After a couple of years worth of getting the raw end of close games, the Cards got past Memphis unconventionally with defensive and special teams touchdowns, 25-28.
I made the trip down to enemy territory, getting lost in western KY in the process (MapQuest sucks!). On one stretch in Leichfield, we were held up by an Amish Family trotting along the highway on their horse-and-carriage (no joke). We reached the stadium with little time to spare and were greeted with some delicious Memphis-style BBQ up in press row (view LEFT). Made the 7 1/2 hour that should have been 6 worth the while.
What also made the trip worthwhile was seeing the Cards catch a couple of breaks and get the win. Not to say we were outplayed, but Memphis ran 31 more plays for 182 more total yards and 220 more passing yards. The Tigers scored 4 of 5 times in the red zone and converted 4 more third downs. Memphis QB Arkelon hall outpassed hunter cantwell 351 to 133. Add in a few big plays and a few that DE Rodney Gnat called "grade school" and on paper it seems that they won by 20. Usually that would be the case, but not last night. All the big plays the Cards needed over the last year seemed to happen all at once. Nevertheless, Cantwell got the most important stat of all, the W.
Trent Guy runs back a kick on his first official return after Memphis had seemed to take the momentum from the Cards. Johnny Patrick knew this week's game plan said Memphis K Vinny Zaccario' boot had a low-release and got a block after "guaranteeing" he would block it to the coaching staff. Brandon Heath (RIGHT), who has been waiting for some action for 3 years, finally got his shot and returned the block to the house. Gnat gave the squad a much-needed insurance score when his forced fumble was returned by Patrick for what ended up being the GW score. I'm sure Krag didn't draw it up that way. I'm also sure he doesn't care. A local Memphis reporter asked Krag how it felt to "steal" a victory. Coach looked at the guy and said " We didn't steal it we earned it". A bold question from a guy covering a team that scored TDs on a fake timeout/direct-snap run and a HB Toss-Throwback. Who's trying to steal the game here?
Trent Guy said after the game with a smirk that he still wasn't 100%. It sure didn't seem that way as his big play ability shined with a 90-yard kickoff return and 43 yard reception for touchdowns. The Cards have been lacking "big play" capability before last night. Now that Krag has confidence that Guy is in good enough playing shape to absorb a possible big hit, I would expect the Cards to stretch the field a little more. Even TE pete Nochta got in the mix with a TD on broken coverage where no one was within 15 yards of him on his way to the end zone.
On the defensive side, Ron English was subbing players in-and-out regularly in order to keep them fresh. With the 3 TDs on special teams or defense, the unit did not get much rest. this let players like Gnat (1 sack, 1.5 TFL and 1 FF) and Daniel Covington (14 tackles) show they could be depended on to lead the defense at times. 19 different players made at least 1 tackle for the Cards and that doesn't include special teams. Unless Jeff Brohm's offense is going to be mistake free, the defense must force turnovers which they did last night. If they hadn't the outcome of the game would have been different.
It wasn't pretty. It was a much-needed win to regain momentum coming home for tough games against Middle Tennessee and South Florida the next two weeks. The big plays will be essential to win those games. let's hope they all weren't left in Memphis.
photos courtesy of my phone and the Courier-Journal