Just two weeks into the 2009 college football season, Coach Tommy West was already feeling the heat and hearing the whispers.
The opening loss to Ole Miss was a highly competitive match-up until nine minutes remained in the game. A late Tiger touchdown cut the deficit to a very manageable 10 points, 24-14.
Another defensive stop or forced turnover would have left the home team with a decent chance of trimming the lead even further.
Instead, the Rebels marched down the field for a back-breaking touchdown, and ran away to a 45-14 victory that will be the most misleading final score this season. . . anywhere.
The 31-14 thrashing at the hands of Middle Tennessee State (!) was, in a word, depressing. Memphis has more talent across the board than MTSU does.
A loss on the road is one thing, no matter the skill levels on either team; being routed by an inferior team, no matter where it is, can only be considered a disappointment.
A quarterback controversy, that West had worked so diligently to avoid, erupted with Vesuvian intensity. There was no way around it; after scoring an impressive 27 points per contest in 2008, 14 PPG in 2009 was simply unacceptable.
Through it all, Tommy West bore the burdens of the football program, and met the heightened expectations of an entire city, with his normal blend of dignity, optimism, and realism.
"We've just got to do better."
You never had to listen to West very long before you would hear him say that this season. Of if he did not say those exact words, something along those lines.
The effort was there, the team was playing hard; the results simply were not there. West knew it, the team knew it, the fans knew it. It was plain for all to see.
That's why the 41-14 victory over UT-Martin was so timely.
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