As you stock the cooler for Monday’s Miami Beach Bowl, enjoy this refresher on the Memphis Tigers’ bowl history.
NOTE: The undefeated (10-0) Tigers of 1938 received an invitation to play in the Prune Bowl (yes, it was held in California), but declined when bowl officials were unable to cover the team’s travel costs. This was the Great Depression, after all.
1956 BURLEY BOWL
The Tigers went 4-4-1 in the regular season and won a pair of shutouts before falling to Ole Miss in their season finale. They traveled to Johnson City, Tennessee, to face East Tennessee State on Thanksgiving day. The Tigers scored three touchdowns in the third quarter (two of them by Eddie Gebara) to pull away. You won’t find many first-person accounts of this game. The crowd was estimated to be 700 people. It was cold.
Tigers 32, East Tennessee State 12
1971 PASADENA BOWL
The Tigers were invited to this bowl by virtue of their Missouri Valley Conference championship. Their regular-season record was 4-5-1, but they were 3-1 in league play. The game was played in the Rose Bowl (on December 18th) but attracted merely 15,244 fans. Tailback Dornell Harris was the Tiger star with 87 rushing yards and a second-quarter touchdown. This was the last game on the sidelines — and 91st win — for Memphis coach Spook Murphy.
Tigers 28, San Jose State 9
2003 NEW ORLEANS BOWL
A 32-year drought ended in fine fashion for the Tiger program despite the absence of sophomore sensation DeAngelo Williams (sidelined by an injury). North Texas scored first, but Tiger quarterback Danny Wimprine led three scoring drives before halftime to give Memphis the lead for good. The Louisiana native completed 17 of 23 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown to earn MVP honors. The win was the Tigers’ ninth of the season, the program’s most in 40 years.
Tigers 27, North Texas 17
2004 GMAC BOWL
The Tigers earned a bid to this bowl (played in Mobile, Alabama) with an 8-3 regular season. Bowling Green scored five first-half touchdowns, but the Tigers answered with four of their own, including a 31-yard scamper by Williams to make the score 35-28 at halftime. But Memphis didn’t score again until late in the fourth quarter, the game having been decided. Williams ran for 120 yards and Wimprine passed for 324 in his final game with the Tigers.
Bowling Green 52, Tigers 35
2005 MOTOR CITY BOWL
Ford Field made for quite a setting, considering the Super Bowl would be played at the same venue six weeks later. DeAngelo Williams completed the greatest career in Memphis football history by rushing for 238 yards and three touchdowns to earn MVP honors. (The Tigers attempted only 14 passes.) This was also the final college game for the Tigers’ alltime leading scorer (and current New England Patriot), Stephen Gostkowski, who connected on three field goals, one from 50 yards. The win gave the Tigers a final record of 7-5.
Tigers 38, Akron 31
2007 NEW ORLEANS BOWL
The Tigers won five of their last six games after a slow start for a return to the Superdome with a 7-5 record. Florida Atlantic scored 17 points in the game’s first ten minutes and led 30-20 at halftime. Memphis quarterback Martin Hankins threw a touchdown pass to Carlos Singleton to close the Owl lead to three in the third quarter before FAU pulled away for the victory.
Florida Atlantic 44, Tigers 27
2008 ST. PETERSBURG BOWL
The Tigers reached a fifth bowl game under coach Tommy West by the slimmest of margins, beating Tulane (handily) to finish the regular season with a record of 6-6. (Memphis lost its first three games and was 3-5 in mid-October.) South Florida dominated on both sides of the ball, holding the Tigers to 66 rushing yards and 172 through the air. Playing in its backyard, USF benefited from three touchdown passes by Matt Grothe, the game’s MVP.
USF 41, Tigers 14