The inaugural Miami Beach Bowl between the Memphis Tigers (10-3) and the Brigham Young Cougars (8-5), pre-billed by many experts as a struggle between two tough, dependable defenses, instead was tied 14-14 after a mere seven minutes of play. The final score was 55 to 48, after two overtimes.
An interested fan, reading the above paragraph, might think, "Sounds like a fun game."
Exciting, yes. Enraging, yes. Unpredictable, sure.
But fun? I don't know.
Memphis won the football game. But Chaos reigned.
We should have known when we started to see pictures of Marlins Park set up for football. The stadium looked goofy, with the field barely squeezed in, the endzones tightly wedged against the right-field wall and home dugout. 20,761 football fans sat far from the action.
At the opening of the second half, as play unfolded and halftime adjustments were revealed, fans noticed an unusual echo coming from the public address system. But it wasn't quite an echo.
Was that...Dave Woloshin's voice?
Yes, in the second half of the Miami Beach Bowl, the PA system played the Memphis radio broadcast.
You might have thought it just a funny episode, one of those glitches; or maybe even a good omen for the Memphis Tigers. But, it wasn't any of those things.
It was Chaos.
Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, the game MVP, was 24-46 for 306 yards, ran for four touchdowns, passed for three touchdowns, and...threw three interceptions, too.
Hoo-boy, those interceptions. Part of five total Memphis turnovers, they took what was a Memphis coming-out party and turned it into a dog fight.
Twice, the Tigers built ten-point leads. Twice, they came tumbling down.
The worst of the collapses came at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth. The game had been tight at halftime, with BYU holding a 28-24 lead. Memphis' defense adjusted in the third quarter, putting pressure on BYU's quarterback Christian Stewart and holding the Cougars to just 16 total yards on offense.
Memphis had scored two touchdowns to claim a 38-28 lead. It looked as if the fourth quarter would be merely a necessary formality before the completion of the Tigers' first bowl win in nine years.
But, remember Chaos?
He engineered eight surreal minutes, in which the lead vanished in a baffling cloud of turnovers and penalties. A thrilling 60 yard touchdown run by Brandon Hayes was called back for holding. Paxton Lynch threw two inexplicable interceptions--one a pick-six--and Joe Craig fumbled a kickoff return.
BYU held a touchdown lead, 45-38, and Lynch, who had been super in the second half, looked all too human.
It is at this moment when Memphis fans traditionally throw up their hands and turn off the TV. We've seen this before. We know how this story ends. When life gives Memphis football lemons, we don't have enough cups in the pantry for lemonade.
But, lest you forget Chaos, the script changed. Punter Nick Jacobs pinned BYU deep. The Memphis defense held BYU to a three-and-out. And Lynch, the primary architect of the collapse, engineered a comeback of his own. Facing two fourth downs, late in the fourth quarter, Lynch threw twice to Keiwone Malone; who made two fine catches, one for a touchdown. 45-44.
In fairness to Chaos, I should mention that BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall spent two of his timeouts at this moment to...ice the kicker on a PAT try. The bizarre gambit didn't work, as kicker Jake Elliot tied the game at 45, sending it to overtime.
Overtime was staid in comparison, with the teams trading field goals in the first, and Memphis winning on a DeShaughn Terry interception in the second. The game was over, and the Tigers the victors.
But Chaos was not vanquished.
What started as a celebration by Memphis players turned into taunting, pushing, slapping, punching, kicking, bloody knuckles, bloody noses. An ugly, useless, chaotic scene that cleared both benches and ended the night on a low note.
For all the weird twists and turns, Memphis made plays down the stretch, and took the win.
The Memphis Tigers are the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl Champions. There will be a new trophy in the case on Normal Street, and a tenth win in a stellar season. It's an exclamation point to announce that Memphis is a force to be reckoned with in the football world.
Chaos made an appearance. But the win belongs to the Memphis Tigers.