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SPORTS ARENA

Heartbreaking Loss Spoils Tigers' Conference Debut

 

 

By William Larsha, Jr., Columnist/Sports Reporter

 

The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway

 

MEMPHIS, TN- The University of Memphis Tigers met the University of Central Florida on October 5, 2013 at the Liberty Bowl for what would be the first game for both teams in the new American Athletic Conference. The heavily favored UCF Knights came into the game with a record of 3-1 and 2-0 on the road. They have dominated the Tigers recently having won eight straight over Memphis, the longest streak against any single opponent in UCF history.

 

But this year they were facing a different Tiger squad from those in years past. Second year head coach Justin Fuente's team suffered a close 17-15 loss to Middle Tennessee, but followed with a 31-7 drubbing of Arkansas State. In both games, marked improvement could be seen from prior years, especially on the defense.

 

The Knights and Tigers battled throughout.  Memphis began the scoring on a 16 yard run from Brandon Hayes with 11:25 left in the 1st quarter. UCF kicked a field goal with 1:46 left to bring the score to 7-3. The Tigers' defense held strong and the half ended with the same score

 

In the third quarter, UCF scored on a 1 yard touchdown run making it 10-7. Memphis kicked a field goal with 2:19 left to tie the game at 10.

 

The Tiger defense held UCF to a 3 and out and got the ball on their own 38. Later in the drive, they faced a 4th and 6 and faked a punt to keep the drive alive. After reaching the 13 yard line, freshman Sam Craft scored on a 13 yard run.

 

The Tiger defense continued to give UCF fits, however the Knights battled to score by recovering their own fumble in the end zone to tie the game at 17 with about 2 minutes left to play.

 

The following sequence led to the heartbreak. The Tigers fumbled the ensuing kickoff and it was returned for a touchdown by UCF giving them a 24-17 lead. Not ones to give up, the Tigers returned the next kickoff for a touchdown but as luck would have it, it was negated by a holding call. Even so, the Tigers drove down to the UCF 8 and were poised to tie the game when their third interception thrown sealed the win for UCF.

 

After the game, Coach Fuentes summed up the heartbreak by saying.  "We can't let this linger. We can't let a team beat you twice. It's life. We learn a lot of great lessons in this sport. Life isn't always easy."

 

This one sure wasn't an easy one to take.