Although they weren't thrilled about the eight week layoff in between games, the Memphis Tigers fell short in getting win number eight of the season. Falling to the Southern Miss Eagles 52-49.
Both offenses were explosive, but it was a late field goal that sealed the victory for the Eagles.
"We did everything we could offensively, our defense just could't contain their passing game. It was a tough loss, but we can still build on the last two months of the season heading into 2010".
Coach Thompson was visibly upset after the game, telling reporters it was an excellent contest to watch but his nerves were shot at the end.
Leonard Mackay put in his best performance of the season, going 18-27 for 350 yards and three touchdown passes.
The running tandem of Andrew Wallen and Richard Lawson was explosive again, as Wallen finished his career on a high note, running the ball 9 times for 120 yards and three touchdowns.
The defense struggled mightily, giving up five touchdowns through the air, although they did pick up five sacks.
The Memphis Tigers went into the 2009 season expecting to contend for the AAC Championship, but too many defensive mishaps and injuries to key players had the team barely squeaking over .500.
Here's our grades for each position group after an up and down season:
Quarterbacks: (B) - Senior Leonard Mackay had a respectable season, throwing for 1,979 yards, 16 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions in 11 games. His backup is uber recruit William Ledford, who will have to improve on his accuracy after a 51.7% completion percentage this season.
Runningbacks: (A+) - The tandem of Lawson and Wallace was great all season. The coaching both players ran for over 1,000 yards, 10+ touchdowns and six yards per carry. Wallace graduates and it should be a banner season for Lawson next year if he can control his fumbles (six on the season).
Receivers: (B) - The passing game wasn't the bread and butter of this team, but they still have playmakers. Senior Dennis Thierault caught 35 passes for a team high 620 yards and eight scores. We expect more from the passing game with a prize QB recruit coming into the fold.
Offensive line: (B+) - On the season the O-line gave up just 11 sacks and had two 1,000 yard rushers, so it is clearly viewed as a success. The team has done an excellent job rebuilding the future of that line, signing three tackles in this recruiting class.
Defensive line: (B-) - This was the heart and soul of the defense. They paced the game on both sides of the ball, helping the team win close ball games. Part of an extremely aggressive scheme, Jamaal Roche led the unit with seven sacks.
Linebackers: (B+) - The main component of the team finishing the season with 55 sacks was the linebacker unit. Redshirt freshman James Smith had a team high 9 sacks, and converted safety George Laird racked up six. Both players could be in line to make an even bigger leap next season.
Defensive Backs: (C) - Easily the poorest unit on the team, the secondary didn't do much picking up turnovers (9 interceptions from four players), and had 37 missed tackles from their starting safeties and corners. This will be a major place for improvement next season, and could they switch to more zone looks?
Special Teams: (C+) - The kickers went 13/18 on field goal attempts this year, while the team averaged 45 yards per punt on 60 attempts.
Season expectations: (F) - It didn't help that the team started the year off with six road games, but the game against Penn State was arguably their best non conference effort. A team expecting to contend for a possible New Year's Six Bowl tripped up in a number of trap games, and we expect the AD to work on revamping the schedule next year.
Recruiting: (B) - There haven't been many major signings outside of No. 74 overall player Floyd Dukes at quarterback, but the team has two 4* signings and 15 3* signings with three open scholarships remaining.
Word on the street is that the team will target high profile transfers for the rest of those scholarships, and we think there should be some excellent competition via the transfer portal.
We will have one final recruit recap once the class is officially signed, so stay tuned!
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