Two teams in desperate need of a victory meet late Saturday at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
The University of Tulsa, sitting at 1-4 and coming off its worst American Athletic Conference defeat, hosts a Memphis team that has dropped back-to-back heartbreakers by a combined five points.
“We’ve got to get back to our style of football and what we do,” TU coach Philip Montgomery said. “And this week is about that. It’s about us. Obviously Memphis is talented. It’s going to be a great contest for us, but this has got to be about us and what we have to do.”
After showing progression in previous outings and being competitive with the likes of Oklahoma State and Ohio State, the Hurricane took a significant step backward with a 45-10 thumping against Houston last week.
“It was disappointing,” safety Kendarin Ray said. “We know what we are capable of doing and showing out there for the fans and for our team. We hope that we can improve this week and be ready for the homecoming game.”
While TU has struggled in the early going, Memphis has surrendered sizeable leads in back-to-back losses. The Tigers were up 21-0 before falling 28-21 to UTSA and they had a 17-0 advantage in a 34-31 defeat at Temple.
“They’ve really come out of the gates … so we’ve got to do a good job early because they have done a good job of starting fast,” Montgomery said. “They probably, if they’re being honest with themselves, (would say they) haven’t finished the way they wanted to finish.”
When the teams last played in 2019, the Hurricane failed to finish strong, missing a 29-yard field goal as time expired. Memphis escaped with the 42-41 win and went on to capture its first outright conference championship in 50 years.
“It was a missed kick that probably changed the fortunes of a lot of people in this program,” said coach Ryan Silverfield, who was elevated from assistant that December. “Probably helped get me to where I’m sitting today.”
Whereas the Tigers are two seasons removed from a conference title, TU finished runner-up in 2020. Those successes are in the past, and each team has had its share of struggles in the early going of this year.
“We didn’t play up to our standard of football (last week),” Montgomery said. “We set a standard of the style of play and the way we want to play around here, and we’ve got to make sure that we are working and competing at that level.”