MEMPHIS — Memphis won the American Athletic Conference championship but appears to have lost its football coach.
Antonio Gibson caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Brady White with 1:14 left as the No. 16 Tigers defeated No. 21 Cincinnati 29-24 in the AAC championship game Saturday.
Memphis (12-1) played in the league title game for the third straight year but won for the first time, having lost twice at Central Florida. The Tigers now wait for an invitation to the Cotton Bowl as the highest-ranked Group of Five team.
In the meantime, Memphis coach Mike Norvell will be on the move.
Two people with knowledge of the decision said Norvell will be introduced today as Florida State's coach. The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made.
Norvell declined to answer any questions about his future after the win. Asked whether he expected to coach Memphis in the Cotton Bowl, he said, "Obviously, that's the plan."
Eight days after beating the Bearcats 34-24 at home in the regular-season finale, Memphis rallied for another win.
"We knew this was going to be a game that was going to come down to responses," Norvell said. "How we responded to adversity. How we responded to success at times. But that's the character and the heart of these kids."
Along with scoring the go-ahead touchdown, Gibson ran for 130 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown late in the first quarter for a 10-7 lead.
"Give them a lot of credit. They made the plays down the stretch that needed to be made, and we didn't," Bearcats coach Luke Fickell said.
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder, who did not play in the regular-season finale against Memphis, passed for 233 yards and ran for 113, including a 15-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put the Bearcats back ahead.
The game became a back-and-forth battle in the fourth quarter. Sam Crosa's 33-yard field goal with 4:23 left gave the Bearcats (10-3) a 24-23 lead.
On the Tigers' next drive, Gibson caught two passes and ran five times, setting Memphis up at the Cincinnati 6. On the touchdown, Gibson was split right and caught White's pass.
Cincinnati drove to the Memphis 26 on its final possession but stalled.
"We didn't find a way," Fickell said. "We didn't have the answers there at the end. But it wasn't for lack of preparation. It wasn't from a lack of fight, and it certainly wasn't from a lack of care and love for every one of those guys in that locker room."
Ridder was key in giving the Bearcats a chance in the championship game. He was able to scramble more than backup Ben Bryant, who played in the first game between the two teams.
White, a second-team All-AAC selection, completed just 18 of 40 passes for 253 yards. Memphis was able to remain close with a pair of second-half field goals by Riley Patterson from 50 and 52 yards.
Florida State announced during the AAC game that its new football coach would be introduced today at a news conference in Tallahassee before a men's basketball game.
Norvell refused to answer any questions about his future when asked on the field immediately after the victory, too, even when one Memphis fan kept repeating that he hoped Norvell would announce he was staying with the Tigers. He also deflected when asked about Florida State's news conference.
"All our focus tonight is about this football team," said Norvell, who appeared emotional while his Tigers spoke earlier beside him. "It's not about me. It's not about anything. It's about this team and winning an American conference championship. I'm grateful for these guys and what they put in today, and we're excited obviously about what we were able to do tonight."