Tigers Return To AAC Action On Saturday

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This is the University of Memphis’ transcript from Justin Fuente’s Monday news conference before Tigers game at South Florida.

Opening Statement

“Obviously we’re excited to get the victory last week. I’m very happy that our kids found a way to pull one out in a close game. I’m not exactly thrilled the way we conducted ourselves but we’re in the process of getting those things changed. I was very excited to see our guys continue to battle and play great red zone defense.”

On the team’s performance against UT Martin

“We did some good things. I think the things we talked about as a team – accountability to each other, ability to keep our cool under duress. Things don’t always go the way you want them to go. Reverting back to old bad habits is not the answer. Continuing to plug along and battle and put the team first is the way to handle adversity. I felt like we kind of snapped out of that, and got back to that kind of mindset.”

On playing on the road

“I think our guys have done a decent job of that. We’ve played some good people on the road and given ourselves an opportunity to win. They look forward to the focus and challenge of going on the road. We need to find a way to get over the hump and we have a heck of a challenge. This is a team (South Florida) that has made huge strides from the first game of the season. Defensively, they are very good. Their defensive front is large, athletic and well-coached. Their offense has found a groove. In the Houston game, they brought their young kid (Mike White) in and he played really well. I know coach (Willie) Taggart’s mindset and the way he would like his offense to look is probably different than it looked when he inherited that program. It is two different philosophies. He’s finding ways to meld those together so it looks the way he wants it to look.”

On the team leading the country in penalties

“First of all, I think it’s unfair to just point a finger at the kids. I think we have to do a great job as a coaching staff – self-evaluating our emphasis and the way we’re going about it, and we have done that. We’re going to look at some things and emphasize some things a little bit differently. I view it as the ability to maintain your focus and understanding you’re hurting everybody in the group when you take those actions upon yourself.”

On facing Willie Taggart in the past

“I haven’t played him as a head coach but we played coach Taggart when he was at Stanford and I was at TCU and then played against him when he was at Western (Kentucky) and I was at Illinois State. We actually played against each other as quarterbacks when I was at Murray State and he was at Western Kentucky. The identity that he is trying to invoke over there is one that is a very physical, punishing run game and good defense and special teams. That’s what they did at Western Kentucky and that’s what he’s trying to get done there.”

On playing against Willie Taggart

“It was really close. His jersey is retired at Western Kentucky. He was a fantastic option quarterback. They ran it a lot and we threw it a lot. We barely beat them in a high scoring game.”

On if South Florida will make changes after bringing in a freshman quarterback

“He played really well in the Houston game so I would imagine they will continue to develop and evaluate and see what they feel good about him doing. We’ll defend what we see.”

On the defense facing an offense that has been struggling

“It’s going to be a rough game – the way they play defensively and the way we’re capable of playing defensively. It’s important that we play well. It will come down to us doing the right thing from a discipline standpoint and from a technique and effort standpoint in order to give ourselves a chance.”

On the play of Sam Craft

“What surprises me about him is the fact that he seems to be able to move around effortlessly from spot to spot whether he’s in the backfield or at wide receiver. The physicality of playing running back or running with the football for a guy that played quarterback is sometimes a new endeavor, and for him it hasn’t been anything different. He’s been able to jump right in there and go.”

On Brandon Hayes

“Brandon’s going to be our guy. He knows that and our offense knows that. Brandon has earned our trust, and we’re going to continue to put him out there. I don’t want him in there if he’s worn down and tired. We’ll put other people in there, but he’s going to be the guy.”