Every time a team takes the field, it has to be ready to play. Plenty of great teams have been beaten by lesser opponents because they overlooked their competition.
The University of Memphis Tigers are by no means a "great" football team, so it is even more essential to come into every game ready to give all. Headed into their game this past Saturday (Nov. 30) against the Temple Owls, the Tigers were actually a 10-point favorite.
Perhaps that line got to Memphis' head because the Tigers certainly didn't live up to that projection. It was Senior Day at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and unfortunately it wasn't the send-off that the upperclassmen would have imagined.
Temple was fresh off two disheartening losses. Falling 28-21 to UConn last week and 39-36 to UCF the week prior, the Owls had shown some progression over the last few weeks despite their 1-10 record.
The Owls were determined to close one out and it showed as they trounced the Tigers 41-21.
Memphis was able to score late in the second quarter, but they trailed 17-7 at halftime. It seemed as if the Tigers might be able to keep it within striking distance, but the Owls matched Memphis' two touchdowns in the third quarter.
Temple would go on to score 10 more points in the fourth, while blanking the Tigers.
Running nearly 80 plays on offense, Temple outgained Memphis 534 yards to 228. Those 534 yards would be a season worst for the Tigers' defense, with the previous mark (470) coming in the opener against Duke. It seems feasible to give up 470 yards in the first game of the year to a Duke team that is now headed to the ACC championship. But 534 yards to a 1-10 team on Senior Day is utterly unfathomable.
Memphis is now 3-8 heading into the season finale against UConn. With the progress that the Tigers had shown in recent weeks and on the season as a whole, it would be easy to say that Memphis should come away with a win against UConn. However, after the 41-21 loss to a 1-10 Temple squad this past weekend, it becomes much more difficult to be confident that the Tigers will pull one out this coming weekend.
During head coach Justin Fuente's first year, Memphis won its last three matchups and finished 4-8. When the Tigers entered the American Athletic Conference this season, they definitely took a step up in competition and for the most part Memphis has looked marginally better than last year. Yet, they stand to finish with a 4-8 or 3-9 record depending on the outcome of their last game.
While there is solid ground to talk about how the Tigers have made improvements, at the end of the day wins are how a team is measured. And that leaves many wondering if Memphis will ever get over the hump and become a legitimate contender in football.