The University of Memphis Tigers open the 2000 football season today at 2:30 p.m. at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The game, expected to be played in 100-degree heat, will be televised on Fox Sports South. The Tigers have not had a winning season since 1994 and have not won seven games in a season since 1976. Mississippi State is a 4 1/2 point favorite.
The game is expected to be a defensive battle with both teams relying on conservative offenses and good kicking games. This neighborhood rivalry has been dominated in recent years by Mississippi State. Scherer is 0-5 against MSU head coach Jackie Sherill. Both Bulldog coordinators are former Tiger coordinators Ñ Joe Lee Dunn and Sparky Woods. There are no secrets in this series.
Memphis wants to run the ball behind its improved offensive line. With a mobile quarterback Travis Anglin, and three talented if inexperienced running backs (Sugar Sanders, Darche Epting, and Dernice Wherry) the Tigers are betting their house on the rushing attack. Sanders is not expected to start because of a sore ankle.
Memphis coach Rip Scherer wants to play solid defense, run the ball, and let his all-American place kicker, Ryan White, win the game with his foot. Interceptions and fumbles will quickly kill the Tigers conservative offensive game plan. If Memphis gets behind and has to throw the ball more than 20 times, look out.
Both teams vs. the heat.
The game, originally scheduled for 7 p.m. was switched to a 2:30 kickoff for TV. The Mid-South has been under an intense heat wave, with record-shattering three-digit temperatures. Who has the deepest bench? Which team will be able to suck it up in the fourth quarter?
States offensive line vs. Memphiss defensive line.
The Bullie line is huge as usual. The Tigers are two and three deep along the defensive front. Will the big hogs from Starkville be able to handle the quick, experienced Tiger front?
MSU defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn vs. Jimmy Kiser, the QB coach who is in charge of the Tiger offense.
Nobody likes to prepare for Dunn with his unorthodox schemes. Kiser who spent the past 14 years at NC State is a bit of an unknown in this series. How will his offense handle Dunns creativity?
In a dozen games vs. SEC schools, Rip Scherer has won only once (the 1996 upset of Tennessee). Scherer is 0-5 against Mississippi State.
Senior tight end Billy Kendall caught at least one pass in all 11 games last year, including a career high 6 vs. Arkansas State. Kendalls 53 catches for 601 yards makes him the school career leader in both categories for tight ends.
Senior linebacker Kamal Shakir had 143 total tackles in 1999, second most in Conference USA and the seventh highest single season total in school history. He also led the Tigers in tackles as a sophomore in 1998.
Memphis won its last three road games of 1999 and finished 3-2 on the road.
Memphis finished 4-2 in Conference USA, tied for second. It was the first winning season for the Tigers in C-USA play.