Memphis Tiger Football is officially on the upswing. After starting the college football season with a 17-35 win against Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO), the Tigers progress forward in carrying on their new found winning streak that began two seasons ago with former coach Justin Fuente and star quarterback Paxton Lynch.
With the first game of the season in the books, Tiger fans got the chance to see the new team put into action under a new coaching staff with Mike Norvell as head coach, and new quarterback Riley Ferguson who took over the reins from the record-breaking Lynch. This win not only started the Tigers on the right path but also sealed Coach Norvell in the record books by becoming the first Tiger head coach to win their first opening game in his debut since Rey Dempsey in 1984.
For many Memphis Tiger fans, this has given them hope in continuing the winning record that was nurtured under the Justin Fuente era (2012-2015) with two winning seasons, two bowl appearances, and one bowl win. With Fuente’s departure in becoming the Virginia Tech Hokies head coach (taking over for the Virginia Tech football legend Frank Beamer), and Lynch’s decision in leaving school early to apply for the NFL draft (Lynch would eventually be draft by the Denver Broncos in the first round), many Tiger faithfuls were scared at the good that started for a team that was once 2-10 was coming to an abrupt end. The Tiger’s Athletic Director Tom Bowen knew of the heavy burden that weighed on the school, knowing that the team’s winning record must continue under the right form of coaching. Bowen immediately contacted the same agency that found Fuente, and after a short but vigorous search the Tigers had a new head coach under the leadership of Mike Norvell.
Upon arrival in December, Norvell immediately quelled any skepticism by making known that he would do anything in his power at continuing the winning tradition that Memphis had in its grasp. One of the biggest question marks that still remained though was who would take over the starting quarterback job from Lynch. That would remain up in the air until this past August after revealing that Ferguson, the former junior college and Tennessee Vols quarterback, would take over the coveted role. This news only heightened Memphis fans’ and alumni expectations and brought more enthusiasm for the arrival of football season.
Once the season was upon Tigernation, The Liberty Bowl was packed like never before in a game opener with the stadium having an attendance of over 43,000 people. Prior to kick-off, other than excitement for the start of the new football season, anger for the Big 12 Conference was very evident with some even caring posters protesting the Big 12 for dropping Memphis from expansion consideration while keeping fellow American Athletic Conference teams: Houston, Cincinnati, Temple, and even Rice in the running. While anger was shown it did not take away from a great start to the season.
After the first game of the season, the Tigers were met with a biweek giving time for them to look at film and correct any loose ends for the future of the season. Once passed the biweek the Tigers take on the Kansas Jayhawks (with many Tiger fans hoping to show the Big 12 what they missed out on in expansion consideration) to conference games, and most of all, the huge rivalry game against Ole Miss in Oxford. While this is an exciting time to be a Memphis fan, this season should be taken with a grain of salt as it may or may not be the most perfect season due to the change from one coaching era to another. All we have to do now as fans is to watch in anticipation as we see the season unfold while keeping the faith in a team that went from zero to hero in less than five years,