Saturday, December 30, 2017

Wisconsin: 2017 Orange Bowl Champions



MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Alex Hornibrook's first pass of the night was a wobbler, one that seemed to slip out of his hand.

Nearly everything else he threw was just about perfect.

Hornibrook threw four touchdown passes, three to Danny Davis, and No. 6 Wisconsin capped off the winningest season in school history by topping No. 11 Miami 34-24 in the Orange Bowl on Saturday night.

"We were pretty relaxed," Hornibrook said. "We knew we had what it takes to win this game."

Everyone does now.

And the Big Ten -- shut out of the College Football Playoff after Wisconsin lost to Ohio State in the conference title game -- moved to 7-0 in bowls this season.

"You play the whole season and you earn what you get and I'm proud of this team," Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. "They can call themselves Orange Bowl champions. That's pretty big."

Jonathan Taylor ran for 130 yards on 26 carries for the Badgers (13-1), who rallied from an early 14-3 deficit. Taylor finished the year with an FBS-freshman-record 1,977 yards. A.J. Taylor also had a scoring catch for Wisconsin.

"I take as much responsibility as anybody, actually more because I'm in charge of everything," Richt said. "I didn't coach good enough and we will get better. I can promise you that."

The Badgers dominated time of possession, holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes. Hornibrook completed 23 of 34 passes for 258 yards, going 20 for 25 in the final three quarters.

Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas had rushing scores for Miami (10-3), which lost on its home field for the first time in 2017. Lawrence Cager had a touchdown catch for the Hurricanes, while quarterback Malik Rosier was 11 for 26 passing for 203 yards -- with three interceptions.

The Hurricanes had a chance to get within a touchdown midway through the fourth, but Michael Badgley's chip-shot field goal went off the right upright. By the time Miami got the ball back, most of their fans were gone and only 1:37 remained. Rosier was picked off for the third time 18 seconds later, and the Badgers ran out the clock.

"They did a really good job making me throw balls into tight coverage," Rosier said.

Homer went in from 5 yards out to give Miami the early lead, and Dallas' 39-yard scamper for a score out of the wildcat formation pushed the Hurricanes' edge to 14-3 late in the first quarter.

Miami was rolling.

It was temporary.

Rosier's pass was intercepted by Wisconsin's Andrew Van Ginkel on the first play of the second quarter, and the game quickly changed. Hornibrook threw touchdown passes on three consecutive possessions -- two to Davis, one to A.J. Taylor -- and the Badgers held the ball for more than 11 minutes in that quarter alone on the way to taking a 24-14 lead into the half.

Richt was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct just before the third of those scores, after losing his cool while arguing with officials about what replays showed was a missed holding call that would have pushed Wisconsin back. He grabbed at head linesman Gus Morris -- part of the SEC crew on the game -- while pleading his case, as Miami security personnel unsuccessfully tried to keep him calm.

"Apologies to anyone who can read lips," Richt said.

The Hurricanes got within three points twice in the second half, the first coming when Rosier bought some time and lobbed the ball to a wide-open Cager for a 38-yard score. Rosier tried to connect with Cager again later in the third, but got intercepted again on a play where the Hurricanes thought Cager got held as he neared the end zone.

Hornibrook and Davis connected on a scoring play for the third time with 7:44 left, the Badgers weren't threatened again, and started talking about a title run in 2018 right afterward.

"We're all coming back," Hornibrook said. "But nothing is going to happen if we don't put in the work."

BIG PICTURE

Wisconsin: Hornibrook became just the third Badgers quarterback in the last 15 years to have multiple games with at least four touchdown passes in the same season. Scott Tolzien had a pair of four-TD games in 2009, and Jim Sorgi had games of four and five TDs in consecutive weeks back in 2003. From 2012 through 2016, the Badgers never had a quarterback throw for four scores in a game.

Miami: The Hurricanes were on a four-game losing streak last season, then started what became a 15-game winning streak that ended in the regular-season finale against Pitt, and now will take a three-game slide into 2018. The four touchdown passes allowed matched the most allowed by Miami in any game since Oklahoma threw for six TDs in a 2007 romp over the Hurricanes.

