Jeff Reed: Mid-South’s Oldest Rivalry – Arkansas State and Memphis

Arkansas State and Memphis – Looking for Three in a Row over Tigers

Jeff Reed Author PageLess than an hour after the Arkansas State Red Wolves won their conference opener over Troy, coach Bryan Harsin was standing near an elevator in the football complex and the subject was the upcoming game.

“Memphis week is fun,’’ said A-State athletic director Terry Mohajir.  “You will enjoy that.”

Harsin, still in the afterglow of the 41-34 victory over Troy in the Sun Belt Conference opener, just looked and listened.

Mohajir, the school’s enormously popular athletic director, played football for Arkansas State in 1990 and 1991. His first game was at Memphis against the Tigers, a contest that ended in a 24-24 tie. It was only one of five games he played in for ASU that did not end in defeat.

A year later, the Indians lost at Memphis  31-21. Seven games later Al Kincaid would be out after just two years as ASU head coach.

But in all of it, Mohajir learned what this game meant to the A-State Nation, a group that is looking for a natural, nearby rival.

“I see no reason why we should not play,’’ he told Sporting Life Arkansas in January. “I think we should sign a 10-year contract”

No 10-year deal is in the works. In fact, after Saturday’s game the next meeting will likely be years away. There have been no talks to renew. Memphis is seeking more name opponents.

So that leaves us with Saturday afternoon in the Liberty Bowl, a site where A-State fans have seen some bizarre things that almost always seem to go in the Tigers’ favor. Well it was that way until 2006 when ASU won 26-23 on a Hail Mary pass on the final play (see third video below).

There are a lot of fun memories over there. The infamous photo of Larry Lacewell on his knees after the Tigers were awarded a fifth down inside the ASU 5, and they still couldn’t score. That was the 30-10 victory in 1986.

If the Red Wolves come out on top Saturday it will be their fifth victory in the last six meetings and their third straight over the Tigers, who are now members of the American Athletic Conference, one of the six leagues that is awarded an automatic spot in a BCS Bowl. Arkansas State has one victory over an Automatic Qualifying school – Texas A&M in 2008.

On Saturday the Red Wolves would like another one.  ASU folks think it would be a nice way to wrap things up.

(Jeff Reed is editor of


JONESBORO – Arkansas State fans are encouraged to help send the Red Wolves football team off Friday as they depart for Memphis, Tenn., to play the Memphis Tigers on Saturday at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

The team will be leaving Liberty Bank Stadium at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, and A-State fans are asked to gather near the Football Facility beginning at 3:30 p.m. to cheer on the players and coaches as they load the buses to depart for the trip.

A-State’s game against Memphis on Saturday is set for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff, and is the first of three consecutive non-conference games for the Red Wolves.  Arkansas State will carry a 2-1 overall record into the contest after knocking off Sun Belt Conference foe Troy 41-34 on Sept. 12.  The Red Wolves are 1-1 in non-conference games, defeating UAPB in their season opener before falling at Auburn the next week.

This week’s game will pit the Red Wolves against the opponent they’ve played more than any other in school history.  A-State has played 57 games against Memphis, which brings an 0-2 record into the game.  While Memphis was either tied or led in the fourth quarter each of its first two games, it fell 28-14 at home against Duke and 17-15 on the road at Middle Tennessee.

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