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Tigers set to write regular season’s final chapter

Memphis closes out league play with two at Liberty Bowl

For both the University of Memphis and USF, there are significant ramifications riding on the outcome of Saturday’s game at the Liberty Bowl. Memphis will look to maintain its position atop the American Athletic Conference standings while USF aims at moving a step closer to bowl-eligibility when the two teams square off 3 o’clock game.

Memphis is 7-3 and 5-1 in the American Athletic Conference and Saturday’s game is the first of two straight Saturday afternoon games at the Liberty Bowl to close out the regular season. Following this week’s game against USF, the Tigers will play host to Connecticut next Saturday on Senior Day.

USF is coming off a dramatic, 14-13 win over SMU in which the winning score came with four seconds to play. The win moved the Bulls’ record to 4-6 and 3-3 in the American. USF would need a win Saturday against Memphis and against in-state rival UCF next week to become bowl eligible.

Saturday’s game will be televised by ESPNews while Memphis’ flagship WREC 600 will have the broadcast call of the game with its pregame show beginning at 1 p.m. The audio stream of the radio broadcast is also available through GoTigersGo.com’s All-Access link. The game can also be heard in Jackson on WJAK-AM 1460 and FM 96.1 as well as in Nashville on WNQM-AM 1300.

Memphis heads into the weekend with a half-game lead in the conference standings over UCF and Cincinnati who both have an extra game left to play on their conference schedules after the Tigers finish up next week. Memphis has won four straight, the team’s longest win streak since winning five consecutive back in 2003.

The win streak coincides with the start of the second half of the season following a 28-24, home-field loss to Houston and an open week. Since then, the Tigers’ focus has been about finding a way to go 1-0 each week.

Memphis head coach Justin Fuente and his staff has taken a very common sense and grass roots approach to the second half of the season and the mantra of going 1-0.

“Let's stay focused on what has given us this opportunity and what we need to do to continue to have this opportunity. And that is, we've practiced well. We've prepared well. Ultimately, we've played well,” he said during his press conference to begin the week. “If we play well, then we give ourselves as good an opportunity as you can to win. I think our kids have done a good job of that.

“The thing I am most proud of these kids for is they listen. They really do. I think they want to have a chance to be a part of something special and they want to listen to how to do it.”

On Saturday, Memphis faces a USF team which rallied from a 13-0 deficit.

The Bulls held SMU to 80 yards of total offense in pitching a second-half shutout while quarterback Mike White came off the bench to engineer two, fourth-quarter scoring drives. The second culminated with a four-yard touchdown pass to Andre Davis for the game-tying points with four seconds to play. Place-kicker Marvis’ Kloss’ PAT proved to be the difference in a 14-13 win in Dallas.

On the final drive, White completed 7-of-10 passes for 70 yards including three significant third-down pass completions as well as one the game-tying score on fourth down with four seconds to play.

White, who started the season’s first eight games, has completed 90-of-182 passes for 1,288 yards and eight touchdowns.

Davis’ touchdown reception was the 16th of his career, a USF record. Davis owns 12 USF receiving records and will tie a school record of seven touchdown receptions in a season with his next scoring catch. He is the first 2,000-yard receiver in USF history.

Davis’ records have come despite a senior year in which he missed four games with an injury.

USF freshman running back Marlon Mack enters the week needing just 93 rushing yards for 1,000 for the year.

Defensively, sophomore linebacker Nigel Harris leads FBS Football with five forced fumbles on the year. Harris also leads the Bulls with 7.5 tackles for loss. Junior defensive back Jamie Byrd leads USF with 80 total tackles.

“Coach [Willie] Taggart has done a really good job of building that program back up,” Fuente said. “They've got skill kids all over the place. Our defense will have an incredible challenge with a fantastic wide receiver and prominent running game. Our offense will have a challenge with their really active and physical defensive line, and a secondary that has played quite a bit over the last couple of years.”

USF will look to stop Memphis’ running game in an effort to win its second straight on the road.

Memphis leads the American Athletic Conference, averaging 188.6 rushing yards per game, but the Tigers were held to 82 rushing yards at Temple and then 156 at Tulane.

Senior running back Brandon Hayes rushed for a career-high 199 yards against Tulsa the last time Memphis played in the Liberty Bowl. He became the school’s eighth, 2,000-yard career rusher and for the season has run for 651 yards on 136 carries.

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch has run for a team-high eight rushing touchdowns. Lynch has completed 195-of-303 passes for 2,299 yards in 2014. Junior running back Mose Frazier has caught 17 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown over the Tigers’ last three games.

The weather forecast continues to look bright for Saturday afternoon. The expectation is for mid-60s and partly cloudy skies with a minimal chance of rain during the game.

“It's a wonderful opportunity for the Tiger Nation to come out and support these kids who have really worked hard to put together a pretty solid season,” Fuente said. “We've got an afternoon kickoff. It should be a lot of fun. I think it's a great challenge and a great opportunity for people to come out and let these kids know how much they appreciate their hard work and also play an active role in the game.

“We're going to need them in order to win the football game,” Fuente added. “We absolutely need every advantage we can have. Our kids have gone on the road and played well in some pretty hostile environments. I'd like to make the Liberty Bowl one on Saturday.”

