Memphis Tigers @ Mississippi State Bulldogs Football Recap
Mississippi State 49, Memphis 7
The Larry Porter era got off to a rough start, as his Memphis Tigers (1-0) were taken behind the woodshed by the Mississippi State Bulldogs (1-0), losing 49-7 before more than 56,000 fans in Starkville, Mississippi.
Porter had been very close to the vest in his offseason remarks about his team. Reporters from Memphis papers (such as the Memphis Commercial-Appeal) wryly made references to the fact that Porter wanted to disclose very few things about his ballclub, with this Saturday’s road clunker serving as a perfect example of why the Memphis coach stayed mum in the weeks leading up to this game. Yes, in the first game of a new coaching era following the middling reign of Tommy West, the Tigers did not display the new attitude or transformed profile which they’re hoping for near the banks of the Mississippi River.
Memphis wasted a promising start. Junior linebacker Terrance Thomas picked off a Chris Relf pass at the 50, returning it 5 yards to the Mississippi State 45. The drive stalled and sophomore kicker Paulo Henriques missed a 49 yard field goal, which pretty much summed up the Tigers’ afternoon. If it wasn’t a missed field goal, then it was a drive-killing penalty doing Memphis in. The Tigers were penalized eight times for 88 yards to go along with two missed field goals and two interceptions. Frankly, Mississippi State didn’t need the help.
Led by freshman quarterback Tyler Russell’s four touchdown passes, the Bulldogs put up 569 yards of total offense, including 372 passing yards. Russell completed 13-of-16 passes for 256 yards passing and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Sophomore receivers Chad Bumphis and Brandon Heavens both caught two touchdown passes. Bumphis finished with 100 yards receiving on 4 catches while Heavens had 5 catches for 112 yards.
Along with having the better name, sophomore Cannon Smith was the more effective of the two Memphis QBs that got burn on Saturday, completing 10-of-15 passes for 111 yards. His 27-yard strike to Marcus Rucker accounted for the Tigers’ lone score.
The Tigers have to address lots of problems emerging from this blowout loss, but the biggest issue of all is their secondary. The back line of Memphis’ defense allowed three touchdown plays of at least 51 yards, and the Tigers also coughed up three other touchdown plays that covered at least 20 yards. In other words, the victorious Bulldogs scored only one red-zone touchdown… because they rarely had to snap the ball inside the Memphis 20. Big plays must be shut down for a Memphis team that plays in a pass-happy conference.
Both teams begin league play next week. Memphis travels to Greenville, North Carolina, to square off with pass-happy East Carolina (1-0). Mississippi State begins SEC play by hosting Auburn in a Thursday night primetime scrap.