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Coach Justin Fuente, QB Paxton Lynch help Memphis make name for itself

Memphis Coach Justin Fuente and quarterback Paxton Lynch have helped Memphis open the season 6-0.

Memphis Coach Justin Fuente and quarterback Paxton Lynch have helped Memphis open the season 6-0.

(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Two people who have been operating under the radar are starting to get some attention, and deservedly so.

Take a bow, Justin Fuente and Paxton Lynch.

Fuente is the football coach at Memphis; Lynch is his quarterback.

After a 37-24 win over No. 13 Mississippi on Saturday, Memphis (6-0) has the third-longest winning streak in major college football — 13 games, dating to last season. Only Ohio State and Texas Christian have gone longer without losing.

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Not bad for a fourth-year coach who has a 23-20 record at a school that was 5-31 in the three seasons before he took over.

Memphis is best known as a basketball school, but a crowd of 60,241 showed up to watch the Tigers take on a team that only a month ago defeated Alabama. It was the largest crowd at the Liberty Bowl since 2006.

Lynch, who is 6 feet 7 and 245 pounds, did not disappoint. He completed 39 of 53 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception — his first of the season.

Memphis had not defeated a nationally ranked opponent since 1996, and afterward fans streamed onto the field.

Lynch had to watch himself.

“I got hit harder in that pile [of people] than I did the whole game with all those fans smacking me on top of the head,” he said.

Lynch came into the game having completed 70.5% of his passes, the third-best completion rate in the nation. He has passed for 300 yards or more in five consecutive games.

Temps in charge

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Fuente could be an attractive candidate for larger programs looking to make a change at head coach.

There are currently five interim coaches leading Football Bowl Subdivision teams: Clay Helton at USC, Shawn Elliott at South Carolina, Mike Locksley at Maryland, Bill Cubit at Illinois and Mike Canales at North Texas.

Sooners or later

Oklahoma was delayed for more than eight hours by mechanical issues to its airplane before arriving at Manhattan, Kan., for its game against Kansas State.

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But it didn’t take the No. 19 Sooners long to hit stride once they got there. They scored their first touchdown in just 1 minute 4 seconds to start a 55-0 victory.

Oklahoma was scheduled to depart Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City at 2:45 p.m. CT Friday, but finally took off at 11 p.m.

Team officials said during the wait the Sooners studied film, then watched the Cincinnati-Brigham Young and Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on television.

Those things clearly didn’t break all the boredom.

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Center Ty Darlington took to Twitter, messaging @KState_Football to ask whether the Wildcats “would be willing to meet us halfway and play in a parking lot or prairie.”

Kenny Mossman, a senior associate athletic director, tweeted: “Downside: We’re still waiting on a plane to take us to Manhattan. Upside: It’s a beautiful night to hang out on a tarmac.”

Mossman later added: “Not saying I’m bored out here, but I did look [up] the definition of tarmac, which is actually short for tarmacadam.”

The game was the definition of a rout. Oklahoma outgained Kansas State 568 yards to 110 and had 30 first downs to the Wildcats’ seven.

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For Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops, the game was a homecoming of sorts. He was on the Kansas State staff from 1989-95 and now has a 6-0 record in returns as a head coach.

The Sooners were upset by Texas last week, but have won 35 consecutive games after a loss, dating back to October 1999, Stoops’ first season as coach.

Animal house

It was not a great week for a couple of the animals who serve as college mascots.

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Louisiana State’s tiger, Mike VI, will not make any more appearances at Tiger Stadium this football season, the school announced Saturday.

The news came on the heels of Texas’ announcing that its longhorn steer mascot, Bevo XIV, had died in his sleep after recently being diagnosed with cancer.

Mike VI, a 450-pound 10-year-old, reportedly is in good health but hasn’t wanted to get in his trailer lately. He lives in a 15,000-square-foot enclosure next to the stadium.

Ginger Guttner, a spokesperson for the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, told the Associated Press that tigers are not motivated by food — who knew? — so coaxing one to do something it doesn’t want to do is more difficult than it might seem.

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Mike VI does have an appetite, though. A photo on his Facebook page showed him enjoying what was described as “Gator tartare” — food shaped in the likeness of Florida’s gator mascot — the day before the football rivals met on the field in a key Southeastern Conference game.

In reserve

Suggested motto for undefeated Iowa, which improved to 7-0 with a win over Northwestern:

Next!

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The Hawkeyes entered the game already down five opening-day starters, and then lost leading rusher Jordan Canzeri, who sustained an ankle injury in the first quarter.

Next up: Akrum Wadley, who ran for 204 yards and tied a school single-game record with four rushing touchdowns after having all of eight carries in Iowa’s first six games.

This is just offensive

Baylor’s offense just keeps rolling.

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The Bears came into their game against West Virginia with some prolific averages to live up to: 725 yards and 64.2 points per game.

And against a West Virginia defense that was best in the Big 12 Conference, giving up averages of 342 yards and 20 points, Baylor, sure enough, couldn’t keep its previous pace.

The Bears fell 39 yards and 2.2 points short.

West Virginia gave up six touchdown passes — the same number opponents had managed in the first five games.

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Against a defense that had held quarterbacks to a less than 50% completion rating, Baylor’s Seth Russell completed 20 of 33 passes for 380 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 160 yards and a touchdown.

Russell’s favorite target, Corey Coleman, had 10 catches for 199 yards and three touchdowns, giving him a school single-season record (and nation-leading) 16 scoring receptions — at the halfway point of the regular season.

mike.hiserman@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeHiserman

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