Surviving Memphis

Never Let Go When You Have A Tiger By The Tail

By Sonja Sykes

It was a perfect night for football at the Liberty Bowl Friday night. A perfect afternoon to tailgate, too. As the Cardinal fans massed and congregated in the shadow of the old, rickety wooden roller coaster in the now defunct Libertyland amusement park, and the smell of grilled meat filled the warm afternoon air. The throng of Memphis fans that had us hemmed in on three sides were congenial…almost happy to see us after a 4 year absence.

“We spoke of optimistic things … a continuance of the series for a long time, an inclusion of basketball to it, and hopes that Memphis would soon join the Cardinals in the Big East.”

We spoke of optimistic things…a continuance of the series for a long time, an inclusion of basketball to it, and hopes that Memphis would join the Cardinals in the Big East. Despite the positive, gracious talk…it was clear that both sides wanted the same thing..a victory in the renewal of the series.

Those feelings became more and more obvious as we neared the entrance to the Liberty Bowl, and the fan interaction became a little more spirited and territorial. Over 40,000 fans packed the majestic, old structure…mostly dressed in blue and armed with sweet tea and turkey legs. (Make sure to try each if we ever play them down there again … delicious.)

As for the game, it didn’t go exactly the way the pre-game chatter predicted it might. The potent Cardinal running attack took a back seat to the shifty Memphis quarterback’s ability to get out of jams, and it took a couple of unlikely scores by Louisville to trot off to the locker room up 14 points at the half.

“It all sounded good…but deep inside, you just had the
sinking feeling that this Memphis Tiger team hadn’t finished roaring yet.”

Conversation in the outside concourses centered around how we needed to come out and shut them down and get the offense rolling. Punch them in the mouth, continue to grab the Tigers by the tail and let our strong running game pound them into submission. It all sounded good…but deep inside, you just had the sinking feeling that this Memphis Tiger team hadn’t finished roaring yet.

And, that’s how it went. We had the tiger by the tail and let go. The Tiger scampered for two impressive 3rd quarter scores, growled and stalked our offense into a corner, and had all the momentum. They were poised for the go-ahead field goal, and thoughts of UConn, and the ’07 second half collapses of the Cards had to be swirling in the thoughts of the Cardinal fans. But enter the special teams again to save the day. And, during an evening when the Cards got smeared in yardage, first downs and offensive ingenuity, the scoreboard showed us up by seven when the clock ran out.

For Memphis, it was a game they won on paper, but that kind of victory probably won’t help Tommy West’s battle to keep his job. For Louisville, an important lesson learned. When you grab a tiger by the tail, hang on and don’t let go.

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Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

One thought on “Surviving Memphis

  • October 13, 2008 at 10:38 am
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    Rick Pitino struck gold when he recruited Jeremy Tyler. He is an absolute beast. His No. 1 choice was the University of Louisville. Our neighbors to the East got an admitted second choice. “Well, uh, Kansas didn’t want me so I’m going with UK. I couldn’t turn them down after Midnight Madness. Kind, generous people.”

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