Coordinators assess Memphis loss

It didn't take long for Offensive Coordinator John Latina and Defensive Coordinator Chuck Driesbach to pinpoint what went wrong with the Rebels in their somewhat stunning, and certainly unexpected, 20-13 loss to the Memphis Tigers before an SRO crowd in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium last night.

"This is very disappointing," said Latina. "Any loss is disappointing, but to get our season off to this kind of start makes it extra disappointing. But that's where we are – we have to accept it, try to figure out what we did OK and what we have to do better, and get back to work. We don't have the luxury of dwelling on this one. It's a long season and we have to put this game behind us and move forward."

Latina got right to the point of the Rebels' offensive demise – lack of execution.

"We didn't execute very well in key situations," Lats continued. "Memphis did a good job, but we knew what they were going to do and just did not get the job done against the looks we had practiced against. We planned for the 3-3 and the 4-2 and a couple of other looks and that's what we got. He didn't do anything funky, so to speak. He did not rush the quarterback as much as I thought he might – it was more of a contain gameplan - and he did a good job of containing our draw game and our quarterback, but other than that it was a kind of vanilla gameplan for Joe Lee."

Latina assessed the play of new starting QB Micheal Spurlock, who did not have the kind of day anyone was hoping for or anticipating. He was a meager 11-31 passing for 182 yards against a defense that was set up to stuff the run and virtually dared the Rebs to throw.

"At times he did some good things, but at times he forced things and tried to make things happen that he probably shouldn't have. Any time you get an inexperienced player at that position, he will grow each and every week," Lats said kindly. "We expect him to look at the film tomorrow and Monday, see what he did wrong and grow from it. He will get better each and every week – we are sure of that.

"We expected him to play as good as he can play, but he had a rough night at times. It's not easy having your first start against the style of defense that was thrown at us. I think that threw his consistency off, but other players on the offense weren't as consistent as we would like either."

The running game – from the tailback slot – was adequate, but not what Latina was hoping for. Not enough for the coaches to stay with it like was planned.

"We wanted to run the ball, but Memphis knew that too and stacked the line of scrimmage. We tried to hit some passes and loosen them up some, but we weren't get enough in that area to back them off of us," he explained. "I thought Vashon (Pearson) had some good runs and we were pretty consistent with the run for the most part, but we opted to go to the passing game to give us some more room to run. If we had executed like we are capable of executing in the passing game, and had been able to back them off some, we could have run the ball a lot. We will go back and evaluate if we should have run more. My first thought is that we should have. We obviously didn't do it enough."

Latina was asked if there were any thoughts of pulling Spurlock from the game and giving backup Ethan Flatt an opportunity to move the team. He said no.

"When Micheal was cramping, we had Ethan ready, but he got over the cramps and went back in. There was no mention of pulling Micheal out of the game," he stated.

The injury situation from the game, from an offensive standpoint, wasn't too bad. Left Tackle Bobby Harris sprained his ankle, but Latina was pleased with his replacement, RS freshman Darryl Harris.

"I didn't think Bobby's injury had any impact on the game whatsoever because I thought Darryl went in and did a good job, a really good job. I've been high on him since he came on campus and he did not disappoint us at all," Latina noted.

Driesbach had mixed emotions about the defensive effort. Good in most cases, but some nagging problems mixed in. A veteran Memphis offense with a 3-year starter in Danny Wimprine at QB and a talented back in De'Angelo Williams had Driesbach worried going into the game. His fears were warranted.

"We got off to an unusual start. They kind of went right through us at first, but then we had a very good goalline stand, which is hard to do against a spread offense because you have to cover all the wideouts," he began. "We had our moments out there, but we missed too many tackles. We faced a great back who will have a career in the NFL, in my opinion, but we made him work for his yards. I know of two times we hit him in the backfield and he broke the tackles – that's great talent on his part and poor tackling on ours.

"I was pleased with a lot of things other than third down efficiency. We seemed to let them get those at the most inopportune times."

Driesbach was disappointed in some of the penalties, particularly those thrown against CB Trumaine McBride.

"I'm sitting a half mile up, it seems, looking through a foggy window with spectacles on. I don't know whether they were legitimate calls or not, it doesn't matter – they were called, but I just told Trumaine and all the DBs ‘don't ever stop playing that aggressively – that's the way we want you to play.' Coach (Jay) Hopson has done a great job with those kids and that's what we want from them," Driesbach said. "As for Trumaine, I thought he played very well. The way he played is the way he is coached to play."

Driesbach said he would have liked to have gotten more pressure on Wimprine, but Memphis' no-huddle offense was a thorn in his side.

"You can't make a call until they are literally on the line, so sometimes we thought we were going to get one look and we'd get another. We would guess a wide open set and we'd get a run set sometimes. Our kids adjusted to it very well, but it can limit your calls sometimes. With that considered, our kids played very hard and fairly effectively," he stated. "Memphis is an experienced offense that has been together a long time, has an excellent QB and TB, good receivers and a talented OL. That's tough to defend no matter what offense they are running.

"We also didn't blitz as much as we would normally like, but again the no-huddle is a factor in that and they throw a lot of timing passes too. They don't run a lot of different protections, but the ones they do, they are good at."

"I do think we played them much better this year than we did last year, but that's beside the point. We lost. That's just something I would look at as a coach."

Driesbach was pleased, for the most part, with the defensive front.

"There were a couple of runs through the middle that broke, but I thought we made Williams work for his yards. I think they'll be putting some ice on him tomorrow," he said. "I take my hat off to that whole group up front. Our guys hung in there. When you play an offense like theirs, you always feel like you are kind of on the edge, but our guys were composed and played hard for a lot of plays."

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