It was deja vu Saturday for the University of Memphis in front of 34,113 at the Liberty Bowl. For the sixth time under head coach Rip Scherer, the Tigers lost its season opener. For the sixth time a Scherer-coached Memphis team lost to Jackie Sherrills Mississippi State Bulldogs. And for the second straight year, Memphis failed to score a touchdown in the season opener. Mississippi State scored 10 first half points and added a late touchdown to win the season opener for both teams 17-3.
The first half went pretty much as expected, with neither team able to muster any offense. Two interceptions by Mississippi State led to both of the Bulldogs scores -- a 43-yard Scott Westerfield field goal and 1-yard touchdown plunge by Dontae Walker. Sophomore quarterback Travis Anglin led Memphis on a late first-half drive that provided Memphis only score, a 36-yard Ryan White field goal.
The 10-3 halftime score held until States Dicenzo Miller scored from six yards out with less than two minutes left in the game. Millers touchdown followed yet another Memphis turnover, a fumble deep in Tiger territory. Memphis had five turnovers in all -- three leading directly to Bulldog scores.
The lackluster Memphis offense spoiled a spectacular debut for new defensive coordinator, Tommy West. The Tigers defense held State to 19 total yards in the second half.
The closest Memphis came to getting the ball in the end zone came with 10 minutes to go in the game, and naturally it was the Tiger D that did it. State quarterback Wayne Madkin appeared to fumble the ball while being sacked and Memphis linebacker Kamal Shakir scooped it off the turf and ran into the end zone. But the officials ruled Madkin was down -- no fumble, no touchdown.
Thats a bad missed call, Scherer said after the game. It really changed momentum.
Memphis won most of the statistical battles in the game. The Tigers had 13 first downs to MSUs 7. They rushed for 87 yards, while holding the Bullies to 45. Memphis had more total yards (168 to 127) and more time of possession (31:57 to 28:03). But five turnovers did them in.
There is no solace in losing, but I think we have a chance to be the best football team since weve been here, Scherer said. I think we can be a lot better offensively. People are going to hear that and say 168 yards offense. But I thought Jimmy [Kiser] called a good game. We did what we said we wanted to do. We didnt get the ball thrown to our backs as much as we wanted.
Memphis now prepares to take on Louisiana-Monroe Saturday at the Liberty Bowl.
** The game was played in intense heat. The temperature at kickoff was 99 and reached 100 during the game.
** Memphis had two costly turnovers in the first half -- both interceptions in their end of the field which led to two Mississippi State scores.
** The Tigers had 16 total yards in the first quarter. A late drive in the second quarter accounted for most of Memphis first-half yardage -- 84 yards.
** Ryan Whites second quarter field goal moved him into fourth place on the schools all-time list.
** Scherer is now 0-14 against the three Mississippi schools that Memphis plays regularly (State, Ole Miss, and Southern Miss).
** Next weeks opponent, Louisiana-Monroe, had a long day in the MetroDome, losing its opener to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 47-10.