ROSIER RECORD


Rosier's third-quarter touchdown pass to Cager was the 31st touchdown he's accounted for this season, a Miami single-season record. The previous mark was 30, set by Vinny Testaverde in 1986.

FAMILY TIES

Hornibrook is the great-nephew of former Miami quarterback John Hornibrook, who was under center for a memorable play in Hurricanes history. John Hornibook ran in for a touchdown against Florida in 1971, on a play dubbed the Gator Flop -- one where every Florida defender fell to the ground in order to let Miami score and get the ball back so Gators quarterback John Reaves could break the NCAA career passing record. The ploy worked.

UP NEXT

Wisconsin: Hosts Western Kentucky on Aug. 31.

Miami: Plays LSU in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 1.

Penn State: 2017 Fiesta Bowl Champions



GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Converting on third downs had been a sore spot at Penn State, so coach James Franklin made it a point of emphasis in spring ball and fall camp.

The Nittany Lions kept working at it during the season and kept getting better, peaking at the perfect time.

Trace McSorley threw for 342 yards and had both of his touchdown passes to DaeSean Hamilton on third-down plays, helping No. 9 Penn State outlast No. 12 Washington 35-28 in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.

"Our coaches did a fantastic job and the O line protected and the receivers made plays," Franklin said. "We were very efficient. We executed."

Penn State (11-2), No. 9 in the final College Football Rankings, had its way with Washington's vaunted defense early, building a 28-7 lead by the second quarter. Washington (10-3) woke up from an offensive slumber with two touchdowns and pulled to 35-28 on Myles Gaskins' 69-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

The Huskies' inability to stop Penn State on third down kept them from getting any closer.

The Nittany Lions converted three third-down attempts on a final clock-winding drive and were 13 for 17 overall. Washington had a final shot with a desperation play of multiple laterals and passes, but Dante Pettis' final lateral was intercepted after he passed up a chance to step out of bounds to set up one more play.

"I think a lot of it was McSorley," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "He's buying time, getting out of there. And when we did get a little pressure on him, he stepped up nicely and took off and ran or bought time."

Washington had the nation's top run defense during the regular season, allowing 92 yards per game, but Saquon Barkley matched that on one run in the second quarter. Barkley had 137 of the Nittany Lions' 203 yards rushing and two touchdowns in what could be his final game if he decides to turn pro.

The Huskies, No. 11 CFP, gave up a season-high 545 total yards.

"They had us on our heels most of the night," Petersen said.

The Nittany Lions lost a chance at the CFP with consecutive losses to Ohio State and No. 24 Michigan State, but ended up in a familiar place: The Fiesta Bowl, where they had not lost in six previous trips.

Penn State raced toward No. 7 by going to the air early against the run-stingy Huskies.

McSorley picked Washington's secondary apart, hitting nine receivers for 219 yards in the first half. He connected with DaeSean Hamilton on a 48-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive, and set up scoring runs of 2 yards by Barkley and 1 yard by Miles Sanders.

Barkley then did it all himself, bursting through the left side for a 92-yard touchdown run to put Penn State up 28-7.

The Nittany Lions had 367 yards by halftime against a defense that allowed 277.4 yards per game during the regular season.

"We came out flat in the first half," Washington linebacker Tevis Bartlett said.

Washington was in the Fiesta Bowl for the first time, but Petersen had made a name for himself by trick-playing Boise State to a pair of Fiesta victories

Petersen reached into his trick-play bag to spark Washington from an early funk, calling a double pass that led to 52-yard gain to tight end Drew Sample. That set up Jake Browning's 1-yard TD dive.

The Huskies turned a recovered fumble into a much-needed touchdown just before halftime, cutting Penn State's lead to 28-14 on Gaskin's 13-yard run.

Another big score came right after halftime: Browning 28 yards to Aaron Fuller.

But Penn State answered on another third down, when McSorley hit Hamilton on a 24-yard TD pass to put Penn State up 35-21.

