Coach Fuente warns No. 15 Memphis to clean up penalties
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Memphis coach Justin Fuente keeps warning his 15th-ranked Tigers that time is running out for them to clean up penalties heading into the final month on the schedule.
Fuente said one bad penalty could leave the Tigers ''sitting in the locker room crying our eyes out.''
The undefeated Tigers have a big penalty problem.
They average 88.6 in penalty yards, which is highest in the American Athletic Conference. Only Bowling Green has more in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Yes, Memphis is 8-0 and enjoying the highest ranking in school history, but Fuente sees too many ''selfish'' and ''foolish'' penalties.
He wants his team to get it corrected before Memphis hosts Navy on Saturday night.
The coach was clearly frustrated with his team's propensity for penalties after last week's 41-17 victory over Tulane. A night's sleep didn't help his mood, not with Navy visiting Saturday night.
''It wasn't a very fun team meeting, I assure you of that,'' Fuente said Monday.
Fuente has dealt with this issue for weeks. The Tigers were penalized for 106 yards against Tulane and 120 at Tulsa a week earlier. Even in the Tigers' 34-27 win over then-No. 13 Mississippi, Memphis was flagged for 10 penalties.
''It's very frustrating just because those are self-inflicted wounds that the other team is not doing anything to stop us from moving down the field or scoring touchdowns,'' quarterback Paxton Lynch said. ''It's us making stupid penalties whatever it may be, personal fouls, blocks in the back.''
Opponents have earned 25 first downs by Memphis penalties this season. Fuente can accept some penalties, but it's those he sees as unnecessary that irritate him. He noted three ''incredibly selfish penalties'' against Tulsa, and Fuente may be on the verge of sitting players who can't stop committing penalties.
So far, the mistakes haven't proved too costly with Memphis winning games by an average of 21 points. The Tigers have won five of their eight games by double-digit margins, outscoring opponents 191-85 in the second half.
But Fuente understands a penalty at the wrong time - whether from an overly aggressive play, a mistake or a foolish act - could prove more costly in the coming weeks when Memphis faces the American's top teams.
The Midshipmen (6-1, 4-0) are tied with Houston and Memphis atop the conference's West Division. After the Tigers play Navy, they visit No. 18 Houston and then No. 23 Temple, also undefeated and leading the East.
Junior linebacker Jackson Dillon said some players may be a bit ''hyped up'' in games. A touch of frustration from chasing a quarterback doesn't help.
''You're running around the field chasing him all day, and then you get right about to hit him and he throws it,'' Dillon said. ''You can't hit him, and we have a problem with that. It's all us. It's not anything anyone else is doing. We just have to play smarter football.''