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Wild ending allows Wake Forest to top Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl

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The Birmingham Bowl apparently had no issues rebranding into the BirmingHAM Bowl in 2018.

An absolutely bonkers final few minutes saw the lead change three times before Wake Forest survived a missed field goal as time expired to win 37-34 and triumph in the postseason for the third straight year.

The Demon Deacons ran off 20 consecutive points over the final three quarters at one point and improbably put together a six-play, 75 yard touchdown drive in the final 75 seconds that proved to be the game-winning points.

Making just his fourth career start, Wake quarterback Jamie Newman showed why he’s a true dual-threat under center by leading his team in both passing and rushing. The redshirt sophomore finished his first bowl game by throwing for 328 yards and a touchdown (one pick) while also rushing 23 times for 91 yards and a trio of scores as well. He also distributed the ball quite effectively in finding nine different receivers in the game — no small feat considering the team’s best player, Greg Dortch, missed the contest with an injury.

Tailbacks Matt Colburn (61 yards) and Cade Carney (51 yards) also chipped in on the ground while wideout Alex Bachman showed why he wears the No. 1 jersey with seven catches for a whopping 171 yards through the air.

Their efforts were just enough to overcome a big start by Memphis (up 28-10 at one point) and nearly a terrific finish too as the Tigers took nearly five minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter with an 88 yard touchdown drive to take the lead back. After their defense let them down a bit in allowing Wake to come back and score, the offense zipped down the field in just four plays to set up up a potentially game-tying field goal… but a false start backed up Riley Patterson, who sent the 43-yarder just wide.

QB Brady White was hot and cold during the game in throwing for 171 yards and a touchdown (one INT) but did do enough to keep the defense loose for his tailbacks. Patrick Taylor was the workhorse with 110 yards and a score while all-purpose threat Tony Pollard did a bit of everything with 109 yards and a touchdown on the ground to go with a 97 yard kick return — an NCAA record-tying seventh of his career.

The thrilling ending dropped Memphis to 8-6 on the season after holding big leads in each of their past two games (this one and the AAC title game against UCF). While the disappointment was clear on behalf of the Tigers, so too was the jubilation on the Wake Forest sideline after the game as they won three of their final four to close out 2018 at 7-6.

Memphis out front of Wake Forest as Birmingham Bowl hits halftime

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Motivation is always a big factor in bowl games and there were plenty of folks wondering if Memphis would be properly enthused at playing in the Birmingham Bowl on Saturday afternoon just a few weeks after losing their conference title game.

Probably safe to say that they are. So was their opponent.

The Tigers scored on offense, defense and special teams to jump out to a 28-24 lead over Wake Forest at halftime in an impressive showing from both sides as momentum changed hands several times.

Memphis QB Brady White was 7-of-10 for 69 yards and a touchdown pass but barely needed to break a sweat given how good his teammates were on the day. That’s particularly true of Tony Pollard, who did a bang up job of filling in for leading rusher Darrell Henderson (who has moved on to the NFL draft process).

In the first half alone, Pollard rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown plus returned a kickoff nearly untouched 97 yards for another score. It was his seventh kick return touchdown, tying the NCAA record in the process.

The Tigers also put together a 16 play, 98 yard scoring drive in the first quarter and saw Chris Claybrooks add in a 37 yard pick-six in the second quarter to help cap off an impressive effort in the first half.

Though Wake Forest did give up all those non-offensive touchdowns, the Deacs have to be happy at their resolve in battling back from being down 18 at one point. Signal-caller Jamie Newman started fast in leading a game-opening scoring drive and finished with 159 yards and a touchdown (plus that one interception) but really did his damage on the ground by running for 79 and a pair of scores.

Playing without top target Greg Dortch (hand injury), Newman really spread the ball around in the passing game and had already connected with eight different receivers in the first half.

While it at times looked like this bowl game would get out of hand in favor of either side, both have battled back to make things quite interesting as we hit the break. It should result in a fun second half as the final Saturday before the College Football Playoff gets underway is off to a great start.

Wake Forest receiver, special teams returner Greg Dortch will not play in Birmingham Bowl

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Wake Forest will play their bowl game on Saturday without their best player. Greg Dortch, has officially been ruled out of action for the Demon Deacons in the Birmingham Bowl, according to a report from Conor O’Neill of the Winston-Salem Journal., via Twitter.

“If there was any way he could play tomorrow, he’d be playing,” Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson told reporters, referring to Dortch’s unavailability. “But that’s football.”

Dortch injured his finger in Wake Forest’s regular-season finale blowout against Duke that clinched bowl eligibility for the program. Since the injury, Dortch had been missing from practices with his status appearing to be in limbo as the team was preparing for their bowl matchup with Memphis. This will be the third year Dortch has not been able to play in Wake Forest’s bowl game; he redshirted in 2016 and had a season-ending injury last season.

Dortch is Wake Forest’s leading receiver with 1,078 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Dortch has also returned two punts for touchdowns and has handled kickoff duty as well. Not having Dortch on the field against a talented Memphis team is a serious blow to the entire Wake Forest offense and special teams.

Kyler Murray leads AP All-American team; Tagovailoa named to second team

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Associated Press Player of the Year and Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray of Oklahoma was named First-Team All-American by the AP on Monday. Murray was one of 10 players from a College Football Playoff team named an All-American player by the AP, including Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Clemson defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins, and Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love.

Alabama led all teams with six players named to either the first, second or third team All-American rosters by the AP, four of which being named to the first team to also lead all schools. Clemson and Oklahoma each landed four All-Americans and Oklahoma had two players named to an All-American team by the AP.

