"Today was a real enthusiastic practice, which was good," began head coach Dana Dimel. "We've come out enthusiastic the last couple days and I've been very pleased with that."
Having not played a game in two weeks by the time the Cougars take the field Saturday at the Liberty Bowl, the Cougars have spent the past ten days refocusing and looking towards the second half of the season. In order to take that step, Dimel and his staff have stressed the necessity of the entire team stepping it up a notch.
"We (coaching staff) just rested the guys last week a little bit, gave them a long weekend and gave them some time to watch some other college football games," Dimel said of the off-week. "We need to get back into perspective that there is still a ton to be gained from this season, that we're still right in the middle of the conference race."
Which brings the strong defensive force fielded by Memphis into the picture. The Cougars face the Tigers this weekend in a sixty-minute physical battle that kicks off the second half of the season, with the final five games against intra-conference opponents.
"It's going to be a real physical game and a game where every play is significant. We need our defense to step up and play really well in this ball game (at Memphis)," continued Dimel. "They've probably had as good a practice week this week as they've had since fall camp.
That's what we were hoping we'd garner from the open week, is have our team prepared--as far as mental preparation--as well as they have been since the first ball game of the season (at Rice)," continued Dimel. "I felt like we went out the first game and played a very physical defense, a very emotional defense. And we really haven't played that way defensively that consistently throughout a game since that ball game (at Rice). The open week hopefully allowed us to do that, I think it has."