"(Hamilton's TD) was really, really important, because momentum was starting to swing there," Franklin said.

BROWNING'S QUIET DAY

Browning has been one of the nation's most prolific passers during his career, but found little room to operate against Penn State's secondary. He missed on several throws and finished with 175 yards and a touchdown on 18-of-28 passing.

BIG PICTURE


Penn State could wonder what might have been in the CFP, but a Fiesta Bowl is a nice way to close out the season.

Washington's defense had its worst outing of the season at the worst possible time.

UP NEXT

Barkley is a junior, but could decide to leave for the NFL. So is McSorley and the Nittany Lions should have most of their offensive line back.

Washington will lose two offensive line starters and receiver/punt returner Pettis to graduation, but gets back most of its defense. Browning, Gaskin and DL Vita Vea also are juniors, if they decide to stay in school.

Iowa State: 2017 Liberty Bowl Champions



MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Iowa State proved its season-long bid to raise its standards was more than just a slogan.

Allen Lazard tied a Liberty Bowl record with 10 catches and put Iowa State ahead with a remarkable 5-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter Saturday, and the Cyclones beat No. 19 Memphis 21-20 on the Tigers' home field.

The victory gave Iowa State (8-5) its first bowl victory since a 2009 Insight Bowl triumph and marked the Cyclones' third win over a Top 25 team this season. That's the step forward Iowa State had in mind when it made "Raise The Standard" its team motto.

"The thing that finally resonates in our program is that this can happen, not only with our players but the people outside of our program, that success and winning football games at Ames, Iowa, can really happen," Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said.

Iowa State's progress was evident in the way it held on to win after its only lost fumble of the season. Iowa State was attempting to become the first Football Bowl Subdivision team to go an entire season without losing a fumble.

The Cyclones led 21-20 and had third-and-goal from the 1 when David Montgomery fumbled as he was crossing the goal line. As replay officials reviewed the play, Campbell told his players he hoped the call wasn't overturned because it would enable the Cyclones to show how they'd matured since a heartbreaking 20-19 loss to Kansas State in their regular-season finale.

"Coach was out there preaching to us in the defensive huddle this is what we wanted, to show people that we'd learned from what we'd been through," Iowa State linebacker Joel Lanning said.

Memphis (10-3) drove to the Iowa State 40 but lost the ball when Riley Ferguson overthrew Phil Mayhue on fourth-and-10 with 1:52 remaining. Iowa State ran out the clock from there.

"It was kind of hard getting the ball out, but at the same time, I've got to find a way to make a play," said Ferguson, who went 21 of 33 for 286 yards and two touchdowns but was sacked six times. "There on the last play, I've got to find a way to make that throw to Phil, no matter whether I have pressure on my face or not."

Iowa State pulled ahead 21-17 with 4:28 left in the third quarter when Kyle Kempt's pass appeared to get deflected just before Lazard caught it in the back of the end zone.

The touchdown came after a roughing-the-passer penalty on Genard Avery wiped out an interception by Memphis' Curtis Akins and gave the Cyclones first-and-goal.

"I was just playing the play out," Avery said. "I feel like it was a bad call."

Lazard had 142 yards receiving in his final college game and was named the Liberty Bowl's most valuable player. The only other players to catch 10 passes in a Liberty Bowl were Louisville's Deion Branch in 2000 and Arkansas' Bobby Joe Edmonds in 1984.

"I just went out there today and gave it my all," Lazard said. "I kind of tweaked my ankle a little bit, but I only had a certain amount of time and I'd be damned if I (was going to) stand there and watch the offense go to work without me."

Memphis had the benefit of playing a bowl game on its home field -- where it hadn't lost all season -- although enough Iowa State fans traveled to the game to make the sellout crowd of 57,266 a pretty even split.

RECORD SETTERS

Lazard's 10th touchdown catch of the season set an Iowa State record. Memphis' Anthony Miller had four catches for 55 yards and a touchdown to end the year with 96 catches for 1,462 yards, breaking his own school single-season records in both categories.

