Article by: Isaac Weston (@Isaacweston)
The season has been a long and memorable one for the Memphis Tigers. It began with a home game against Missouri State. It was all Memphis all game, with the exception of one touchdown the Missouri State Bears scored against the Tigers’ second-string defense. Memphis won 63-7.
The following week was a road trip to Lawrence, Kansas, against the Kansas Jayhawks. Memphis flirted with the Jayhawks for the first half, then pulled away as the final score was 55-23. It was a nice morale boost to beat a Big 12 team, even if Kansas is the weakest of the Big 12.
Memphis then took on the Bowling Green Falcons at their place, a tough battle. The game was best known for a reverse flea flicker pass to a deep post route, resulting in a touchdown. It was a close call, but Memphis hung on to finalize the score at 44-41.
After four days of rest, the Tigers returned to the Liberty Bowl for their first American Conference opponent, the Cincinnati Bearcats. It was a Thursday night game that would be televised on ESPN with millions of viewers. The Bearcats and their backup quarterback took Memphis down to the wire. After several lead changes, Memphis stole the win with a late fourth quarter interception, ending the score at 53-46.
Memphis headed to Tampa, Florida the following week to face the South Florida Bulls. This had some power-running highlights by Memphis backs, but ended up being one of Memphis’ lowest-scoring games of the season. Memphis left Tampa with a 24-17 win.
Now came the truest test of the season. A 5-0 Memphis was hosting a 5-1 Ole Miss (Full recap: http://www.everythingtn.com/blogs/news/50086209-memphis-vs-ole-miss). The final score was 37-24, Memphis with the upset.
Five days after a landmark win over the Rebels, Memphis traveled to Tulsa to face the Golden Hurricanes at their homecoming game. There were some back and forth times where Tulsa showed threats of ending the Memphis win streak, but ultimately Memphis rained on Tulsa’s parade by walking away with a 66-42 victory.
Next game presented a simple task, beat a Tulane team that posed no threat to Memphis. Tulane shut Memphis out and took the lead by two scores, until Memphis flipped a switch and scored 41 straight points, winning 41-13. This game was the fifth time in the 2015 season that Memphis trailed by double-digit points, but would come back to win.
Homecoming. The number 13 Memphis Tigers welcomed new American Conference members, the United States Naval Academy Midshipmen and their infamous triple-option offense. Memphis received the opening kickoff then scored in four plays. From that point forward, it was Navy’s game. Watching the game unfold was like watching a boa constrictor slowly suffocate its prey. There was no way to stop the triple-option. The Tigers undefeated season came to an end, along with the third-longest active win streak in the NCAA- fifteen games. Navy won 45-20.
For the first time in fifteen games, Memphis morale was down as Memphis traveled to Houston. Memphis appeared to be the same Memphis team we had seen prior to the Navy upset, but then Houston arrived midway through the fourth quarter. The Cougars went up by one point, and in the last three seconds, Memphis missed a field goal, which would have won the game. Houston 35, Memphis 34.
Next, Memphis flew to Philadelphia to face Temple, who had upset Penn State and almost upset Notre Dame. The Tigers and the Owls entered the fourth quarter with Temple leading 13-12. Temple turned on the jets and won 31-12. Memphis had begun to establish a losing streak.
The last game of the regular season was Senior Night against Southern Methodist University. It was never a game. In nine pass attempts, Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch threw seven touchdowns to seven different receivers. The halftime score matched the final score of 63-0. During the game, rumors began to surface that Memphis head coach Justin Fuente would be leaving Memphis to take the head coaching position at Virginia Tech. The rumors proved to be true and this blowout over SMU was a monumental way for Fuente to exit.
The Memphis Tigers faced the Auburn Tigers in the Birmingham Bowl. Memphis was led by interim head coach Darrell Dickey and entered at 9-3 while Auburn was only 6-6. It was the second Bowl game for Memphis in the last two seasons, which shows great improvement for a school that was winning two to four games a season just two years ago. However, it was nowhere near as memorable as the high-scoring Miami Beach Bowl last year that ended with a BYU bloodbath. The only Memphis touchdown came in the second quarter off of a pick six. Coach Fuente’s absence was felt and seen. Auburn shut down Memphis, winning the game 31-10, regardless of three Auburn turnovers. This was Auburn’s first win in the series versus Memphis.
Memphis has since hired a new head coach, former offensive coordinator for Arizona State, Mike Norvell. Memphis, it has been a remarkable year for the Memphis Tigers football program. Congratulations to the football team for the records you have broken and the legacy you have established.