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Birmingham Bowl: Wake Forest defeats Memphis 37-34 at Legion Field

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Wake Forest defeated Memphis 37-34 in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field on Saturday, December 22, 2018. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.)
By Ben Kercheval
CBS Sports

The 2018 Birmingham Bowl between Memphis and Wake Forest delivered on the points, but it was a wild final two minutes that made it arguably the most exciting postseason game played so far. The Demon Deacons made a furious comeback after falling behind 28-10 in the second quarter and outlasted a missed field goal attempt to win 37-34.

But first, let’s back up two minutes to unpack the crazy series of events. Memphis got the ball on its own 12-yard line with 5:42 left in the game. At that point, it had not scored since running back/wideout Tony Pollard ran a kickoff 97 yards back for a touchdown. In fact, the Tigers, which ranked 7th nationally in points per game, had not scored an offensive touchdown in nearly three full quarters.

However, Memphis was finally able to move the ball when it needed to and running back Patrick Taylor Jr. capped off an impressive 14-play, 88-yard scoring drive to leave Wake Forest with 1:15 left on the clock. Capping off the drive with even more drama, quarterback Brady White’s pass on the two-point conversion was picked off the end zone and nearly returned for a two-point play for Wake Forest.

Then, on Wake’s next possession, quarterback Jamie Newman scored on a one-yard run to put the Deacs up 37-34 with 34 seconds remaining.

But, given the true spirit of this game, Memphis had one more opportunity to tie or take the lead. Choosing to go for overtime, a would-be 38-yard field goal for the Tigers was wiped out due to a false start and the ensuing 43-yard attempt from kicker Riley Patterson was no good as time expired.

It’s a tough loss for Memphis, which dropped three of its six games this year by a field goal or less. There were also a lot of bettors sweating this game. The line closed at -2 for Memphis and the point total was at 71.5. So not only were the final couple of minutes great for college football drama, there were some serious Vegas implications on the line as well.