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Tough times test can-do spirit of gridiron Tigers

After a loss on the road last weekend (Oct. 13), the Tigers returned to Memphis with their fifth loss of the season. East Carolina proved to be too much for the hometown team to handle.

With the final score 41 to 7, it is easy see this was a one-sided affair. ECU has proven to be one of the better teams in the conference this year and it isn't very shocking that they defeated Memphis. Yet, the game did get ugly fast and Memphis just had an overall bad outing.

Considering the Tigers are slated to play the University of Central Florida Knights this weekend, it doesn't look to get any easier for them. Memphis has one win in five tries 1-5 this season. A generous outlook for the Tigers would be finishing up at 3 and 9.

Which leads to a bigger question: What is going to happen once Memphis makes the leap to the Big East?

The man that is going to bear most of that burden going forward is first-year head coach Justin Fuente. Thus far into his short tenure, he has tried to be realistic about the state of the program and optimistic about building for the future. He continued along those lines this past weekend.

"We have to understand the process of building a program and what it takes day in and day out," he said.

"I think it's important to not get too high after the successes while managing the lows as well," said Fuente, when ask about the Tigers coming off their first win against Rice only to get beat the next game.

As for Fuentes' plans for the future, look no further than Memphis' last two opponents.

"We can have that atmosphere in our home stadium that they have at East Carolina. We can develop players like that to the strength level, physical level and the accountability level that they've got," he said.

"When you look at East Carolina and you look at Central Florida, you think we can do that."

And undoubtedly, Memphis shares a few similarities with UCF and with a few of the other teams that are making the leap to the Big East next year.

Memphis has a large stadium with a really nice new Jumbotron and rocking sound system. But when you take away all the bright lights and fancy new big screen, it always comes down to one thing: winning.

While it's possible that stepping into a higher-profile conference boost might enhance the Tigers' ability to attract some better recruits over the next few seasons, Memphis has to take into account that it also will be playing better competition.

For now, the Tigers are staying focused, looking to take down UCF this homecoming weekend (Oct. 20) at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Memphis is an obvious underdog in this game, as the Knights are another one of the heavyweights in C-USA.

The cold reality is that it's going to be tough sledding for the University of Memphis football team for the foreseeable future.

And when the going gets tough....

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