Some coaches just can not win at some stadiums, no matter what. For Curtis Johnson, Memphis’ Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium (formerly known as the Liberty Bowl) is that place.
As coach of Tulane from 2012-2015, Johnson went 0-2 at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium losing 37-23 in 2012 and 38-7 in 2014.
There was an even split between blowouts and down-to-the-wire games during the opening weekend of the USFL season. On the losing end of one of the blowouts were Curtis Johnson’s Houston Gamblers as they fell 29-13 to the Michigan Panthers on Sunday.
Although the score was 29-13, the game was closer than the final indicated as the Gamblers were down by three entering the 4th quarter and the Panthers scored on a deep third-down pass in the final two minutes as Johnson fell to 0-3 at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.
Johnson’s two losses to Memphis on the road were part of an 11-game losing streak for Tulane against Memphis that lasted from 2002 to 2017, and a road losing streak to the Tigers that dates back to 1998 and lasts to this day.
Sunday’s game was similar to Johnson’s 2012 loss to Memphis as Tulane only trailed by seven entering the fourth quarter before 14 unanswered Memphis points gave the Tigers a 37-23 win. In that game and Sunday’s game, Johnson’s teams let a tight game get out of hand to lose by a deceptively large margin.
Johnson will have plenty of chances to earn that elusive first win in Memphis with the Gamblers playing five more games at Liberty Stadium. Sunday’s performance against a much-improved Michigan squad with Josh Love at quarterback indicates that Johnson should be able to snap his Liberty Stadium losing streak.
For college football lifers like myself, Johnson’s quest to be “Walking in Memphis” with his first win is an intriguing storyline.