Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 8, 2014 10:53am
More than two decades after helping pour the slab and install the pavers for the University of Miami football dynasty, Tommy Tuberville is headed back to his old construction site -- sort of.
A Hurricanes assistant from 1986-93, Tuberville leads his reeling Cincinnati team (2-2) into Sun Life Stadium for a noon encounter with UM (3-3). The 'Canes' current loss total equals the number of national title rings Tuberville earned while helping lead UM at the old Orange Bowl.
The Bearcats coach suggests replicating such a run -- Miami won four national titles from 1983-91 -- is more difficult than ever in college football's current power-conference climate.
"That's gonna be very hard to do," said Tuberville, who likely faces the 'Canes without starting QB Gunner Kiel (ribs). "We were fortunate when I was there in the earlier years, in the '80s, in that we were independent. We pretty much played who we wanted. We played good football teams because nobody wanted to play us, and we had to go on the road a lot to play games.
"It's pretty important that you get into a conference now, especially for teams like Miami because, again, it's very hard to get a schedule. I can remember (former UM athletic director) Sam Jankovich and (former 'Canes coach) Jimmy Johnson struggling to get people to play us. Florida dropped us; Florida State was the only one that kind of hung in there and kept a commitment. So it was hard to get people to come to South Florida."
NEW 'KING' IN MEMPHIS: For those who presumed Memphis' near-upset of UCLA in early September was a fluke, the Tigers have spent the past month offering a stern rebuttal.
In the wake of Saturday's 41-14 road rout of Cincinnati, preceded by a solid effort in a 24-3 loss at No. 3 Ole Miss, Coach Justin Fuente's team appears as bona fide as the shag carpet in Graceland.
Memphis, winner of 12 total games the previous five seasons, is thriving behind the conference's top rushing offense (210 ypg), a sparkling turnover margin (plus-1.4), and 6-foot-7 redshirt sophomore QB Paxton Lynch (1,158 passing yards, seven TDs, three INT)
"It's really no different message than when we were struggling...you've got to block that stuff out and continue to work to get better every single week," Fuente said.
"I told our kids before the season started, there were two things I knew for certain about this squad: One, I knew for certain we'd have success. And the other thing was, I knew for certain we'd face adversity. And how we handled both of those two situations would determine kind of our long-term fate."
DROP ZONE: Now that he has settled his arms race at least for the time being, Houston coach Tony Levine can focus on the Cougars' collective hands.
The Cougars dropped at least a half-dozen passes -- including at least three by top receiver Deontay Greenberry -- in Thursday's 17-12 loss to UCF, partially tarnishing an inspired relief effort from sophomore QB Greg Ward Jr. (10-for-17, 116 yards, 31 rushing yards). Ward will start Saturday at Memphis in place of 2013 AAC Rookie of the Year John O'Korn.
"You can't say one (drop) was bigger than another one," Levine said. "We had dropped passes down the field that would've given us a first down and we had dropped passes that would've gained us 4 yards, and they're all impactful.
"We certainly don't rely on just our receivers and running backs catching enough balls over the course of an hour-and-45-minute practice. They're getting out early or staying after catching balls...I think it was a combination of a number of things the other night and it certainly had an effect on the outcome."
ODDS AND ENDS: Houston PK Kyle Bullard, who converted four lengthy field goals (39, 42, 51, 49 yards) against UCF, has made a school-record 18 in a row dating to last season. ... Mild disclaimer about SMU's 0-5 start -- four of its games have been against teams (Baylor, East Carolina, Texas A&M, TCU) currently ranked in the top 25. ... UCF, 9-0 all-time in AAC play, has won six of those games by five or fewer points.