Below is the full list of first, second and third All-American teams released by the AP for the 2018 season:

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Kyler Murray, junior, Oklahoma

Running backs — Jonathan Taylor, sophomore, Wisconsin; Darrell Henderson, junior, Memphis

Tackles — Jonah Williams, junior, Alabama; Mitch Hyatt, senior, Clemson

Guards — Beau Benzschawel, senior, Wisconsin; Bunchy Stallings, senior, Kentucky

Center — Garrett Bradbury, senior, North Carolina State

Tight end — Jace Sternberger, junior, Texas A&M

Wide receivers — Jerry Jeudy, sophomore, Alabama; Marquise Brown, junior, Oklahoma

All-purpose player — Rondale Moore, freshman, Purdue

Kicker — Andre Szmyt, freshman, Syracuse

DEFENSE

Ends — Clelin Ferrell, junior, Clemson; Sutton Smith, junior, Northern Illinois

Tackles — Quinnen Williams, junior, Alabama; Christian Wilkins, senior, Clemson

Linebackers — Josh Allen, senior, Kentucky; Devin White, junior, LSU; Ben Burr-Kirven, senior, Washington

Cornerbacks — Deandre Baker, senior, Georgia; Julian Love, junior, Notre Dame

Safeties — Grant Delpit, sophomore, LSU; Deionte Thompson, junior, Alabama

Punter — Braden Mann, junior, Texas A&M

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Tua Tagovailoa, sophomore, Alabama

Running backs — Travis Etienne, sophomore, Clemson; Trayveon Williams, junior, Texas A&M

Tackles — Dalton Risner, senior, Kansas State; Andrew Thomas, sophomore, Georgia

Guards — Dru Samia, senior, Oklahoma; Michael Dieter, senior, Wisconsin

Center — Ross Pierschbacher, senior, Alabama

Tight end — T.J, Hockenson, sophomore, Iowa

Wide receivers — Tylan Wallace, sophomore, Oklahoma State; Andy Isabella, senior, Massachusetts

All-purpose player — Greg Dortch, sophomore, Wake Forest

Kicker — Cole Tracy, senior, LSU

DEFENSE

Ends — Montez Sweat, senior, Mississippi State; Jachai Polite, junior, Florida

Tackles — Jerry Tillery, senior, Notre Dame; Gerald Willis III, senior, Miami

Linebackers — Devin Bush, junior, Michigan; David Long Jr., junior, West Virginia; Joe Dineen, senior, Kansas

Cornerbacks — Greedy Williams, sophomore, LSU; Byron Murphy, sophomore, Washington

Safeties — Taylor Rapp, junior, Washington; Amani Hooker, junior, Iowa

Punter — Mitch Wishnowsky, senior, Utah

THIRD TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks — Dwayne Haskins, sophomore, Ohio State

Running backs — Benny Snell, junior, Kentucky; Eno Benjamin, sophomore, Arizona State

Tackles — Andre Dillard, senior, Washington State; Cody Ford, junior, Oklahoma

Guards — Terrone Prescod, senior, North Carolina State; Chris Lindstrom, senior, Boston College

Center — Michael Jordan, junior, Ohio State

Tight end — Noah Fant, junior, Iowa

Wide Receivers — A.J. Brown, junior, Mississippi; David Sills V, senior, West Virginia

All-purpose player — J.J. Taylor, sophomore, Arizona

Kicker — Matt Gay, senior, Utah

DEFENSE

Ends — Chase Winovich, senior, Michigan; Jaylon Ferguson, senior, Louisiana Tech

Tackles — Jeffery Simmons, junior, Mississippi State; Ed Oliver, junior, Houston

Linebackers — Paddy Fisher, sophomore, Northwestern; David Woodward, sophomore, Utah State; Te’Von Coney, senior, Notre Dame

Cornerbacks — Hamp Cheevers, junior, Boston College; Lavert Hill, junior, Michigan

Safeties — Andre Cisco, freshman, Syracuse; Jonathan Abram, senior, Mississippi State

Punter — Jason Smith, sophomore, Cincinnati

Clemson makes it a clean sweep in ACC Player of the Year awards

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Clemson was easily the most dominant team in the ACC this season, and the conference hardware they are taking home this postseason is bearing that out.

Tuesday, Dabo Swinney and Trevor Lawrence were named as the ACC’s Coach and Rookie of the Year, respectively.  A day later a pair of Lawrence’s teammates, running back Travis Etienne and defensive end Clelin Ferrell, made it a clean sweep of the final three individual honors.

Not only was Etienne named as the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year, but he was named as the Overall Player of the Year as well.  Ferrell, meanwhile, earned Defensive Player of the Year honors.

In an odd twist, as you’ll see below, Ferrell’s teammate, fellow defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, received seven times as many votes as Ferrell did in the Overall Player of the Year voting but lagged behind in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year.

ACC Player of the Year
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson – 22
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson – 14
Ryan Finley, QB, NC State – 8
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College – 4
Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse – 4
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson – 3
Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson – 2
Qadree Ollison, RB, Pitt – 1
Greg Dortch, WR, Wake Forest – 1
Bryce Perkins, QB, Virginia – 1

ACC Offensive Player of the Year
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson – 32
Ryan Finley, QB, NC State – 9
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College – 6
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson – 5
Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse – 3
Greg Dortch, WR, Wake Forest – 2
Bryce Perkins, QB, Virginia – 2
Qadree Ollison, RB, Pitt – 1

ACC Defensive Player of the Year
Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson – 28
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson – 20
Zach Allen, DE, Boston College – 5
Gerald Willis III, DT, Miami – 3
Brian Burns, DE, Florida State – 2
Alton Robinson, DE, Syracuse – 2