MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Brady White already held several Memphis career records, but he left another mark in his finale.
White passed for 284 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Tigers to a 25-10 victory over Florida Atlantic on Wednesday night in the Montgomery Bowl, snapping a five-game bowl losing streak.
The Tigers (8-3) built a big halftime lead, withstood a third-quarter rally and ended coach Ryan Silverfield's first season with a second straight win.
“They’ll go down in history for their fight and everything they did this season,” Silverfield said, adding that his team ended up playing with 53 scholarship players.
Meanwhile, Willie Taggart's debut season with Florida Atlantic ended at 5-4 after the offense sputtered much of the way.
The game was created to replace the canceled Fenway Bowl. Cramton Bowl will also host the Camellia Bowl on Christmas Day. This one ended in a driving rain.
White, who was named game MVP, completed 22 of 34 passes with three short touchdowns while also throwing an interception, having a big game even with a quiet night from star receiver Calvin Austin III.
“Another piece of history was made tonight for myself and for this team,” White said. He cited “this whole weird year” that included two canceled games in September because of COVID-19 issues.
More importantly, he said: "We finished it off right.”
Redshirt freshman receivers Tahj Washington and Javon Ivory both had big games against a defense that came in ranked 11th nationally in passing defense.
Washington caught eight passes for 105 yards while Ivory gained 126 yards on seven catches with a TD. Austin had 28 yards on three catches, with a TD.
Auburn transfer Asa Martin ran for 96 yards on 15 carries for Memphis.
Nick Tronti completed 16 of 32 passes for 146 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Florida Atlantic. Charles James ran for 82 yards.
“I felt like we didn’t’ take advantage of opportunities that we got in this football game,” Taggart, whose team ended with a three-game losing streak, said. “The defense did a great job getting three takeaways, and only getting three points off those takeaways is not good enough against a team like Memphis.”
Memphis capped the first half with a big man touchdown and a sizable lead — that would shrink in the third quarter.
The Tigers took an 18-0 lead with 22 seconds left in the first half on White's 2-yard pass to moonlighting defensive lineman Joseph Dorceus. It was the 277-pounder's first touchdown catch and was followed by a two-point conversion.
“When Coach called the play, my eyes already lit up,” Dorceus said.
White completed all 10 of his pass attempts on the first two touchdown drives.
Florida Atlantic cut it to 18-10 in the third quarter with help from a fumbled kickoff return. Tronti passed for 38 yards in the first half and 46 on his initial drive of the second.
White answered right back with a 7-yard touchdown to Austin, a drive kept alive by Ivory's 51-yard catch on third and 10.
Then the Tigers defense stuffed Tronti on a fourth-down run from the 1 to effectively put the game away.
Florida Atlantic: Lost for the first time in a bowl game after coming in 4-0. Couldn't muster much offense at all in the first half with either quarterback, Tronti or Javion Posey. ... Linebacker Leighton McCarthy missed the game because of “family issues,” Taggart said.
Memphis: Got its first bowl win since a double-overtime victory over BYU in the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl. ... Riley Patterson drilled a Cramton Bowl-record 53-yard field goal to cap the Tigers' opening drive.
There was a little scuffling in the game, with Florida Atlantic starting left guard Desmond Noel ejected for fighting in the final seconds of the first half with a shove to Memphis linebacker JJ Russell's face mask. Silverfield was also called for unsportsmanlike conduct. He said it was a selfish act on his part.
“I was just telling him (the official) how much I liked his outfit," he quipped when asked what he said. "I was wishing him Happy Holidays and he must have thought I said something else.”
Florida Atlantic gets its quarterbacks back but loses key players like McCarthy, running back James Charles, receiver TJ Chase and cornerback Zyon Gilbert. Scheduled to visit Florida on Sept. 4.
Memphis must replace White, the school career leader in passing yards and touchdowns and wins as a starting quarterback, but Austin is only a junior. All-conference defensive lineman O'Bryan Goodson is also a senior.
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