Although it was a controlled scrimmage, first-year head coach Justin Fuente's Tigers showed some offensive fireworks in the University of Memphis' Blue-Gray Game Saturday, before an estimated crowd of 4,000 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Memphis ran 82 plays in the spring game, but afterwards, Fuente saw room for improvement.
"There was some good and some bad, and something to be learned from all of it," said Fuente following the scrimmage. "I still don't think we understand offensively quite the tempo that we want to get in and out and move around with. I think the kids are trying, but it is hard for them to do it consistently."
The Tigers offense had 16 offensive series with quarterbacks Jacob Karam and Taylor Reed leading the squad eight times apiece. Karam, a junior transfer from Texas Tech, was 7-of-16 passing for 159 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, while Reed, a returning sophomore, went 8-of-16 for 58 yards through the air.
After each quarterback had two series, Karam led the Memphis offense on the fifth drive to a touchdown. Karam was 4-of-5 passing for 68 yards on the 11-play drive, which was capped off with a three-yard scoring toss to Alan Cross. Earlier on the possession, a Karam-to-Cross 17-yard connection on fourth down kept the drive going.
Four possessions later, Karam led the Tigers offense to its second score, but in a quicker fashion. On the first play of the drive, Karam lofted a pass down the right sideline that Kevin Wright hauled in over the defender around the 40 yard line and then raced to the end zone for the touchdown. The play covered 70 total yards.
The Tigers' final score came on the last series of the game. Starting from 35 yards out, Karam hit Tyriq Patrick on an out pattern for a 24-yard gain to the 11 yard line. From there, redshirt freshman Clarence Marshall picked up the last 11 yards on a scoring scamper into the end zone.
"I think Jacob (Karam) moved around and made some plays today," said Fuente. "I think he forced one ball. He has to learn not to hold it so long, and that it is not a bad thing to throw it away sometimes. He did make some plays today, and so did Taylor (Reed).
"I am pleased with their work ethic and progress and dedication to the craft. Obviously, I still have to look at the film to see how they played, but I am happy with both of them."
Marshall led the Tigers rushing attack with 43 yards on five carries and a score, while redshirt junior Jaquise Cook had 40 yards on seven carries. Junior Jerrell Rhodes added 28 yards on 11 rushes.
Wright had 81 yards on three catches to pace the receiving corps. Marcus Rucker had two catches for 39 yards, and Reggie Travis grabbed one pass for 29 yards.
Senior defensive lineman Zach Gholson led the Memphis defense with four tackles and two sacks, while Reggis Ball added two sacks and Anthony Brown had two TFL.
"Defensively, I thought we gave up too many big plays," added Fuente. "We have to do whatever we can to get the guy on the ground in order to let us play another snap. I am certainly glad we have another practice on Monday. We have a lot of work to get accomplished."
The Tigers close spring drills with two practices Monday and Wednesday at the Murphy Athletic Complex. Season tickets are available for just $55 for all six games at the Liberty Bowl in 2012 and can be purchased at www.gotigersgo.com.
"I think by and large, as a team, we have come a long way throughout the spring," said Fuente. "We have a long way to go, obviously, but I think from a level of expectations, from a level of work ethic and an accountability standpoint, I think we have made strides."