The score was 30-14 with 2 seconds left on the clock in the first half.
Matthew Wright, the kicker for UCF that had not missed all year lined up for a 44 yard FG to bring the Knights within 7.
The kick was no good- and the Tigers would carry a 3 score advantage into the locker room…alas, that was not to be.
Tigers’ coach Mike Norvell did that coaching thing- where you wait until the very last second to call a time out to “ice” a kicker. The jury is still out on that whole idea.
Of course Wright who came in to the game 5-5 on field goal attempts on the year (and has only missed once from that distance in two seasons) nailed the second attempt and it was almost as if the game ended right there.
The Tigers then squandered several opportunities in the second half and would up losing to UCF by a score of 31-30.
The most maddening of which was a play that occured on the first play of the 4th quarter. The Tigers had driven to the UCF 23 yard line and faced a 2nd and 12. The rain had really begun to fall, and the Tigers attempted a jet sweep to Kedarian Jones who fumbled and killed the Tigers momentum and gave UCF the lead as they drove 74 yards in 8 plays to give them a lead they would not relinquish.
Tiger fans will (rightfully so) point to the final play of the game where Tony Pollard was clearly being held while the ball was in the air. Pollard made a great catch, but because he was being tackled, he was unable to get out of bounds.
Tiger fans are also bemoaning a questionable holding goal that negated a 33 yard touchdown run by Darrell Henderson. I’ve had two different former OL at Memphis tell me it was a good call, so I’ll defer to them.
The reality is that neither play should have mattered.
The Tigers moved to the UCF 35 yard line on 2 sensational passes by Brady White. The second of which occured with 38 seconds left. Remarkably, the Tigers would only get two more plays- a false start which took the clock from 28 to 18 seconds, and then instead of spiking the ball to kill the clock, running another 9 seconds off before Brady White scrambled around for 7 seconds only to have Pollard unable to get out of bounds.
Whatever the circumstances, the Tigers have to find a way to respond, and fast. The Tigers travel to Columbia, Missouri to take on a set of Tigers that are also licking their wounds having lost 3 straight.
Coach Norvell and the Tigers have got some serious soul searching to do. The Tigers have given two games away and totally laid an egg for a third loss. They have as a team and a staff looked very uncomfortable in pressure situations.
Coach Norvell eluded to the rain on Saturday.
Well, it rained on UCF too. They didn’t worry about it, they just played their game.
The Tigers would have been served well to do the same.
If you’re wondering how remarkable this Memphis run has been, consider that the Tigers haven’t been at .500 outside of the first two games of the year since 2014 when the Tigers gave a game away at Houston to fall to 3-3 on October 11th. That team rebounded and won 7 straight to end the 2014 season.
Let’s hope the 2018 version of the Tigers has a similar response.