Memphis kicker Riley Patterson’s 43-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right on the final play of the Birmingham Bowl on Saturday, giving Wake Forest a 37-34 win at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.
Just 34 seconds earlier, Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman rushed for his third touchdown on the day, which proved to be the winning score for the Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest (7-6) has won bowl games in three consecutive seasons for the first time. Just as last year in the Belk Bowl, this one came by overcoming a double-digit deficit.
Newman, who was named the bowl’s MVP, orchestrated the game-winning drive, twice connecting with senior receiver Alex Bachman for key plays, including one near the sideline that took the ball to the Memphis 1.
That drive came after running back Patrick Taylor Jr. scored on a 9-yard run with 1:15 to play, and Memphis appeared to have the game in hand.
On Memphis’ go-ahead drive, the Tigers took possession at their own 12 with 5:51 to play, converted on fourth-and-6 at the Wake Forest 40 and then scored when it appeared Wake Forest might have conceded the points to get the ball back.
Memphis (8-6) had eclipsed the 40-point mark in eight games this season, but the Tigers went almost 40 minutes without scoring before the late score.
The Tigers jumped out to a 28-10 lead with 11:04 left in the first half behind two Tony Pollard scores: a 41-yard run from scrimmage and a 97-yard kickoff return. It was the redshirt junior’s seventh career kickoff return for a touchdown, tying an NCAA record.
Newman, a redshirt sophomore in his fourth career start, threw for 328 yards and rushed for 91 yards. Bachman racked up 171 receiving yards.
Memphis quarterback Brady White was 15-for-27 for 171 yards.
Newman engineered the Wake Forest comeback beginning midway in the second quarter. He dove in on fourth-and-1 as the Demon Deacons closed within 28-17. His 17-yard run less than two minutes later made it 28-24 at halftime.
Nick Sciba kicked field goals from 49 and 39 yards in the third quarter as Wake Forest took a 30-28 lead.
Memphis and Wake Forest met for the first time since 1967. Wake Forest leads 3-2 in all-time meetings.
Both teams were missing key players. Memphis running back Darrell Henderson, who had nation-leading 25 touchdown runs this season, sat out to prepare for the NFL draft. Wake Forest receiver Greg Dortch had a hand injury that kept one of the country’s top return specialists and the team’s top receiver out of the game.
—Field Level Media