Memphis runs past Missouri State in 2015 debut
The last time we saw the Memphis Tigers football team in action, they were winning the Miami Beach Bowl over BYU, the Tigers first bowl win since 2005. The Tigers outshot the Cougars that day winning 55-48 in double overtime as Paxton Lynch tossed four touchdowns and ran for three more. Yes, the Tigers offense was unstoppable on that day. But as all sports fans are forced into having short memories, and living for today, the celebration of the Miami Beach Bowl win is a memory, and next year is here. While the season opener against FCS school Missouri State was not going to be a true test of how good the Tigers are this year, they needed to do what a good team should, and put away Missouri State convincingly. The Tigers did just that beating the Bears 63-7 in front of 41,730 fans in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers offense was tapping to the tune of 27 first downs and 519 yards of total offense. Nine different Tigers carried the ball a total of 60 times for 317 yards. Three different Tigers threw touchdown passes including a reverse toss from Phil Mayhue to Mose Frazier for 44 yards. Memphis was a combined 16-of-21 for 202 yards through the air. And by the way, Paxton Lynch only played until halftime.
The Tigers defense also shined in bigger ways than the box score would indicate. Memphis got credit for 3 turnovers but they actually forced six fumbles and had an interception recalled because of a penalty. While they were playing against an FCS team, with a redshirt freshman QB, and a first year head coach in Dave Steckel, again, the Tigers did what they should have done and buried an inferior opponent.
That is what gave 41,730 fans in the Liberty Bowl reason to cheer and be excited about Memphis Football in 2015. It wasn’t that long ago when Memphis was that inferior team. I still remember the feeling of realizing that our football program is one of the absolute worst in the country. That was just three years ago in 2012 when the Tigers lost home games to in-state schools UT Martin and Middle Tennessee State. But little did we know, we had just hired one of the hottest young coaches in the game, Justin Fuente.
Fuente inherited a team that was 5-31 in the three years before his arrival. The former Oklahoma Sooner took basically two years to turn around a program that couldn’t get any lower. As I mentioned before, at one point in 2012 the Tigers were officially ranked dead last of all FBS schools. In his third year, Fuente guided the Memphis Tigers to their first bowl win since 2005, their first conference title since 1971, only their second ten win season ever, and officially put the roar back into Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers are predicted to battle Cincinnati for the conference title this year. They host the Bearcats in a Thursday night showdown on September 24th. Memphis will now take to the road for the next two games traveling to Lawrence, Kansas, next Saturday to take on a struggling Jayhawks team that lost at home to FCS school South Dakota State in their season debut. The Tigers then travel to Bowling Green, a team that moved the ball fairly well in Knoxville against the Vols yesterday. Without any hiccups, Memphis could stroll into the Liberty Bowl on September 24th, 3-0, and playing an early season game for the American Athletic title.
The September 24th American Athletic Conference opener between Cincinnati and Memphis is a prime-time Thursday night game on ESPN at 6:30 CT.
How many wins will Memphis get this year? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Brandon Reid covers NCAAF and the Memphis Tigers for MyFantasySportsTalk.com, you can follow him on Twitter @New_Breid