Tigers look to respond after surprising loss to Tulane

Memphis Tigers going for first conference win of the season against UConn on Saturday

Mike Norvell Opening Statement UConn Week

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Memphis Tigers were taken by surprise in a 40-24 loss to the Tulane Green Wave last Friday. Tigers head coach Mike Norvell called the loss one that, “nobody expected,” after ending an 11 game win streak over the Green Wave.

The Tigers, 3-2 overall, are 0-2 in American Athletic Conference play this season, and now look for their first AAC win against the UConn Huskies on Saturday.

Norvell talked about the upcoming matchup against the Huskies, what went wrong against Tulane and more at his weekly press conference on Monday.

Opening statement...

"To wrap up this last week, we're obviously disappointed with Friday night's performance. We've had the chance to kind of decompress and watch the film. It's very similar to what I saw there on the sideline. It was a very uncharacteristic performance. In two-and-a-half years being here, it was not to the standard I expect our football team to play at, and it was not the standard they know what's necessary to be successful in our league. Going on the road, we played a Tulane team that was very motivated. A lot of credit goes to Coach (Willie) Fritz. Their team and their players beat us in every phase. We've got to come back, go to work and clean up the mistakes that were made. We've got to make sure when we hit the field Saturday at 6 o'clock that we come out with a great purpose and play at a high level. We've got to be a more detailed team and play more consistent in how we execute to achieve success playing in this league. Everybody on our football team is disappointed. Part of the reason we are in this situation are things we have allowed to take place and allowed to happen and it's hurt us in playing to the top level of our ability. We're going to continue to work. We had a good practice yesterday. Every one is owning where we are and what we've done to this point. We've got to continue to get better. I can tell you we know how to respond to adversity. We know how to right the ship. It comes down to hard work and great focus. I know our football team is going to do that."

On keeping the players motivated for the remainder of the season...

"There's no lack of motivation. These guys have great pride. This is a football team that has pride in their performance. It didn't show in the level that we wanted Friday, and that's why we got beat. At the end of the day, you watch film and take accountability and you correct the mistakes. You have to make sure that never happens again. This is a young football team. We have eight seniors, and four of those seniors were not available to play in the game. When you get in a situation like that on the road, somebody has to emerge. Someone has to step up and set the standard for the team and hold each other accountable with that. We're growing through it. I believe in these guys. I told them in the locker room right after, there's no group I'd rather be a part of this with than them. This is why I coach. It's fun and great when you win and everybody pats you on the back and tells you how good of a job you do, but the reason you coach is for these moments. Why you play the game is to show you are capable of wonderful response. It doesn't make losing or poor performance acceptable, but how you bounce back is going to show the character you have and what you're made of. In life, there's going to be setbacks and unfortunate situations. There's going to be bad days where you're not going to perform to the best you're capable of as a human. What do you do from there? That's the message to the team. That's the message to the coaches. Everyone has to look in the mirror. I've spent a lot of time evaluating what we're doing and how we've gotten to this point."

On offense versus Tulane...

"I'm obviously disappointed. We didn't do a good job in execution. Part of that credit goes to Tulane and what they did. They did what I expected them to do. They attacked us a little bit more. They forced us to win 1-on-1 matchups. I knew they were going to try to take away the run game. The first run play we had was an explosive run and a great play all around, but I think the next eight rushing attempts we were a little over one yard per carry. That is a challenge. Couple that with the negative plays you mentioned - the penalties that put us in long-yardage situations. We were never able to get into a rhythm. Even when we had a step forward, there seemed to be a step back with a penalty or negative play that followed. We really have to work on our consistency and execution. We watched the entire film together as an offense, and the 51 plays we went through, there's times nine or 10 guys are doing it right, but one little detail kept us from having the plays we're accustomed to. It was a great reality check of what it takes to be successful, and we have to maintain focus on that."

On playing on the road versus playing at home...

"We've had success on the road as well. We have a set routine of what we do. Anytime you play on the road, it is a challenge. When adversity strikes and you don't necessarily have that comfort of being in your home stadium, obviously the momentum swings you feel a little bit more on the road. That's where your maturity has to step up and the leadership has to emerge and push the team. That goes for everybody - coaches, players, we're all in it together. It's been unfortunate how we played. The Navy game, anyone that watched it I think it's pretty clear the three turnovers cost us possessions and plays. At Tulane, we didn't turn the ball over, but we didn't convert on third downs and we didn't execute at a high level. The most disappointing thing is an uncharacteristic performance of how we approached the game and how we approached what we did on the field."

On what to expect from UConn...

"This Saturday you'll see two teams that are very hungry for a victory. You look at their schedule; they've been through it. Every team they've played was undefeated at the time they played them. They've been on the road, they've had challenges and they're a young football team, to a greater extent than we are. On defense, it's mostly sophomores and freshmen but they do have talented guys. On offense, they're a little more experienced. They have a quarterback who is a dynamic player and they have some big-play receivers. Both teams are hungry for a victory. It's going to be two highly motivated teams, and the one that executes the best and performs at the highest level has a great chance to be successful."

On forcing more turnovers...

"It's something we emphasize and try and improve on in practice from a fundamental aspect of it. When you're on the field, it's about being relentless. It's about chasing the ball. It's about 11 guys with one purpose of imagining they are the only person on the field that can make the play. If you sit around hoping someone else will do their job or hoping the play is going to be made, when the ball gets to the ground then you might not be in the best position. We have to have that relentless spirit in flying around and making the most of the opportunity when you get that chance. It's been uncharacteristic of us because we've been one of the top two in the country the last two years in forcing turnovers. That's something we have to get corrected."

On having the support from the fan base...

“That’s what makes it so disappointing. We understand there is a lot of support for what we are doing - to see that many people go down to New Orleans to support this team, and for us not to play at a level I believe we’re capable of. I tell the guys all the time, ‘It’s about who you represent.’ The name on the back of their jersey will always be there because I want people to understand they represent their families. Their name needs to be important to them. Well, the name on the front of that jersey is important to me and it’s important to this community. Every time we take the field, we can never go out and perform at a level that’s less than our expectation. We’ve played at a high level here, and we’ve played passionately here. That needs to be something that continues, especially when you see the support of people sacrificing to go on the road and be there for us. We’re going to get that done.”

UConn vs. Memphis is set to kickoff Saturday 6 p.m. at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

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