MIAMI (AP) – As some players from both sides brawled after the final play, BYU quarterback Christian Stewart decided to simply walk off the field.
He fought for four quarters, then two overtimes.
And the result he wanted just wasn’t in the cards.
Stewart led the Cougars back from a pair of double-digit deficits, but was intercepted on the final play of his collegiate career as Memphis wound up beating BYU 55-48 in double overtime at the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl on Monday afternoon.
”You learn more from losses than you do from wins a lot of the times,” Stewart said. ”I’m just going to take the lessons I learned from this game and carry it on to my professional career – not in football, that is.”
Stewart was pressed into service after BYU starter Taysom Hill was lost to a broken leg in Week 5 and wound up throwing for 2,621 yards and 25 touchdowns in his senior season. He had 348 yards and three touchdowns against Memphis (10-3), which got its first bowl win since 2005 and first double-digit victory total since 1938.
Paxton Lynch threw four touchdown passes and rushed for three more scores, Jake Elliott kicked a 54-yard field goal to end the first extra session and Memphis needed to convert a pair of fourth-down throws on the final drive of regulation just to have a chance.
”It wasn’t always pretty,” Memphis coach Justin Fuente said.
No, but it was memorable – largely for the right reasons, though also for a scene that got out of hand at the end.
After DaShaughn Terry sealed the win by picking off Stewart in the second OT, tensions boiled over. Dozens of people from both sidelines spilled toward the middle of the field, many punching and grabbing. Cameras caught BYU defensive back Kai Nacua – who had blood streaming from his face – coming from behind to punch in the head Memphis tight end Alan Cross, who was being restrained by someone from the Tigers’ staff.
”You want them to rise above that and have fantastic sportsmanship,” Mendenhall said. ”I’m sure if you go back and look, there’ll be an instance or two that ignited. Probably the majority wanted to handle it really well.”
There was no immediate word on any disciplinary action from either team.
Lynch threw for 306 yards and the four touchdowns, including a 5-yarder to Keiwone Malone with 45 seconds left in regulation – on fourth-and-4, his second fourth-down conversion on the Tigers’ final drive of regulation. And Lynch said afterward that Malone wasn’t even the intended receiver.
”This is probably the craziest game, most emotional game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Lynch, the first player at the FBS level with at least four TD throws and three TD runs in a game since Clemson’s Tajh Boyd in 2012.
The teams combined for four touchdowns in the first 8 minutes and Memphis led 24-14 early in the second quarter, before BYU rallied with two scores in the final 4:55 to take a 28-24 lead at intermission.
”Nothing was conservative, from the start,” Mendenhall said.
Memphis opened the second half with a 13-play, 71-yard march capped by Lynch’s third rushing score of the day to reclaim the lead, and the Tigers extended the edge to 38-28 after Cross caught a 17-yard pass from Lynch with 3:45 left in the third.
But back came BYU again, with a field goal from Trevor Samson and – after the Cougars stripped the ensuing return away from Memphis’ Joe Craig for a fumble – Paul Lasike’s second touchdown tied it at 38-all with 10:52 left.
Zac Stout’s interception return for a score that put BYU on top came 3 minutes later.
But the lead slipped away, an up-and-down day capping an up-and-down season – four wins, then four losses, then four wins entering the bowl.
”I thought we had it,” wide receiver Jordan Leslie said.
Leslie also thought he had a touchdown catch in the first overtime, but replays clearly showed the tip of the football on the turf as he tried to corral it while falling to the ground.
The Cougars might have been that close to ending the year with a win.
”We fell short,” Mendenhall said, ”in a few critical moments.”