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VOL. 129 | NO. 185 | Tuesday, September 23, 2014

College Football Notebook: September 23, 2014

By Don Wade

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The University of Memphis had lost three straight games to Middle Tennessee and five of the last six. Getting beat by the Blue Raiders each year had become commonplace and another sign of a program in perpetual struggle.

Paxton Lynch and the University of Memphis Tigers had an impressive win against Middle Tennessee Saturday. Now, it’s a trip to No. 10 Ole Miss.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

But throughout the Tigers’ 36-17 victory over Middle Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 20, at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, there was no doubt which team was more talented and better prepared.

“The year before last, they came in here and whooped our butts a little bit,” said Tigers tight end Alan Cross, who caught touchdown passes of seven and 50 yards. “Last year we shot ourselves in the foot with over 100 yards in penalties. The big thing this season is cutting that stuff out and playing with more discipline.”

The offense rolled up 480 yards as quarterback Paxton Lynch completed 21-of-35 passes for 219 yards, two TDs and one interception. Brandon Hayes rushed for 99 yards on 21 carries and freshman Doroland Dorceus ran for 91 yards on 15 carries.

“They didn’t do some things defensively that we were prepared for,” Tigers coach Justin Fuente said. “That surprised me.”

The star of the game was undersized linebacker Tank James, who had seven tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble that was returned 59 yards for a TD, and an interception. In all, the defense had nine tackles for loss, five sacks, forced three fumbles and had the one interception.

The Blue Raiders mustered just 88 rushing yards, averaging 2.6 yards per attempt.

“It was the same thing as last year,” Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said. “I said it last year and I’ll say it this year: They’re the best defense we’ve played. They got after us good tonight. They beat us up front.”

The Tigers, 2-1, play at No. 10 Ole Miss on Saturday night.

Mississippi State went from being unranked to No. 14 in the Associated Press poll after upsetting No. 8 LSU, which dropped to No. 17, by a 34-29 score in Death Valley.

It was the Bulldogs’ first win over a Top 10 team since beating No. 3 Florida in Starkville in 2000. It was the Bulldogs’ first road win over a Top 10 team since winning at Tennessee in 1986. And it didn’t come easy, as a game that MSU led by double digits got close with two late LSU scores.

But the stats showed this was not a fluke.

“We said coming into this game the big key was controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said. “I think we did that. We ran for 302 yards. They ran for 89. So I think we did control the line of scrimmage.”

They also made a bunch of big plays and the 570 total yards was the most allowed by a Les Miles team.

“We’ve done that all season long,” quarterback Dak Prescott said of the big plays. “All season we’ve had big plays, 20-plus-yards plays. Any time we do that, we seize the momentum on that drive and get the confidence going and usually put a touchdown in.”

Arkansas gets it chance to make a statement when it plays No. 6 Texas A&M next Saturday at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium. The Hogs have the No. 8 rushing attack in the nation, averaging 324.5 yards per game.

Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema does not believe in the hurry-up offense or throwing the ball 50 times. Sometimes, he doesn’t even believe in throwing it 20 times.

“I totally back coach Bielema’s stance,” said Arkansas guard Brey Cook. “I like the way we play our football.”

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was less than satisfied with his team’s 38-24 victory at Vanderbilt that included giving up two long kick returns for touchdowns by Darrius Sims. The No. 13 Gamecocks next play Missouri, which was upset by Indiana and dropped from the rankings.

“We’ve all seen good football teams,” the ol’ ball coach said. “We ain’t one.”

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