Two teams that seemed to have almost checked out for the season gave the audience one of the most exciting bowls this season. Memphis came into the game without their Doak Walker finalist, Darrell Henderson. In addition to losing their top offensive weapon, offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham became the new OC at Auburn.
Wake Forest also was without several key players, much like it has been for the entire season. A surprise absentee was the ACC reception leader, Greg Dortch. Even without all of the big names, this game surpassed expectations.
Blazing Out Of The Bullpen
As much as we’ve already harped on it, the absence of several “stars” questioned whether or not the Birmingham Bowl would receive the same attention. There will surely be a discussion on if Wake Forest has a legit quarterback competition looming in the spring. Redshirt sophomore Jamie Newman got the nod after freshman starter Sam Hartman broke his foot.
The Demon Deacons even being bowl eligible has been in large part to the contributions of Newman. A three-touchdown performance against North Carolina State helped add a spark that there was still hope. In the season finale against Duke, his four touchdown performance showed potential. However in the bowl game against Memphis, down 18 points his four total touchdowns revealed his poise.
Milestones In The Clutch
Tony Pollard Jr. made his way into the history books after tying an NCAA record for his seventh career kickoff return touchdown. The redshirt junior from Memphis was almost untouched but gave a last-second stiff arm before turning on the jets to separate. Pollard also scored the Tigers first touchdown of the game on a 41-yard rushing touchdown.
Patrick Taylor will likely be the starting running back next season with Henderson opting for the NFL Draft. He got an early look at next season’s duties as he received a career-high 30 carries.
True freshman kicker Nick Sciba has been perfect on all of his kicks since September 29th. The third quarter field goals from 49 yards and 39 yards proved to be big factors in continuing the comeback and helping drive the win.
Without their best receiver available, Alex Bachman answered the questions on who would step up. The California native stepped up in what was his final game as a Demon Deacon. His 171 yards receiving is a new career high and came in the team’s most needed moments.
New-Man On The Block
There were several moments in the bowl game where it looked like Wake Forest would be sent home with a loss. However, Newman refused to lay down and give up. With Wake Forest down 18 points in the second quarter, head coach Dave Clawson elected to go for the touchdown. He turned to none other than his quarterback, who had already thrown an interception that was returned for a touchdown. With the mistake in his rearview, Newman dove over the top of the pile for a touchdown giving Wake Forest life.
That was a sign of what was to come. On his second rushing touchdown, the quarterback broke five tackles before scoring from 17 yards out. After two clutch field goals in the third quarter by Sciba, Wake Forest finally regained the lead. Memphis would answer back in the fourth quarter with a touchdown run by Taylor.
Wake Forest received the ball back with a minute and 15 seconds left in the game. On what was the game-winning drive, Newman found Bachman on three completions. The first completion went for 10 yards. On the second completion for 49 yards, the reception put Wake Forest in Memphis territory. Newman would find Bachman one more time from 20 yards, on a back shoulder throw. With the ball on the one-yard line, Wake Forest leaned on Jamie Newman and he delivered.
Memphis would get one more opportunity but penalties and a missed field goal with secure the bowl win for Wake Forest. Jamie Newman was named the game MVP, he eclipsed 400 total yards and scored four total touchdowns.