Tigers finally ready to open football season

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MEMPHIS, Tenn-Here are some comments and notes from the Memphis Tigers as they get ready to open the college football season by hosting Louisiana-Monroe.

Memphis Head Coach Mike Norvell comments

(On season opener)
“Football season is here. Game week is upon us. It’s an exciting time for Memphis Tigers football. I am so proud of this team for how they approached fall camp. We are excited about being able to take the field with this group and try to establish an identity of what we are going to be all about. I’m really proud of the young men that I get to coach and the coaches I get to work with each and every day. We are excited about kicking off the season at home in the Liberty Bowl in a nationally-televised game. There are a lot of things to be looking forward to for Memphis Tigers fans. I’m looking forward to seeing a whole lot of them in the stands come Thursday night. We are going to continue to work hard to do everything we can to represent this community, this university and our football program and the great tradition that we have.

(On Louisiana Monroe)
“You see a team that was in a very similar situation to us last year with a new coaching staff. As they were going through their season last year, they were trying to put themselves in the best position to be successful with new personnel. I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff and the program that is at ULM. We know this is a team that returns a lot of experienced players. They have three guys that started at quarterback last season. Everything you read talks about the growth they’ve had in the off-season. They return so many starters that we know we are facing a team that is much improved and one that is excited to get back on the field much like we are.”

(On playing Thursday night)
“I love giving our players, our program and our community an opportunity to be showcased. To play on a Thursday night to kick off college football is big for us. I’m excited about the opportunity that we have. I am looking forward to seeing the fans dressed in blue. You can feel the excitement within our community. We are so grateful and honored for the opportunity to represent this community and this school. Quite frankly, I’m glad we don’t have to wait a couple more days (to kick off the season). I’m glad we are getting it done Thursday and having the opportunity to run through that tunnel and represent this community.”

Tigers Tidbits/Five Notes To Know

· Thursday’s game is only the third all-time meeting on the gridiron between the two schools. The series is tied 1-1, and both previous encounters were played in Memphis. The Tigers won the last match-up in 2000, posting a 28-0 shutout over Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks took the first contest with a 21-20 win in 1979.

· The Tigers have a 38-60-3 record in season openers and a 47-49-5 mark in home openers in their history. Memphis enters Thursday’s game having won their last three season/home openers, including last year’s 35-17 victory over Southeast Missouri. Thursday marks the seventh-straight season Memphis opens a campaign at home. It is the longest stretch of home season openers since the Tigers played eight-consecutive season openers at home from 1955-62.

· For the second time in the modern era (since World War II), Memphis kicks off a season on Thursday night of Labor Day weekend. The first time the Tigers played on a Thursday of the Labor Day weekend was in 2011 when they hosted No. 16 Mississippi State. Other than playing on Saturday, Memphis also has had games on the Thursday (2011, 2017), Sunday (2006, 2009) and Monday (2005) of the Labor Day holiday weekend since 2005.

· Someone is celebrating a birthday Thursday, and it’s TOM III. Memphis’ live Bengal Tiger mascot was born Aug. 31, 2008, at the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue & Educational Center in Rock Springs, Wis. Center founders Jeff and Jenny Kozlowski generously offered to donate one of their cubs to serve as TOM III. TOM III moved to his new home outside Memphis Oct. 23, 2008, and has been a mainstay at Memphis games at the Liberty Bowl since. Happy Birthday, TOM!

· Thursday’s game is the eighth August playing date in Tigers program history. Memphis is 4-3 in its seven previous August games, but is 3-1 in its last four August season openers. The last time Memphis opened a campaign in August was in 2014, a 63-0 shutout over Austin Peay. That Tigers squad went on to a 10-3 record, claim a share of the American Athletic Conference title and win the Miami Beach Bowl. The 10-win season was the first in program history since 1938.