2014 Miami Beach Bowl: 3 things we learned from Memphis’ thrilling, ugly 55-48 victory
A massive fight after the final play ruins one of the most exciting bowl games of the year.
In a wild game, BYU mounted a ferocious fourth-quarter rally, but bowed in overtime against the Memphis Tigers in the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl on Monday afternoon. The game was marred by a massive brawl after Memphis DB DaShaughn Terry intercepted a BYU pass in the second OT, ending the game. From there, the celebration quickly turned into an all-out melee, and several players on both teams were seen throwing punches.
A video posted by Zach Klein (@zachkleinwsb) on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:08pm PST
The Tigers led for most of the ballgame, and a 60-yard Brandon Hayes run late in the third quarter appeared to give Memphis a 45-28 lead. Alas, the play was called back for a hold by Memphis tackle Taylor Fallin, and the drive amounted to nothing but a punt.
From there, the fourth quarter was a horror show for the Tigers, as Memphis committed three turnovers and punted in the span of eight plays from scrimmage. The last turnover was a pick-six by BYU LB Zac Stout that gave the Cougars a 45-38 lead with 7:48 to play.
Still, Memphis had one last shot at tying the game, starting its final drive inside BYU’s 40 yard line with 2:34 left to play (and all three timeouts to spare—more on the timeouts in a second). Memphis converted two fourth downs on the drive, including a five-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds left that tied the game and gave the world free Miami Beach Bowl action.
The first overtime was more ugly than anything, with each team moving backwards on its drive then nailing a long kick. Memphis in particular found itself facing a 4th and 22 on its OT possession, necessitating a 54-yard field goal try from Jake Elliott. Elliott’s kick cleared the uprights with ease, and Memphis stayed in the game. Its second OT went much more smoothly, as the Tigers needed just four plays to find the end zone and take the 55-48 lead, setting the stage for Terry’s interception and the mess that ensued.
Three things we learned
1. Bronco Mendenhall’s timeout strategy could use some work. On the game-tying extra point by Memphis, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall burned two of his team’s three timeouts, despite still having 45 seconds left in regulation to manufacture a drive and score. Sure enough, BYU got within position for a Hail Mary at the end of the fourth quarter, and one can only imagine how much better of a shot the Cougars would have had at getting into field goal range with two more timeouts at their disposal. Fast-forward to overtime, when Memphis was staring down a 54-yard field goal just to keep the game alive. Mendenhall iced Elliott again, blowing dead a kick that fell woefully short and letting Memphis take another shot at the long field goal. That one went through, so… way to go, BYU.
2. That fight was supremely awful. Regardless of who threw the very first punch of the postgame brawl or what was the ultimate cause of it all, suffice it to say both teams were eager and willing participants in the fray. Images of kicks, sucker punches and swung helmets will dominate coverage of the game, which is a (figurative) black eye for both schools—Memphis because it has a rather historic season to celebrate, and BYU because of its connection to a particularly strict religious institution and its famed honor code. Once the dust settles and the primary combatants are identified, there’ll probably be some guys on both sides whose careers at these schools ended prematurely with that fight, and there won’t be many fans of those programs who’ll be sorry to see them go.
3. Hey, Memphis did well. This marks Memphis’ first nine-win season since 1938, in the days of the SIAA (the Southern Intercollegiate Athletics Association, but you knew that). Justin Fuente moves to 17-20 after his third year at the helm of the program, and the job he’s done rebuilding that program into a relative power should make him a hot candidate at a larger program in the very near future. And he may want to take an offer if it comes this offseason; Memphis has to replace eight senior starters from its defense, and 11 starters overall. Another nine-win season and share of the AAC title may not be forthcoming in 2015.