Rivalry games frequently turn into hard-fought battles in which heavily favored teams can often be brought down to size by lesser teams because of the hype leading to the match ups.
If the annual "Battle for the Bones" game (Nov. 17) pitting the University of Memphis against rival UAB was supposed to be close, someone forgot to tell coach Justin Fuente and his Tigers. Memphis traveled to Birmingham, Ala., and absolutely manhandled the Blazers (46-9). It was 21 to 0 at the end of the first quarter and the Tigers didn't look back.
The "Battle for the Bones" victor historically gets to keep the 100-pound bronze rib statue until the teams meet the next year. This rivalry, however, is on its last legs, with Memphis leaving C-USA behind to head to the Big East next year.
Memphis quarterback Jacob Karam had another stellar game, going 14 of 16 passing, with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. Running back Brandon Hayes, who had 127 rushing yards on 19 carries, also scored three touchdowns en route to his best rushing performance on the season.
Injuries complicated Memphis' push to establish a top running back earlier in the year. If Hayes keeps ripping off 100-yard games, the junior running back just may remain the starter for the foreseeable future.
With the win, the Tigers improved to 3-8 for the season and some critics are starting to change their tunes. Memphis plays host to the 0-11 Southern Miss Golden Eagles this weekend (Nov. 24) in the "Black and Blue" game, another rivalry.
If the Tigers turn back the Golden Eagles, their 4-8 record would be above and beyond what many thought was possible after Memphis got off to an 0-4 start this year.
Memphis is clearly proving that it's not how you start, but rather how you finish. A season-ending victory would give the Tigers some serious momentum going into the off-season and going forward into the Big East.