Memphis was playing its third game in 11 days and dealing with the death of a teammate in a murder on campus on Sunday Night, but you wouldn't have known that as the Tigers took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for a 3-0 lead on the opening series of the game in the Herd's Conference USA opener at the Liberty Bowl. After a three-and-out by MU and a shanked punt by Anthony Binswanger, the Tigers drove for three more and 6-0 lead.
Back came the Herd, but after gaining a first down, Courtney Edmonson let a ball go right through his hands for an interception by Rico Mathis at the Tiger 46-yard line. But the MU defense of coordinator Steve Dunlap made a stand and forced Memphis to punt, as freshman quarterback Matt Malouf kicked the ball to the six. The Herd came out thundering from the shadow of its own end zone, with Darius Marshall gaining 16 yards in two carries and Chubb Small adding 17 on two more. The first quarter ended with Memphis having all the momentum and all the offense, but only two field goals and a 6-0 lead to show for its efforts on offense and defense.
The MU offense came up short for a first, but the Herd defense keep up the pressure in the second quarter, forcing Memphis to punt to Bryant Milligan. On his first return of his career, Milligan returned the ball 13 yards to give the Herd first and ten at the 34-yard line. The Herd came out passing and Bernard Morris hit Emmanuel Spann for 25 yards to open, Marshall's biggest play of the night. Morris found D. Marshall for seven yards, Slate for four and another first down then ran for five. A sack was wiped out by Freddie Barnett of UM being offsides and the Herd had first and ten at the 20 of the Tigers. On the next play, Morris found Cody Slate wide open down the seam route and the Herd took a 7-6 lead.
Back came Memphis, with a pretty 67-yard drive starting at its own 20. Will Hudgens hit a big 37-yard gain on third and 10 at the Memphis 33 when Carlton Robinzine caught the ball in the midst of three Herd defenders. The Herd defense stiffened and forced Matt Reagan to kick his third field goal of the night, this one from 30 yards away, to set the halftime score at Memphis-9, Marshall-7 with four seconds on the clock. D. Marshall finished the half with pretty 36-yard kickoff return.
NOTES: Everything old is new again. The Thundering Herd has added award stickers to the helmets for the first time in many years for outstanding play. Mark Snyder has dipped into Herd history to begin awarding "Herd Horns," or stickers that look like the horns of the Buffalo, or American Bison, the Herd's mascot. Jack Lengyel gave a similar award while coaching the "Young" Thundering Herd from 1971-74, as the stickers go up the back of the helmet to form a pair of horns with every two given. The last time MU used stickers was 1988, when then head coach George Chaump gave "Hammers and Washboards," awards for working out in the weight room over the summer. In 1976, then MU coach Frank Ellwood gave American Flag stickers to players for outstanding plays to put on the "Ohio State" style helmets of that year's Herd, who had no logo on the side of that helmet. Marshall returned to a "M" in 1977 and, except for the 1984-85 green helmet of former coach Stan Parrish, has had a "M" or logo with a "M" in it since.