage, make sure we keep our eyes in the right spot on the back end and play good gap control defense.”

Redshirt freshman Paxton Lynch will make his third straight start at quarterback and Fuente said he has no intention to pull Lynch in favor of last year’s starter – senior Jacob Karam. Lynch has completed 33-of-51 passes (64.7 percent) for 318 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Both picks came in the game at MTSU.

“Once he settled in, I thought he bounced back and played a tough football game,” Fuente said. “He did some really good things. He did a few things that I think he wishes he had back.”

Arkansas State has won four of the last five meetings, including last year’s 33-28 victory in Jonesboro. In 2011, Larry Porter’s second and last year as Tigers head coach, the Red Wolves beat Memphis, 47-3, in Jonesboro. The Tigers lead the all-time series: 21-12-4.

Extra points: The Tigers have struggled on third-down plays, converting just 10 of 33 opportunities. That ranks 99th nationally … Linebacker Anthony Brown leads Memphis in tackles with 17; defensive end Martin Ifedi leads the team with three quarterback sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss … ASU’s Harsin, 36, is the fourth-youngest coach at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level and Fuente, at 37, is the sixth-youngest … former Tigers defensive coordinator John Thompson is on the Red Wolves’ coaching staff.