HELMET HIJINKS

During a pregame event, Avery and Miller flipped an Iowa State helmet upside down. Avery told reporters afterward that he wanted to show that Memphis is his team's city.

Lazard returned the favor Saturday by overturning a Memphis helmet that sat on a table while he collected awards as the Liberty Bowl's MVP and offensive player of the game.

BIG PICTURE

Iowa State: The Cyclones held the nation's No. 2 scoring offense to its second-lowest point total of the season despite missing two key players, with defensive back Evrett Edwards ruled ineligible and safety Kamari Cotton-Moya suspended for a violation of team rules. Iowa State's six sacks tied a Liberty Bowl record. Iowa State benefited from the absence of injured Memphis running back Darrell Henderson, who rushed for 1,154 yards this season.


Memphis: Missed opportunities haunted the Tigers. An ineligible receiver penalty nullified a first-quarter touchdown and led to a missed field-goal attempt. One Iowa State touchdown happened after a Memphis interception was overturned by replay, and the Cyclones' go-ahead touchdown came after a Memphis interception was nullified by Avery's roughing-the-passer penalty.

LOOKING AHEAD

Iowa State will seek to go to back-to-back bowl games, something the Cyclones haven't done since 2004-05. The Cyclones lose a lot of leadership as they attempt to replace a senior class that includes Lazard and linebacker Joel Lanning, among others.

Memphis must find a way to replace the dynamic tandem of Ferguson and Miller.

UP NEXT

Iowa State begins its 2018 schedule by hosting South Dakota State on Sept. 1.

Memphis hosts Mercer on Sept. 1, 2018.

Mississippi State: 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl Champions



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It likely was Lamar Jackson's farewell performance.

It definitely was Keytaon Thompson's coming-out party.

Thompson, a highly touted freshman making his first start in place of injured quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns to help No. 24 Mississippi State beat Jackson and Louisville 31-27 in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Saturday.

"He was phenomenal," Bulldogs interim coach Greg Knox said.

Thompson completed 11 of 20 passes for 127 yards, with an interception. He was more effective as a runner, carrying on 27 of the team's 55 running plays.

"We knew that's what he did best," Knox said. "If you go back and look at Mississippi State over the year, when Nick Fitzgerald ran the ball for a hundred yards, we were winning games. So we knew he had to run the ball today.

"We didn't care if he was a freshman. We didn't care if he was starting his first game. We knew we could scheme some things up for him to run the ball, and he could have success."

Thompson scored twice in the fourth quarter, including a 1-yard plunge with 3:39 remaining that put the Bulldogs (9-4) ahead for good.

Jackson had the Cardinals (8-5) on the move late, but safety Mark McLaurin intercepted his third pass of the game. Jackson got another chance in the waning seconds following a failed, fourth-down conversation. But his desperation heave was batted away in the end zone.

That set off a wild and tearful celebration for Mississippi State, which stuck together despite losing coach Dan Mullen and a number of assistants to Florida. Knox got doused on the sideline. Players ripped off jerseys in 50-degree temperatures and danced in the end zone.

"The last three, four weeks we've been together, it's been a tough time for everyone," Knox said. "A lot of emotions. ... I think that's what you saw on the field. It was a chance for everyone to just breathe a sigh of relief and say, `Thank you God for this win."

Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, had different emotions after probably ending his college career with a loss. Jackson has yet to declare for the NFL draft, but most outsiders believe the dynamic junior will turn pro.

"I got to sit down with my coach and my family," he said.

If he is leaving, he went out setting records.

Jackson ran 24 times for 158 yards and a touchdown, breaking the TaxSlayer Bowl record for most rushing yards by a quarterback. West Virginia's Pat White set the previous mark with 145 yards in 2007. He also broke his own school records for rushing yards and yards from scrimmage.

He had the longest run of his career, a 75-yarder late in the second quarter, and a 13-yard TD scamper earlier in the game in which he split two defenders and made another look silly . He also had a flip pass to Jaylen Smith for a score.

But his interceptions overshadowed his improvisations.

