Saturday’s contest against Arkansas State marks the second time in as many years that the Tigers have lost to the Red Wolves. A rivalry that was once dominated by Memphis has quickly turned in the Red Wolves’ favor. From 1990-2004 Memphis had a 10-0-1 record against ASU. Hard to believe I know, especially after the events that have transpired in recent memory. Arkansas State has dominated this rivalry post 2004 going 4-1 including a 44 point beat down last year. This year’s contest was closer as the Tigers almost pulled off the upset losing 33-28, even though Arkansas State outgained Memphis 619-293 gaining 33 first downs to the Tigers’ 13. “I thought the defense was getting tired that is only understandable,” Coach Fuente said when asked about the play disparity between the two teams. “We would have loved to hold the ball longer offensively and run the ball better.”
However, Coach Fuente again told the media that while this year’s game was close, these Tigers are not satisfied with moral victories, “We are not into playing games close. We got to learn how to do a lot of things in this program. We got to learn how to win… at crucial times during the game we did not make the play.” It is just another loss to their rivals from Arkansas in what is becoming a discouraging trend.
There is a silver lining to every cloud, and while the Tigers have been no match for the Red Wolves on the football field the past couple of years, Memphis can still brag about being better than ASU at some football related things.
Here is a short list of things Memphis football has going for it that Arkansas State does not:
The special teams:
This unit accounted for two of the Tigers’ four touchdowns on Saturday, one on a blocked punt and the other on a muffed punt that was recovered in the endzone for a touchdown. “Awesome. Just awesome. Those guys are doing a great job,” Fuente said when asked about the play of his special teams. In addition to the two special teams touchdowns, punter Tom Hornsey had a performance for the ages. Seven of his eight punts were downed inside the 20 yard line, including a 62 yard blast. So far this season, Hornsey is averaging 45.9 yards per punt which is good for 14th best in the nation. Also, Memphis has the third best punt return yardage defense in the nation, holding opponents to -10 return yards. So take that Arkansas State.
Red Wolves’ fans should not feel too bad. After all, there are not too many commercials that can top “Mind your business Dennis!” It is clever, funny, and a true masterpiece of cinema magic. Drew Smith deserves whatever the equivalent of an Academy Award is for commercials (Click here to listen to Drew’s interview on MSL). That catch phrase has helped to ignite a fan base, as is evident by all the fans wearing the t-shirts with the infamous catch phrase on it.
When it comes to the facilities that the two teams play in there is no comparison. The Liberty Bowl seats over 61,000 fans and seems like the Taj Mahal when compared to the 30,964 that Liberty Bank Stadium seats. It has also undergone many renovations to keep up with the changes that college football has gone through over the years, while Liberty Bank Stadium still looks like an FCS stadium. However, things should improve for the Red Wolves after they finish their $22 million renovation project.
This is the pride and joy of Memphis football, and one of the reasons Tigers fans were looking forward to the start of the season. There is no point in telling you the size again because by now you have memorized the fact that it is 106’ X 58’and it is the sixth largest video board in all of college football. Not too many teams in the nation can compete with the Tigers’ when it comes to the video board, so Memphis wins this battle between the two programs hands down.
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CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from different college football games throughout the Mid-South.