8:00 PM ET, October 21, 2006
Liberty Bowl, MEMPHIS, TN
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Memphis has declined to the point of being the only Conference USA team without a league win.
And the Tigers barely have a win, period.
Memphis (1-6, 0-3 C-USA) saw its losing skid reach five straight Saturday night as Tulsa displayed all of its tools in an efficient 35-14 victory over the Tigers.
Tulsa (6-1, 3-0) moved atop the West Division with the win, coupled with UTEP's 34-17 loss to Houston. It marked Tulsa's fifth consecutive victory as Courtney Tennial rushed for three touchdowns and quarterback Paul Smith threw for 217 yards and another score.
"It feels good, but we really don't even look at that," Smith said of the winning streak. "We try to put the blinders on. If you get to looking around, you're going to get hit right in the mouth."
The Tigers probably would like to close their eyes and plug their ears at this point as they struggle to improve their record. Their only win came against I-AA Chattanooga. The defense has struggled, the running game is ineffective and the passing game under transfer Martin Hankins is sporadic.
After three straight bowl appearances, Memphis' hope of a fourth is on life support with the Tigers needing to win-out to even reach .500.
"There's five more games, so there's still a chance," said running back Joseph Doss.
Tulsa controlled the game from its opening two drives. The Golden Hurricane composed a pair of 80-yard drives, led 14-0 and had the ball for 15 of the game's first 17 minutes.
"We took nine minutes off the clock and got the score," Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe said of the first drive, which ended with a 1-yard run by Tennial. "Just establishing the tempo. That's something we talked about -- to come out and establish the tempo of the game and see if (Memphis) could match it."
From there, it was a matter of Smith engineering the offense, while the defense stymied Memphis, which had 232 yards of offense, including only 75 on the ground. Hankins was 24-of-37 for 157 yards.
Doss scored on a 4-yard run, his first rushing touchdown of the season and only the third on the ground for the Tigers. Hankins completed a 13-yard pass to Carlos Singleton for the other Memphis score.
One problem for Memphis, particularly in the first half, was the inability to hold Tulsa on third down. The Golden Hurricane converted seven of eight third down plays in the first half, keeping drives alive and enhancing its time of possession.
Memphis coach Tommy West said stopping Tulsa and forcing Golden Hurricane punts would have made for a closer game. But not only is Memphis struggling with implementing a new defensive scheme after West took over the defensive coordinator duties four games ago, the troops are thinned by injuries.
"The problem is we don't have enough defense to get off the field on third down," West said. "We don't have a third down defense. We are just now to the point that I think we can play our base defense. Now, we can take it and put a little more with it."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||7-9||8-16|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||3-3|
|TD||6:00||COURTNEY TENNIAL 1 YD RUN (JAROD TRACY KICK)|
Drive info: 16 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||12:55||RYAN BUGG 41 YD PASS FROM PAUL SMITH (JAROD TRACY KICK)|
Drive info: 12 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||8:33||JOSEPH DOSS 4 YD RUN (MATT REAGAN KICK)|
Drive info: 12 plays, 73 yards.
|TD||3:53||DEXTER TAYLOR 4 YD RUN (JAROD TRACY KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 54 yards.
|TD||0:13||COURTNEY TENNIAL 2 YD RUN (JAROD TRACY KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 35 yards.
|TD||11:30||CARLOS SINGLETON 13 YD PASS FROM MARTIN HANKINS (MATT REAGAN KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 57 yards.
|TD||9:13||COURTNEY TENNIAL 3 YD RUN (JAROD TRACY KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 59 yards.