Jackson completed 13 of 31 passes for 171 yards, with two touchdowns, four picks and six sacks. He threw just six interceptions in the regular season.

Still, he became the third player in Football Bowl Subdivision history with at least 50 touchdown passes and 50 touchdown runs, joining Florida's Tim Tebow and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.

"I'd love to see him come back, there's no question about that," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "He really needs to understand where his draft status is, what the finances are that go with that. Him and his mom, we'll get people around him to help him make the decision.

"But they just need to make an educated business decision."

TAKEAWAY

Louisville: Jackson has to become a more accurate passer to make it in the NFL. He had way too many errant throws, including on two of his interceptions.

Mississippi State: New coach Joe Moorhead will have a chance to win games early thanks to what Mullen built in Starkville.


RARE FEAT

It was the fourth time in the FBC this season that both starting quarterbacks topped 100 yards rushing.

UP NEXT

Louisville: Freshman Jawon Pass is the obvious choice to replace Jackson. If so, he will be thrown into the fire right away because the Cardinals open next season against perennial power Alabama in Orlando on Sept. 1.

Mississippi State: Moorhead inherits an experienced defense and an offense expected to return a number of starters, including Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams. The Bulldogs open next season against Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 1.

Ohio State: 2017 Cotton Bowl Champions



ARLINGTON, Texas -- Playoff-snubbed Ohio State got to raise another trophy in the building where the Buckeyes won a national championship.

While the streaming confetti this time was for a Cotton Bowl victory instead of a title celebration like three seasons ago, coach Urban Meyer still got a special feeling from the fifth-ranked Buckeyes' defensively dominant 24-7 win over No. 8 Southern California.

"The mindset was obvious. We wanted to go down as one of the great teams at Ohio State, Big Ten champions, obviously a top five finish," said Meyer, 73-8 in six seasons at Columbus. "This will go down as one of the best teams I've ever coached and one of the best groups of young people I've ever been around."

With Buckeyes All-America junior cornerback Denzel Ward sitting out after deciding to go into the NFL draft, fellow defensive back Damon Webb returned an interception for a touchdown after recovering a fumble to set up an early score.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 champions would usually play New Year's Day in Pasadena instead of deep in the heart of Texas, but the Rose Bowl is a College Football Playoff semifinal game this season.

Ohio State (12-2) instead quickly settled in at the NFL stadium where it won the first national championship in the four-team CFP format. The Buckeyes -- with that bad loss at Iowa after an early setback to playoff team Oklahoma -- were the first team left out this season.

USC (11-3), the Rose Bowl champion last season, lost for only the third time in its last 23 games. The Trojans had four turnovers that led to 21 Ohio State points in what could have been third-year sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold's final game.

"We kind of shot ourselves in the football in this game," USC coach Clay Helton said. "You're putting a hurt on your defense, and it led to points early in the game, and separation early in the game."

Ward was on the sideline in his No. 12 jersey over street clothes while Webb had a fumble recovery on the third play of the game. That led to J.T. Barrett's 1-yard keeper for a score that put the Buckeyes ahead to stay.

Webb's 23-yard interception return for a TD put Ohio State up 17-0 less than a minute into the second quarter. It was the first pick-six this season for the Buckeyes, and the team-leading fifth interception for Webb.

Ohio State was up 24-0 when Barrett ran 28 yards for another touchdown after the first of Darnold's two fumbles when stripped while being sacked. Darnold was sacked eight times overall.

"The strip fumbles, when I'm in the pocket, those are though," Darnold said.

"That defensive line took a quarterback that we have a tremendous amount of respect for and he didn't set his feet all night," Meyer said. "That's the way we won that game."

TAKEAWAY

Ohio State: Barrett, playing his final college game only about a two-hour drive from his hometown of Wichita Falls, Texas, broke Drew Brees' Big Ten career record for total offense with 12,697 yards. Barrett played 50 games and was 38-6 as a starter. His 147 touchdowns (104 passing, 43 rushing) are also a Big Ten record, 41 more than Brees at Purdue.

