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Miami • One of the most thrilling and entertaining football games in BYU history, and one of the most painful, ended with the Cougars engaged in an ugly brawl with the Memphis Tigers on Monday afternoon at Marlins Park, site of the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl.
As video clips of BYU players fighting with Memphis players after the Tigers' 55-48 victory in double overtime went viral and made their way across media outlets across the country, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe issued an apology on Twitter.
"We expect better of our athletes, even in the face of a difficult loss," Holmoe wrote. "We intend to fully review this matter. I apologize to Cougar Nation."
The ugliness erupted after Memphis' DaShaughn Terry intercepted Christian Stewart's pass to end the game.
The brawl appeared to have erupted after helmeted BYU center Tejan Koroma bumped helmet-less Memphis defensive end Martin Ifedi in the head. Koroma might have been pushed into Ifedi, because video shows he appears to be looking behind him when Ifedi threw a forearm at his head. As Koroma warily faced the blue-clad Tigers after momentarily going down, Memphis defensive end Christian Johnson swung his helmet at the back of Koroma's head.
At some point, BYU safety Kai Nacua was hit under the eye, leaving a nasty gash. In perhaps the ugliest moment captured on video, Nacua threw at least two punches at the back of Memphis tight end Alan Cross' head. Cross was being restrained from going after several BYU players by a Memphis assistant coach.
"It is disappointing that with both teams, and each individual, there are so many different variables in there," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said of the brawl in his postgame news conference. "You want them to rise above that and have fantastic sportsmanship. I am sure if you go back and look there will be an instance or two that ignited it. The majority wanted to handle it really well."
The game pitting schools meeting for the first time in football featured an unusual amount of trash-talking and postulating after big plays. Koroma was flagged earlier in the game for a personal foul when he continued to block a Memphis defender.
He also was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting after Jordan Leslie's touchdown catch in the second quarter.
BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae was knocked to the ground while trying to stop a shoving match, but there were no reports of injuries from the melee.
BYU quarterback Christian Stewart said the brawl wasn't a topic of conversation in the somber BYU locker room after the game, and he didn't know how it started.
"I just walked off the field," Stewart said. "I don't really care about that. I'm not interested in fighting - I am too small, anyways. So I just walked right off."
Unfortunately, many players from both sides didn't, marring an otherwise outstanding game.