U of M Football Roundup

Posted on February 2, 2015

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By: Travis Nauert

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It can be difficult to embrace change. But Memphis is undergoing positive transformations that are enhancing life in the city. From the revival of Overton Square, to the birthing of local breweries and more, Memphis just looks and feels a little different in the second decade of the 21st century.

Playing no small role in this transition is sport; ironic considering Memphis is a perennial powerhouse in the rankings of least healthy cities in the universe. We just like to eat and drink, a lot, while watching our teams. Basketball reigns supreme, but change is still apparent. Always thought of as the Tigers’ town, Memphis is home of the Grizzlies and eyeing a championship parade down Beale Street come June. In the wake of John Calipari’s exit to bluegrass country is an absence of energy leaving the FedEx Forum staff inflating attendance numbers during Tiger home games.

But as U of M basketball has stumbled, football has gone beast mode. Head Coach Justin Fuente and his staff completed one of the more remarkable turn arounds that a program has witnessed. It’s unlikely a conference title was on anyone’s wish list entering the 2014 season. Maybe an above .500 record and a bowl game. All that happened was a 9-3 regular season and a share of the AAC title. Two of those losses came on the road to UCLA and an Ole Miss team that would go on to beat Alabama and looked destined for the college football playoff. Respectable losses to say the least, especially considering the caliber of athletes from which those two schools recruit. A lone home loss to Houston was all that separated the Tigers from going 10-2 and claiming the American Athletic Conference outright.

Bowl season brought Memphis to Miami for the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl against BYU. The Tigers saved their best performance for last, beating the Cougars in a two overtime thriller 55-48. Quarterback Paxton Lynch carried the team, accounting for 7 touchdowns (4 passing, 3 rushing).

The game concluded when DaShaughn Terry intercepted a Christian Stewart pass. Then the teams proceeded to go mortal combat on one another. The story overshadowing, or contributing to one of the most entertaining games of the year was the brawl that ensued. BYU fans would argue taunting by Memphis players led to the the initial skirmish that snowballed into an Anchorman like news channel throw down. No one threw a trident, but there was touching of the hair and face. Just ask Kai Nacua. Nacua tried to punch an unsuspecting Isadore Outing, but missed and was then dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Proof that there was touching of the hair and face pictured to the left. u of m 1

Enough about the brawl, though. The real story was that Memphis capped off its most successful season of all time. To paraphrase 929 ESPN’s John Martin, there have been seasons where Memphis won more games, or beat better individual teams like USC in the early 90’s, but from wire to wire this was an all time great season.

The good news for Tigers fans is that there should only be more good times to come. While contracts can be broken, Fuente just signed a 5 year deal that gives the program the prospect of stability and long term success. Most of the dirty work has been done, laying the foundation and recruiting players. This season shows the work was not in vain. And the momentum only continues to build. Former 4 star prospect and Whitehaven product Mark Dodson has decided to transfer from Ole Miss to Memphis. He will sit out a year per NCAA rules, but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Memphis football is reaching new heights and the Grizzlies are eyeing the Larry O’Brien trophy. That is the kind of change Memphians can get used to. So go out to Lafayette’s for some food and music, and then try out a local brew at one of tap rooms around town. Or stick to your favorites. Whatever you do, enjoy what is happening in the Memphis sports scene, and look for titles to come to the Bluff City.

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Posted in: Sports