(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
MIAMI – BYU fell to Memphis in the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl 55-48 in double overtime Monday afternoon at Marlins Park.
"It was a battle right to the end," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "You can't really get much closer than double overtime. I think it started that way and remained that way until the end of the game. The kids gave their complete heart and played with grit and determination and resiliency. They responded and kept coming back. They played like their season has been. They didn't give up on each other, they didn't give up on the team. They tried as hard as they could."
BYU (8-5) drops to 2-2 against the American Athletic Conference this season with wins against Houston and UConn and losses to UCF and Memphis (10-3, 7-1 AAC).
The Cougars were playing in head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s 10th career bowl game, dropping his record to 6-4 in postseason play.
Christian Stewart went 23 of 48 for 348 yards and three touchdowns to go along with three interceptions. Stewart spread the ball around, completing passes to 10 different receivers.
Mitch Mathews led all pass catchers with nine receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown. Mitchell Juergens caught four balls for 87 yards and a score. Jordan Leslie only caught one pass in his last game as a Cougar, but it went for 23 yards and a touchdown.
BYU totaled 425 yards, compared to 480 for Memphis. The Tigers outgained the Cougars on the ground 174-77 and also dominated the time of possession 46:32-28:28.
After losing the overtime coin toss, BYU kicker Trevor Samson drilled a career-long 45-yard field goal to put BYU up 48-45. Memphis bested the Cougars’ kick with a 55-yard kick from Jake Elliott to send it to double overtime.
Memphis opened up the second overtime with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Roderick Proctor, and DeShaughn Terry picked off Stewart at the goal line to end the game.
After the Cougars struggled on offense much of the third quarter, linebacker Manoa Pikula recorded his first interception of his career to give BYU life with 13 minutes left in the game. After a long pass to tight end Devin Mahina to get inside the Tiger 10-yard line, Samson drilled a 23-yard field goal to make the score 38-31 in favor of Memphis.
On the following kickoff, BYU safety Chris Badger recovered a fumble forced by freshman linebacker Va’a Niumatalolo, giving the ball back to the Cougar offense inside the Memphis 30-yard line. Paul Lasike scored from seven yards out up the middle to tie the game at 38 with 10:42 to go.
After a great punt from Scott Arellano to pin the Tigers deep in their own territory, BYU linebacker Zac Stout read Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch and stepped in front of a pass intercepting it and running it back for a touchdown to give BYU the 45-38 lead with under eight minutes left in the game.
With 45 seconds left in the game and Memphis facing a fourth down inside the BYU red zone, Lynch scrambled around in the backfield for what seemed like forever and found Keiwone Malone to tie the game at 45. The touchdown capped an eight-play, 33-yard drive to send the game to overtime.
To start the game the Cougars and Tigers didn’t waste any time giving fans in Miami something to cheer for. Lasike fumbled on the second play of the game, setting Memphis up with excellent field position. Three plays later, Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch found Malone for a 33-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers up 7-0.
BYU responded quickly. Stewart led a five-play, 82-yard drive capped off with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Juergens.
After a short kickoff from Samson, Memphis was set up with great field position, and the Tigers took advantage, marching 58 yards in eight plays to regain a 14-7 lead. Lynch dove for the pylon, using his 6-foot-7 height to just reach the end zone from 1 yard out.
On the next BYU possession, Stewart found Mathews from 25 yards out for a score to tie the game at 14.
With the Tigers driving inside the BYU 10-yard line, Cougar defensive lineman Graham Rowley forced a fumble, stripping Paxton, and BYU safety Skye PoVey jumped on it for the Cougars.
The Tigers held BYU after the turnover, forcing a punt from Arellano. The Tigers then marched 44 yards, and Elliott kicked a 39-yard field goal to put Memphis up 14-7.
After a Stewart interception on the last play of the first quarter, Lynch ran in his second touchdown of the game from 3 yards out to put Memphis up 24-14 with 12:44 left in the second quarter.
After defensive stops from both teams, BYU mounted an impressive drive to get within three with 4:55 left in the first half. The Cougars went on a 14-play, 62-yard drive where Stewart found Jordan Leslie on fourth down for a 23-yard touchdown pass.
On the following Memphis possession, BYU linebacker Alani Fua picked off Lynch and ran the ball all the way back to the Tiger 15-yard line. Lasike scored his sixth touchdown of the season on a 3-yard run to give BYU their first lead of the game, 28-24 heading into halftime.
Memphis took the opening kickoff of the second half 71 yards in 13 plays, and Lynch scored his third rushing touchdown of the game to put the Tigers back in front, 31-28.
After forcing another BYU punt Memphis went on a quick 73-yard drive that ended with a Lynch-to-Alan Cross 17-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers up 38-28.
"The positive is we continue to score a lot of points, really attributed to Christian Stewart and our offensive staff utilizing him in a really unique way," Mendenhall said. "It's the second year in an offensive scheme that really generated a lot of points down the stretch and gave us a great chance to win. Short fields on special teams I think had an impact on the game tonight, and then just clearly not controlling the points well enough defensively, not only in this game but if you look at the season."