Tigers will play North Texas

Updated: December 2, 2003, 12:50 AM ET
Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- When Memphis fans get to the New Orleans Bowl, they will indeed have something to cheer about.

The Dec. 16 game against North Texas in the Superdome will be the Tigers' first postseason appearance since 1971.

"I can't say enough about these players and my coaches," Memphis coach Tommy West said after the bowl invitation was announced Monday. "We set postseason play as one of our goals for this year and we have now achieved that goal."

The Tigers have set that goal for years. This is just the first time they have reached it in more than three decades.

This is West's third season with the Tigers.

Memphis has been to only two other bowls, the Burley Bowl in Johnson City in 1956 and the Pasadena Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., in 1971.

North Texas, meanwhile, will be going to the New Orleans Bowl for the third straight year.

Also for the third consecutive year, the Mean Green (8-3, 6-0) are the Sun Belt Conference champions.

Memphis (8-4, 5-3 Conference USA) has its first winning season since 1974, and the Tigers have at least eight victories for the first time since 1973.

"We are very proud of our football team," Memphis Athletic Director R.C. Johnson said.

The New Orleans Bowl was prepared to issue an invitation to Memphis over the weekend but the logistics in setting up other bowls affiliated with C-USA delayed the process.

The Tigers had a shot at their first nine-victory season since 1963, but lost to South Florida 21-16 on Saturday.

Memphis gave up four interceptions and three fumbles to South Florida while playing without leading rusher DeAngelo Williams and top receiver Maurice Avery because of injuries.

North Texas ended its regular season with a 13-10 victory over New Mexico State. The victory gave the Mean Green a perfect conference record for the second season in a row and increased the nation's longest conference winning streak to 18 games.

Coach Darrell Dickey said he was particularly happy for the Mean Green's seniors.

"To earn three straight conference championships and New Orleans Bowl bids is a tremendous accomplishment for a bunch of guys who came here when this program wasn't very good," Dickey said.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press