Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Three Thoughts on Memphis Tiger Football

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2012 at 8:00 AM

I’m sold on Jacob Karam. The junior quarterback won’t make anyone forget Russ Vollmer or Danny Wimprine, but he’s developed steadily as a first-year starter, generally avoiding game-changing mistakes, and spearheaded the astonishing offensive explosion last Saturday at UAB. Karam completed his first ten pass attempts against the Blazers and had three touchdown passes before halftime.

Even in his finest hour, though, Karam was merely brilliantly efficient. Memphis managed to score 46 points with only 160 yards passing. (And thirteen of those came on a toss from wideout Keiwone Malone.) The Tigers had more yardage through the air (166) in a 41-7 loss at East Carolina. Karam has fit coach Justin Fuente’s battle plan for 2012 — minimize errors — to a tee. Being a known variable, and with a season of full-time play under his belt, Karam should provide stability at the game’s most important position when the U of M starts Big East play next year. Imagine that: stability at the quarterback position for the Memphis Tigers.

• I mentioned last week that UAB is one of two Conference USA teams I’ll miss from the Tigers’ schedule when they move to the Big East. The other is Southern Miss, for my money the most consistently strong C-USA program since the league was formed before the 1996 season. (The 0-11 Golden Eagles have suffered the most dramatic collapse in the country this season, having won the C-USA championship game over an undefeated Houston team last December.)

Memphis and Southern Miss have met in the Black-and-Blue Game 62 times, and every season since 1952 except for one (1980). The Golden Eagles own a 40-21-1 advantage in the series and have won the last three meetings by margins of 20, 22, and 37 points. Life will go on for the Tigers in the Big East. Hopefully, football season will gain interest both locally and beyond the Mid-South. But something will be distinctly missing without Southern Miss on the schedule.

• It’s not my job to fill seats at the Liberty Bowl, but if ever a class of Tiger football players deserved a big crowd for Senior Day, it’s this one: Chris Bertucci, Akeem Davis, Jordan Devey, Zach Gholson, Paulo Henriques, Ricky Holloway, Mitch Huelsing, Kenyata Johnson, Tarondal Phillips, Jimmy Robinson, Marcus Rucker, Jeremy Singler, Cannon Smith, Robert Steeples, DeAndre Thompson, Austin Weaver.

Akeem Davis

If you think the last four football seasons have been tough on Tiger fans, imagine being the young men suiting up their entire college careers under the weight of sagging expectations and dwindling support. The beauty of Saturday’s game, of course, is that these seniors have the chance to end their careers on a three-game winning streak, and against the program’s oldest rival. A special salute should be given the five seniors who actually saw playing time each of the last four years: Davis, Henriques, Holloway, Huelsing, and Rucker. Let it be said a program’s recovery began with them.

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