BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Jamie Newman’s season started on a sour note and finished on a sweet one.
Newman ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 34 seconds left to cap a big performance and Wake Forest’s comeback in a 37-34 victory over Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl on Saturday. The quarterback who lost the competition for the starting job in fall camp, then replaced an injured Sam Hartman, delivered big play after big play in a storybook ending to the season.
“When Sam got hurt and Jamie became the starter, it wasn’t like, `Woe is us,’ and `we’re in trouble,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “Jamie and Sam were going back and forth all of camp and then Jamie got hurt (bruised quad) in the last scrimmage.”
Even after that go-ahead score, the Demon Deacons (7-6) had to wait to celebrate until Riley Patterson’s 43-yard field goal attempt went wide right as time expired.
Both teams scored touchdowns over the final 1:15. Memphis (8-6) lost a big lead for the second straight game after jumping ahead by 18 points in the first half.
Voted the game MVP, Newman ran for three touchdowns and passed for a fourth to lead Wake Forest, throwing for 328 yards and rushing 23 times for 91 more.
He led the Demon Deacons on a 75-yard drive starting at the 1:15 mark, covering most of it with completions of 49 and 20 yards to Alex Bachman.
“Alex Bachman made some great plays down there, a lot of one-on-one balls, 50-50 balls, and he won,” Newman said.
He rebounded from an early sack on that last scoring drive, and from a pick-six in the first half, too.
“We practice this every Wednesday throughout the week,” Newman said of the two-minute drill. “This was just another day at the office out there.”
Bachman’s second catch was reviewed and the spot was upheld at the 1-yard line after his right arm hit the pylon. Newman kept the ball for the go-ahead score.
Bachman finished with seven catches for 171 yards.
Memphis swiftly moved into position to at least tie the game. Brady White found an open Joey Magnifico on the right sideline for a 44-yard gain, with the tight end battling for extra yards down to the 17.
“I fully expected us to win that game,” Tigers coach Mike Norvell said.
The Tigers went backward after that, though, including a false start penalty after Patterson lined up to attempt a game-tying kick.
Wake Forest safety Cameron Glenn said it felt “kind of like an out-of-body experience” when the kick went right.
“I felt like my soul just lifted out of my body or something,” Glenn said. “It’s crazy.”
In the Tigers’ last outing, they had led by 17 points against No. 7 UCF in the American Athletic Conference championship game, only to lose 58-41.
Subbing for All-America running back Darrell Henderson, Patrick Taylor Jr. had given Memphis the lead with a 9-yard touchdown to cap a 14-play, 88-yard drive. Before that, the Tigers had come up empty on nine consecutive drives.
“We just kept talking to our guys on the sideline, `just continue to play,” Norvell said. “We were struggling there at times in the third and fourth quarter getting things going offensively. I thought our guys responded.”
Tony Pollard scored on a 97-yard kickoff return to tie the NCAA career mark with seven. Memphis also scored on a 37-yard interception return by Chris Claybrooks.
Memphis: Lost its fourth straight bowl game and second straight big lead. Ran for 207 yards without Henderson, who skipped the game to prepare for the NFL draft.
Wake Forest: Outgained Memphis 529-378 in total yards. Last five bowl wins have all come after early deficits, including four double-digit holes.
Pollard matched the career mark shared by Clemson’s C.J. Spiller, Houston’s Tyron Carrier and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny. Memphis fans responded with chants of “Tony!” at Legion Field.
It was Pollard’s first kick return for a score this season, with teams kicking to him only 21 times before the bowl game. He returned four the distance in 2017 and did it twice as a redshirt freshman in 2016.
“All week coach did a good job drawing it up how they would come down and how the blocks would work out and it happened just the way we drew it up,” Pollard said.
Wake Forest returns both Newman and the freshman Hartman, the starting quarterback until a season-ending leg injury. Dortch is a third-year sophomore, but three offensive line starters are seniors. The defense is poised to only lose three starters.
Memphis gets back both Taylor and Pollard, along with White, but the defense loses six starters for a team seeking its sixth straight bowl bid.