"It's pretty crazy. I mean, since I was little I looked up to Drew Brees," Barrett said. "To pass a record like that, just very grateful to the people that were around me."

USC: Darnold, who became the first Trojans quarterback ever with more than 4,000 yards passing in a season, has until Jan. 15 to decide if he will head to the NFL or return to USC for another season.

"I'm really just focused on just hanging out with my teammates for the next couple of days," Darnold said. "But it's tough. I'll look at everything and make my decision after that."

Darnold was 26 of 45 for 356 yards passing, but his turnovers were costly.

NOT FOR THE ROSES

This was the eighth time Ohio State and USC met in a bowl game. The first seven were in the Rose Bowl. The Trojans had won seven straight in the matchup of powerhouse programs, including four regular-season matchups since their last meeting in Pasadena 33 years ago.

LATE SCUFFLE


There was a bit of a scuffle in the final two minutes after Buckeyes linebacker Malik Harrison delivered a late hit on Darnold, who was getting out of bounds along the USC sideline after scrambling for 7 yards. Several Trojans went to Darnold's defense, including one ejected for coming off the bench. Harrison was assessed a personal foul penalty.

UP NEXT

Ohio State will play its 2018 opener at home against Oregon State on Sept. 1, the same day Southern Cal is home against UNLV. The Buckeyes and Trojans both return to the Lone Star State for games next Sept. 15. Ohio State will be back in AT&T Stadium to play TCU, and USC will be at Texas that day to take on the Longhorns.

New Mexico State: 2017 Arizona Bowl Champions



TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Arizona Bowl is not typically the type of game where fans storm the field. Certainly not for a team that finished 7-6.

But this has been a long, arduous wait for New Mexico State fans. All those losing seasons, all that disappointment, all that time between bowl games.

Storm away, Aggies. You've earned it.

Larry Rose III scored on a 21-yard run in overtime and New Mexico State won in its first bowl game in 57 years, beating Utah State 26-20 in the Arizona Bowl on Friday night.

"I'm just thrilled for these kids and this community," New Mexico State coach Doug Martin. "Just look at these fans who showed up here. This is an unbelievable day for us.

Utah State (6-7) had the ball first in overtime and Dominik Eberle hit the right upright on a 29-yard field goal attempt, sending a groan through the Utah State crowd. Eberle made 16 for 18 field goals during the regular season, but missed three in the Arizona Bowl.

New Mexico State won it when Jones burst through a hole on the left side, sending the Aggies and their fans rushing onto the Arizona Stadium field. Jones finished with 142 yards on 16 carries.

"He's my field goal kicker. I love that kid and he's been really consistent all year," Utah State coach Matt Wells said. "Was I surprised? Yes. Was I disappointed in him? Not one bit."

The third Arizona Bowl started with some early fireworks on special teams.

Utah State's Savon Scarver returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, then New Mexico State's Jason Huntley took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a score.

The excitement leveled off considerably until LaJuan Hunt scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter, set up by a shanked punt from New Mexico State's Payton Theisler.

New Mexico State's Tyler Rogers, held in check most of the game, answered by moving the Aggies on a 69-yard scoring drive, capped by his 11-yard touchdown pass to Jaleel Scott that tied it at 20. A video review overturned the initial call that Scott was out of bounds.

Rogers, who was second nationally with 347 yards passing per game during the regular season, threw for 191 yards and touchdown with two interceptions.

This was a rematch 57 years in the making.

New Mexico State had not been to a bowl game since the 1960 Sun Bowl. The opponent: Utah State.

Utah State went to eight bowls after that, including six of the last seven.

New Mexico State went into a bowl-less tailspin, finishing with a losing record 44 times since that last bowl game. It had 14 straight losing seasons, including a 0-12 mark in 2005, before winning its final two games this season to finally get back to bowling.

The long-awaited rematch turned into the Special Teams Bowl in the first half.

New Mexico State's Dylan Brown made two field goals, Eberle made two and missed two, and each team had a kickoff return for a touchdown.

After a third quarter of defensive stops and punting, both teams found the end zone to send the game overtime -- and, later, New Mexico State's fans onto the field.