Game Notes:

Memphis’ series with USF is currently tied at 3-3 including a 1-1 mark in games played in the Liberty Bowl …

Bobby McCain set a Memphis school record with three interceptions in last year’s meeting in Tampa …

Memphis led 6-3 until late in the fourth quarter before Hayes culminated a drive with a five-yard touchdown run and the Tigers got a pair of defensive scores in the final minutes …

Memphis is the only NCAA FBS school to rank in the top-10 in both red Zone Defense and Red Zone Offense …

The Tigers rank second in Red Zone Defense while the team’s Red Zone Offense percentage ranks fifth nationally … Through 10 games, Memphis has scored 344 points, which ranks seventh-most in school history.

SOURCE: University of Memphis Athletic Media Relations

When law and mentoring intersect

Career Reception event was a bridge builder.

by Karanja A. Ajanaku

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The second annual Career Reception for law students – hosted by the City of Memphis’s Law Division – served as the intersection of interests that Carl Carter and J.B. Smiley Jr. brought to City Hall last week.

Carter, who was there on the lookout for International paper, where he is the associate general counsel, was also on hand to represent the Tennessee Bar Association, where he serves on the board of governors and represents the eighth district.

Smiley, a Memphis native, is a law student at William H. Barnes School of Law in Little Rock.

“Those of us who are professionals and who have been blessed to be successful, we need to reach back, pull up, help out, push forward or what have you,” said Carter within earshot of a nodding and mission-oriented Smiley.

“I wanted to do my best to come back home and network with professionals in the community that I want to practice in,” said Smiley.

The lawyer and the would-be lawyer both rated the gathering a success. Last year the participating students came from the University of Mississippi and the University of Memphis. This year, Vanderbilt, the Nashville School of Law and the University of Arkansas-Little Rock also sent students.

Deputy City Attorney Regina Morrison Newman said nearly every local government law office, many of Memphis’ large and small law firms, and corporations such as International Paper and TruGreen, sent representatives to speak to the students about career opportunities and internships. Also represented were Memphis Area Legal Services, Counsel on Call, Memphis Bar Association, National Bar Association and members of the local judiciary, including Circuit Court Judges Jerry Stokes and Gina Higgins.

 “The annual reception furthers the goals of the administration of Memphis Mayor AC Wharton Jr. to offer opportunities to youth and to make Memphis the City of Choice in which to live, work and recreate,” said Newman. “We look forward to growing this event in future years.”

‘New blood’

Assistant County Atty. Marlinee Iverson was there to inform and to be alert for “new blood,” which she said is important to government offices.

“I am really committed to Shelby County and the city. I’ve worked in a lot of the offices here. I’ve worked for the DA, the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We really want to get a thriving group of attorneys. The young ones just out of law school have something to offer because they have unique perspectives, different perspectives,” said Iverson.

“We’re going to get new blood in that challenges us maybe on old patterns and get us to look at things differently, resolve problems differently. That’s why I think a program like this, where we get to meet students who are just graduating and encourage them to apply for offices like ours, helps us.”

Iverson said she encountered a lot of students who were interested in “moving to Memphis or moving back to Memphis and doing work for the county or the city. What struck me is that they didn’t seem as interested in doing private sector work,” she said.

“I thought a lot of young professionals were leaving (the Memphis area), a mass exodus of young professionals. I have heard that. But in terms of these law students, I didn’t get a sense of that at all. The people who spoke here, the leaders of the community, said this is one of the best places to work, and I agree with that.”

Don’t fall for the misconception

Some 30 years ago, Carter was a law student. He knows the “tremendous benefit” derived when there is a function that serves as a networking opportunity for law students who will be graduating or law students looking for some employment to start connecting with potential employers.

“It is no secret that the jobs prospects are not what they used to be, but what I tell people is that with a little extra effort making some connections, events like this provide a tremendous benefit because they create the opportunity for you,” said Carter. “I commend the mayor and the City of Memphis’ Chief Counsel Herman Morris.”

A native Memphian, Carter attended Morehouse College and the University of Virginia School of Law.

“I was fortunate enough to be able to return to Memphis right after law school to clerk for the Honorable Odell Horton Jr. Clerking for Judge Horton, being here working downtown in the federal building was a tremendous experience.”

Carter attended Overton High School, which is known for its performing arts emphasis.

“That’s what is so fantastic about the law. There is no specific major,” said Carter, who shared that he has a daughter interested in attending a higher-education institution to perhaps become something “like the director of nursing for a hospital.”

 “I said, ‘You know what? I want you to go on and become the director of nursing because you probably ultimately (are) going to become a lawyer and be practicing in the medical malpractice area.’ I was an accounting major in undergrad.

“The misconception is that you need to major in political science, you need to be an English major,” said Carter. “The study of law is open to anyone with an undergraduate degree who is willing and who wants to take their seat at the table and do what is needed to graduate and take the bar exam.”

‘I want to be a lawyer’

Smiley went to Bolton High School, played basketball throughout college and got to his senior year and said, “I think I want to go to law school.”

The challenges included not knowing any lawyers or what he needed to do. He reasoned upon the need for a double major, hustling with a heavy course load his senior year so that he could have the double major of criminal justice and sociology.

The seed, he said upon reflection, was planted at an early age.

“When I was 10 years old I was playing basketball and the coach was helping different individuals in the community, giving them clothes, fatherly advice….I was very inquisitive at that age so I’m asking a lot of questions. I said, ‘How are you able to help everybody?’ He said, ‘Well, I am not able to help everybody but I do my best to.’ I (asked), ‘What do you do?’ He said, ‘I’m a lawyer.’

“So the seed was planted at the age of 10,” said Smiley. “I played basketball in college and (eventually) said, “I want to be a lawyer.”

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