• A nationally televised college football game is a recruiting tool. The significance of the Tigers' upset of UCLA in front of the ABC cameras last weekend should only grow with coach Mike Norvell's next recruiting class.
The two biggest plays in the Memphis win were interceptions of Bruin quarterback Josh Rosen. The first was by redshirt-freshman Tim Hart, who returned his third-quarter pick 60 yards to extend the Tigers' lead to 41-31. The second was by true freshman T.J. Carter, a snag that ended a UCLA threat with the Tigers clinging to a 48-45 lead. Since the day he arrived at the U of M, Norvell has said the best players on his roster will be on the field come game day. High school players seeing freshmen star on national television are that much more inclined to consider wearing the same uniform when it comes to their own commitment.
• This has become an annual gripe (apologies), but will remain so until we see the right kind of action. There is no visible tribute at the Liberty Bowl for the six Tiger greats who have had their jerseys retired. It mystifies me.
We're not talking about statues or engraved numbers under the sky boxes. How about a single banner? One that reminds Tiger fans of the names (and numbers) of those to have received the program's ultimate honor: John Bramlett (64), Isaac Bruce (83), Dave Casinelli (30), Charles Greenhill (8), Harry Schuh (79), and DeAngelo Williams (20). If this isn't a priority for Norvell or U of M athletic director Tom Bowen, I'm surprised it hasn't become one for alumni and boosters of the program. Such a banner could be created with what amounts to pocket change in a football budget. And it would lift hearts and spirits during every home game. Simply has to happen.
• I can't see Southern Illinois being a trap game for the Tigers.
Not this early in the season. Sandwiched between the "statement game" against UCLA and the rescheduled conference opener against UCF (September 30th), the contest won't stand out in any season wrap-ups . . . unless the Salukis pull off an upset. There was a time (as recently as 2013) when an FCS opponent would be welcomed as a nice break on the Tiger schedule, a game Memphis might, you know, win. (Memphis handled UT-Martin four years ago, one of three wins that season.) Today, it's a chance for Norvell and offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey to work out kinks in their scheme, for reserves to get off the bench for a few snaps, and for a little stat-padding among the Tiger skill-position players. (Anthony Miller needs only 30 yards receiving to move into second place on the Memphis career chart.) With three of the Tigers' following four games on the road, Saturday night should be a football party at the Liberty Bowl. And no injuries, please.