NEW YORK -- Will Rip Scherer have the last laugh? Will the fans forgive the University of Memphis offensive woes if the Tigers can win seven games and go to a bowl game? Those are the story lines, going into the fourth game of the season.
"Winning ugly" is what fans are calling the Tigers modest two-game winning streak. It is not meant as as a compliment.
Heading into Saturday's Conference-USA opener at Army, Memphis (2-1) has scored only five touchdowns and four came against a horrible Louisiana-Monroe team. Lack of imagination in the play calling is particularly troublesome to Tiger fans.
But Scherer insists he is only interested in winning and doesnt mind winning ugly. He feels the best chance he has is to play a conservative, ground-oriented offense to enhance his teams obvious strengths -- defense and kicking. Memphis has the seventh-best defense in the nation. Ben Graves has punted the ball extremely well. And Playboy all-American Ryan White is a threat anytime Memphis gets inside the opponents 35.
The question for some fans is why, after five complete seasons under Scherer, does Memphis not have a more productive offense? Why are the Tigers forced to play games like last weeks 19-17 come-from-behind victory over Arkansas State? Why does Memphis rank 106 out of 115 Division I teams in total offense?
Lost in the unhappiness about the offense is the fact that Memphis is 2-1 for the first time since 1984. The fans might grumble about how they are doing it, but a win over Army Saturday will put Memphis exactly where it wants to be -- on track for a seven-win season and a bowl invitation.
And that will give Scherer a chance to have the last laugh.
** After ending a streak that saw the Tigers go from 1996 to 1999 without a road win, Memphis has now won four straight on the road dating back to October of last year. They go for five in a row this Saturday at Army.
** Quarterback Neil Suber is scheduled to start for the first time in 2000. He replaces Travis Anglin who is out with a sprained ankle.
** INJURY REPORT: Redshirt freshman linebacker Coot Terry sprained his knee this week in practice. He is doubtful. . . . . Senior starting linebacker Demorrio Shank (foot) is probable after missing the first three games. . . .Running back Dernice Wherry (shoulder) is doubtful. . . . Starting cornerback Marcus Smith, who missed the last two games, is probable. . . . Starting guard Josh Eargle (ACL) is out for the season. His replacement Trey Erye suffered a hyperextended elbow against ASU and is questionable.
You can write Dennis Freeland at: email@example.com