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Henry's Highlights
Thursday, October 30, 2003

By Henry Hinton
Broadcaster & Owner of Greenville Cable 7

These Tigers gauge West by different standard

©2003 GoPirates.com/Bonesville.net

Memphis coach Tommy West jokes that he was fired as coach of the Clemson Tigers because he didn’t win more than seven games and if he wins that many for the Memphis Tigers they’ll build a monument to him.

West started this season with the pressure of knowing he probably had to win to keep his job, not an enviable place for a head coach to be.

After one year as Rip Sherer’s defensive coordinator, West took over the head job in 2001 and promptly went 5-6. Last year, Memphis was 3-9 and the vultures began to circle over Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

The Tigers will host East Carolina in a 2 p.m. game on Saturday and West realizes what is at stake, the first non-losing season at Memphis since 1994. Former Memphis coach Chuck Stobart was fired at the end of that season after his third consecutive 6-5 season, a move that many think backfired on the program.

The Tigers will carry a 5-3 overall record into Saturday’s contest. They are 2-2 in Conference USA.

“Our guys know there is a chance for us to do something that hasn’t been done here in a while,” says West, referring to the chance to get a sixth win on Saturday. “We’ve got to keep them from getting TOO excited. We’ve got to just keep doing what we’ve been doing.

"I don’t worry about who we play or what their record is. I think anybody can beat anybody in our league. I’m not as concerned about East Carolina as I am us. If we go play, protect the ball and don’t make crazy mistakes in the kicking game we’ll have a chance to win it.”

ECU will be facing a team that appears to be on a roll when it squares off with West’s Tigers. Memphis defeated Tulane last week 41-9 and the week before destroyed a Houston team that had easily beaten the Pirates in Greenville on Sept. 30.

Memphis had the Cougars down 45-0 before West inserted his second team defense. Houston did not score until the 7:19 mark of the fourth quarter. UM won that game 45-14.

The difference for the Tigers this year, according to their head coach has been in the turnover department.

“We’re playing pretty good because we’re protecting the ball and not making mistakes,” said West. “Like most teams that struggle you just make enough mistakes to lose and we’re not doing that right now.”

Another reason Memphis is winning is because of two key players who are making plays for the Tigers on offense. Running back DeAngelo Williams has rushed for over 100 yards in seven consecutive games and leads the nation in all-purpose yards. Quarterback Danny Wimprine has already thrown for more than 2,000 yards for the second consecutive year.

West knows the importance of these two Tigers to his recent success.

“DeAngelo is about as good as I’ve been around”, he says. “Danny is protecting the football right now.”

Listen closely and there might even be some advice in Coach West’s deep south drawl for Pirate Coach John Thompson and the ECU staff.

“People in early downs are trying to stop DeAngelo and we’ve been throwing the ball,” West says. “Then on third down, they’ve been walking out and playing coverage and he’s been running for a bunch of yards. Hopefully people will keep doing it.”

Advice or decoy? You decide.

West also credits this year’s Memphis success in part to the hiring of legendary defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn, who seems to make the rounds in that part of the college football world. Dunn has served stints in recent years as coordinator at Mississippi State, Arkansas, Ole’ Miss and South Carolina. This is his second tour of duty at Memphis.

“They’re going to make something happen for you,” West says of Dunn’s defensive unit. “I just feel like when you’re our style of offense you have to have a defense that is going to create some turnovers for you and that is what we had not been doing. We’re getting it done this year.”

As for the recent conference affiliation issues that have surfaced, leading to the reported looming departures of Louisville and Cincinnati to the Big East, West has an interesting view.

“I’m glad we’re not going to the Big East. We’re a terrible fit there," he said.

"I just don’t see Memphis and Rutgers being a hell of a rivalry. Football-wise, if they add the teams they are talking about with Central Florida and Marshall, I think this league will be better, so I don’t have a problem staying where we are.”

As for Saturday, West realizes what is at stake when the Pirates come to town and he is not taking it lightly. However, with four games remaining, Memphis needs just one more victory to become bowl-eligible.

Memphis has not been to a bowl game since 1971 when the Tigers (then Memphis State) defeated San Jose State in the Pasadena Bowl.

If West’s team continues the kind of play it has displayed the last two weeks, somebody in Memphis better start building that Tommy West monument.

Send an e-mail message to Henry Hinton.

Click here to dig into Henry Hinton's GoPirates.com archives.

02/23/2007 10:12:17 AM

 

 

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