"I thought it was a fairly clean game and pretty aggressive on both sides," Wells said. "If we had made the field goals early, then maybe it would have been a different ball game."

BIG PICTURE

Utah State racked up 441 yards of offense and kept Rogers from having a big game, but had a rough night on special teams.

New Mexico State made its first postseason game in nearly six decades a memorable one by rallying for a victory.

MOMENTUM SWING

Utah State had the game's best chance for the game's first offensive touchdown early in the third quarter, when Jordan Love completed a 41-yard pass to Ron'quavion Tarver to New Mexico State's 1.


On the next play, New Mexico State's Terrill Hanks knocked down Love's pitch to Hunt and recovered the ball himself at the 12-yard line, ending Utah State's hopes.

THIRD-DOWN WOES

Both teams struggled on third downs, converting a combined 5 of 40. Utah State was 1 for 18 and New Mexico State was 4 for 22. The teams had a combined 20 punts

UP NEXT

Utah State must replace seniors Hunt and cornerback Jalen Davis, a second-team AP All-American, but Love is a redshirt freshman.

New Mexico State will have big holes to replace with Rogers and Rose among the seniors it will have to replace.

Northwestern; 2017 Music City Bowl Champions



NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Go ahead and question Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald's decisions to go for it over and over on fourth down, even late in a move that nearly cost the Wildcats dearly.

His defense had their coach's back.

The Wildcats broke up Kentucky's 2-point conversion, and No. 21 Northwestern held off Kentucky 24-23 on Friday in a Music City Bowl that might be remembered more for injuries, ejections and a wild finish.

"I'm not sure words can describe that game," Fitzgerald said. "Wow. What a great job by our young men. We had to persevere through so much."

Justin Jackson ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns as Northwestern (10-3) finished off back-to-back bowl wins in consecutive years for the first time in program history. The Wildcats notched their second 10-win season in three years and third in six under Fitzgerald. The senior class also won its 27th game for the best stretch in more than a decade.

Both starting quarterbacks left in the first half with injuries, though Kentucky's Stephen Johnson returned early in the third quarter. Kentucky lost running back Benny Snell Jr. to an ejection for contact with an official early in the second quarter, and Northwestern lost leading tackler and linebacker Paddy Fisher before halftime when he was ejected for targeting.

Kentucky (7-6) still had a chance to win after Fitzgerald tried to convert his fifth fourth down of the game only to turn it over for the fourth time on downs -- this time at his own 39 with 2:31 left.

"Go for the win," Fitzgerald said of his decision. "We got it did you see the replay? I did. It is what it is, and somebody had to make a play. We went for the win right there."

Johnson ran for his second TD of the second half with 37 seconds left. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops went for the 2-point conversion rather than play for overtime. Johnson couldn't connect with Tavin Richardson on the pass. That cost Kentucky a chance at its best season since 2007 and a second straight bowl loss.

"We just lost a heartbreaker by inches," Stoops said.

With quarterback Clayton Thorson knocked out early in the second with an injured right knee , Northwestern outran Kentucky 333-65. Safety Kyle Quiero provided the winning margin taking Northwestern's second interception 26 yards for a TD with 7:49 left.

TAKEAWAYS

Northwestern: Losing Jackson won't be easy. He finished his career 10th among the NCAA's leading rushers with 5,440 yards. But Jeremy Larkin is a redshirt freshman who ran for 112 yards, and he will be back in 2018. Thorson already planned to return for his senior season too. Fitzgerald said he told Jackson he'd better get a lot of yards.

"He's coming for you, you know he's coming for you," Fitzgerald said.

Kentucky: Snell, who came in leading the SEC in rushing TDs, capped the opening drive of the game with a 3-yard TD that was his 19th this season and 32nd of his career. Both are school records, and he'll be back for his junior season.

