Saturday, December 22, 2018

Birmingham Bowl: Wake Forest 37, Tigers 34

Posted By on Sat, Dec 22, 2018 at 3:07 PM

A record-breaking football season for Memphis ended in heartbreak at the Birmingham Bowl Saturday afternoon. Sophomore kicker Riley Patterson pushed a 43-yard field goal attempt just outside the right goalpost as time expired, giving the Wake Forest Demon Deacons the win and extending the Tigers' losing streak in bowl games to four.

The Tigers led the game by 18 (28-10) in the second quarter, and took a four-point lead (34-30) on a 9-yard Patrick Taylor touchdown with just 1:15 left in the game. But after failing on a two-point conversion attempt, Memphis allowed the Deacons to drive 75 yards in 41 seconds, quarterback Jamie Newman rushing the final yard for what proved to be the game-winning points, his third touchdown of the contest.
click to enlarge birmingham-bowl.jpg

The loss leaves Memphis with a final record of 8-6 for the season while Wake Forest finishes 7-6.

After falling behind 7-0, the Tigers scored on a 41-yard run by Tony Pollard not quite five minutes into the game. Pollard (109 yards on the ground) and Taylor (108 yards) absorbed carries that might have gone to All-America tailback Darrell Henderson who declined to play in the game as he prepares for next spring's NFL draft.

Memphis extended its lead to 21-7 on a short touchdown reception by Taylor (who finished the season with 18 touchdowns) and 37-yard interception return by sophomore cornerback Chris Claybrooks on the first play of the second quarter.

Wake Forest closed the lead to 21-10 on the first of three field goals by Nick Sciba, a score that set up college football history. Pollard received the ensuing kickoff at the three-yard line and raced 97 yards for his seventh career kickoff-return touchdown, tying the mark of three other players.

Excluding Pollard's heroics, though, a Memphis offense that entered the game ranked fourth in the country disappeared for most of the game. The Tigers went ten possessions without scoring a point, a period that allowed Newman and the Deacons to slice away at the lead, ultimately taking it (30-28) with a 39-yard Sciba field goal late in the third quarter. (The Tiger defense was compromised by injuries to linemen Jonathan Wilson and O'Bryan Goodson.)

Memphis quarterback Brady White completed a 43-yard pass to tight end Joey Magnifico on the Tigers' final possession, setting up Patterson's attempt to tie the game. He connected on two 38-yard attempts, though both were nullified, the first by a Wake Forest timeout and the second by a Tiger false-start penalty. The final kick had plenty of distance, but was just right of the target.

The Tigers completed the highest scoring season in program history, with 601 points over their 14 games. But they beat only one team (Houston) with a winning record.

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