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Tigers 1-0 in Conference USA

Defense like 'white on Rice'

bheater@dailyhelmsman.com

Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 22:11

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Albert Crozier

Quarterback Jacob Karam leads the Mighty Sound of the South in the University of Memphis' Fight Song following the team's first win of the season to move 1-0 in Conference USA.


Finally. After four games of turnovers, miscues, and pure frustration the University of Memphis football team silenced the critics for a while longer with a 14-10 triumph over the Rice Owls on Saturday night at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. It was a beautiful sight, as the minimal amount of fans that were still there jumped up and down rejoicing with their Tigers on a much needed win.

The last play the Owls had at the Liberty Bowl came in 2008, when they returned an Arkelon Hall pass with 11 seconds left to the house for a 42-35 win. The Rice defense decided to open the game up much the same for old times sake, with a fumble return for a touchdown on the University of Memphis football team's first play from scrimmage.

Senior quarterback Jacob Karam handed the ball off to junior running back Jai Steib on the Tigers' first play, but he stuck to the previous game plan to fumble the ball on what seems like every carry. Rice's Phillip Gaines then scooped up the ball and ran it into the end zone for a 7-0 Owls lead with 12:59 left in the first quarter.

As the Memphis offense remained stagnant, Rice increased the lead five minutes into the second quarter. After throws of 12 and 17 yards, the Tiger defense held the Owls to a 36-yard field goal to pull the Rice lead to 10-0.

By halftime, the Tigers offense had amassed just 97 yards of total offense on 28 plays. However, the defense, which had been one of the worst in the country for the past few seasons, gave up just three points and 154 yards of offense on 33 plays.

The seesaw started to tilt in the Tigers favor in the second half. After Memphis pinned the Owls inside their 10-yard line on their first drive of the half, the Tiger defense continued to look unrecognizable, forcing Rice to a three and out and a punt from their own seven-yard line. The Tigers took advantage of a short field and put together a 7-play, 44-yard drive that ended with a five-yard touchdown pass from Karam to wide receiver Keiwone Malone to make type score 10-7.

Memphis then took advantage of a Rice missed field goal, marching down to the Rice 11-yard line off some nice runs by Karam and running back Carl Harris. Wildcat quarterback Eric Mathews then checked into the game, and fooled everyone by opting to pass instead of run. He found tight end Alan Cross for an 11-yard touchdown. The Tigers defense held Rice the rest of the way to preserve the 14-10 victory.

After a tradition of losing all but three of the last 25 games, the Tigers started a new tradition -- the team joined the band to sing the U of M fight song, and the fans joined the choir.

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