New-look Memphis first up for UTM
Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012 12:00 pm
UT Martin begins the 2012 football campaign stepping up and into the unknown.
The Skyhawks kick off with a relatively short trip due south to Memphis to take on the Tigers at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, game time set at 6 p.m.
The game is a step up, obviously, in classification as Memphis is a Bowl Championship squad that begins its last year in Conference USA before becoming a Big East member next July. The mysterious part comes from the coaching staff, totally overhauled when Justin Fuente took over after the Tigers posted a 2-10 record.
Fuente became the Tigers’ 23rd head coach on Dec. 8, taking his first head coaching job after spending five seasons on the Texas Christian staff, first a running backs coach and then offensive coordinator.
The Horned Frogs developed into one of the nation’s top offenses under Fuente and posted a 4-1 record in bowl games.
While the game marks the first time UTM has faced Fuente as coach, it will be the third time the Skyhawks have seen him across the field.
UTM played against Fuente twice when he was a quarterback at Murray State. Those meetings did not go so well for the Skyhawks as Fuente threw five touchdown passes in each game, wins of 47-35 (1998) and 62-14 (1999).
Fuente brought in a new staff, led by offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey and defensive coordinator Barry Odom. Those two lead a bowl-experienced staff, Odom with eight bowls and Dickey with five. With the other seven coaches as well as Fuente’s five postseason dates, the Memphis staff has coached in 47 bowl games in all.
UT Martin will try to counter the newness within the Tigers’ program with its own stability.
Head coach Jason Simpson enters his seventh season at the helm, while the team will feature three second-year seniors in quarterback Derek Carr, running back Jason McNair and safety Julius McNair.
College Sports Madness and College Football Performance Watch List certainly like the Skyhawks’ roster with 11 players selected to various All-OVC and All-America lists.
Saturday’s game breaks a run of six consecutive years that UTM has opened a season in a different state. UTM also opened on the road in Tennessee in 2010, playing the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
Memphis is perfect against FCS teams, owning an all-time 10-0 vs. those lower-level Division I programs.
Memphis is 36-19-9 against current Ohio Valley Conference programs.
Oddly, the two camps list a different overall series record, despite so few meetings between the programs.
On the Martin side, the record is listed as 5-0 in favor of the Tigers, while Memphis gives itself a 5-2 record, including a 41-14 triumph in 2009. Published in The WCP 8.30.12