Thursday, October 21, 2010
Football in Memphis
It may have been 28 years since I’d been to Liberty Bowl Stadium.
At least that’s the last trip there I recall.
That one will be forever etched in my mind. It was Bear Bryant’s last game – a 21-15 win for Alabama over Illinois on December 29, 1982. And it was cold – bitter cold.
Saturday I was back in Memphis for the game between the Tigers and Southern Miss.
We had been planning the trip for some time. My daughter, Emma, is a sophomore at Southern Miss and the classes there were dismissed Thursday and Friday for fall break. She came home, brought a friend and planned to meet other friends at the stadium for the Conference USA match-up.
Pam had planned to go but instead accompanied Andy to his baseball doubleheader in New Albany. So I called up coach Clifford Brown, a good friend, who is always ready to take in a football game.
We got there early and took time to see the new “Tiger Lane,” a brand new tailgating/parking area leading up to Liberty Bowl Stadium. We saw lots of blue tents and got a glimpse of Tom III, the Memphis mascot.
Special thanks to Ronnie Vinson, daughter of South Reporter sports editor Claude Vinson, for having our tickets ready for us. I think she was shocked to see most of us wearing gold.
“You have on the wrong colors,” she said.
We ended up nine rows behind the USM sideline.
There were only about 18,800 fans in the 61,000-seat Liberty Bowl Stadium. The Tigers are having a tough season under first-year head coach Larry Porter. Patience must be a virtue for supporters of Memphis football.
The game was the 61st overall meeting between rivals Southern Miss and Memphis, the longest series against a single opponent in Tiger football history.
The 61st clash was all USM. Quarterback Austin Davis threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns to lead Southern Miss to a 41-19 win.
The Golden Eagles, who were coming off a heart-breaking 44-43 conference loss to East Carolina, improved to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play. Memphis fell to 1-6 overall and 0-4 in the conference.
There were a few interesting side notes from our visit to Liberty Bowl Stadium.
We enjoying sitting near the Memphis band and seeing Kelsey Farese, one of the Tigerettes, perform. Kelsey is a former Holly Springs resident who once attended Marshall Academy.
I spotted Joel McNeece, publisher of the Calhoun City Journal, on the sideline with camera. Joel is a graduate of USM and an avid supporter.
Some young Memphis fans positioned themselves on the first row behind the USM bench and were heckling some of the Golden Eagles. One Eagle in particular started responding.
Later it spread up the bleachers a few rows to a cursing Memphis fan. By then, it had gotten out of hand.
It appeared all parties were guilty of ridiculous and rude behavior.
As we were leaving and waiting on the train so we could reach our parking spot, we ran into a nice lady whose father lives in Potts Camp. Felicia Bean Barnes (hope I got the name right) has a son playing for USM and for Alabama. And as it turned out, she knew Coach Brown’s daughter, Shay.
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