QUESTIONABLE EJECTIONS

Both teams lost key players in a wild second quarter. The Wildcats lost Snell when he was ejected with 13:01 left in for contact with referee Chris Coyte. Snell had just lost 7 yards on a run, and Coyte appeared to be trying to give Snell a hand up. Replays showed Snell perhaps pushing Coyte's hands away as he got up. The referee then threw the flag immediately. Kentucky trailed 10-7 at the time.

"I was on top of the play," Coyte told a pool reporter. "And the player got up and grabbed my arms and pushed them away and contacted me. That's a foul."

UGLY INJURY



Thorson hurt his right knee as he was tackled after making a 24-yard catch early in the second quarter. After handing off to Larkin, Thorson ran down the left sideline and was wide open for the catch before being tackled by Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones. But Thorson, in his 38th career start, immediately grabbed at his right knee. He was carted off the field and replaced by senior Matt Alviti.

Fitzgerald said Thorson will have an MRI exam when they return home.

UP NEXT

Northwestern: The Wildcats have to replace Jackson.

Kentucky: Replacing Johnson at quarterback will be Stoops' challenge.

North Carolina State: 2017 Sun Bowl Champions

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EL PASO, Texas -- North Carolina State's offense came up big in a Sun Bowl matchup that was supposed to be about defense.

Nyheim Hines had three of North Carolina State's Sun Bowl-record six rushing touchdowns to help the Wolfpack beat Arizona State 52-31 on Friday. Hines' three scoring runs were all from 5 yards.

"It just really goes to show how great our offensive line is," Hines said. "I'll definitely have to treat them when I get back to Raleigh."

Hines was named the game's MVP. He helped the team score on four of five first-half possessions to fuel the rout.

Hines finished with 72 yards on 16 carries for North Carolina State (9-4). The Wolfpack played in their fourth consecutive bowl game and sixth in seven years under coach David Doeren.

"Top 25 (in the College Football Playoff rankings) is the standard we want for this program," Doeren said.

Reggie Gallaspy added 79 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries for the Wolfpack, Ryan Finley completed 24 of 29 passes for 318 yards and a score, and Stephen Louis had three catches for 115 yards.

Arizona State (7-6) played its final game under fired coach Todd Graham, with former NFL coach Herm Edwards taking over the program. The Sun Devils had four turnovers.

"I don't think we've turned the ball over four times all year," Graham said. "But give them a lot of credit. They're a very good football team. We just couldn't stop them."

Manny Wilkins was 25 of 40 for 352 yards and three touchdowns for the Sun Devils. He also threw three interceptions.

N.C. State played without defensive end Bradley Chubb. Chubb, a projected top-10 pick in the NFL draft, announced before the game that he wouldn't play. It marked the second year in a row that the biggest star at the game didn't play. Last year, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey skipped it.

THE TAKE AWAY North Carolina State: The team's defensive experience showed. Even without Chubb, the Wolfpack limited ASU to 10 points through three quarters.

Arizona State: Graham called the plays Friday. It wasn't a great showing for him. The offense was unable to run the ball. ASU had 469 yards of offense, but 21 of their points came in the fourth quarter.

CHUBB SITS OUT

N.C. State's Chubb, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, announced Friday morning he wouldn't play. "I just let them know that the decision I made is not anything about them," Chubb said in a CBS interview. "It's just looking out for myself. They all understood."

AND ANOTHER ONE

Arizona State played without one of its leading tacklers, linebacker Christian Sam, who also sat out to prepare for the draft. Jay Jay Wilson had 13 tackles, but ASU missed Sam. The Sun Devils allowed 491 yards of offense. The Wolfpack ran 73 plays and had a 9:00 edge in time of possession.

RECORDS

The 42 points scored in the fourth quarter set a Sun Bowl record for points in a quarter. The 45 points in the second half tied a game record, and the 83 total points was the second most in game history.

BY THE NUMBERS

N.C. State is 17-13-1 in bowl games and won its first appearance in the Sun Bowl. Hines is the first Wolfpack rusher to have consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since 1977-78. Receiver Kelvin Harmon had four catches for 24 yards, pushing him over 1,000 yards for the season. All-purpose back Jaylen Samuels had seven catches for 46 yards, setting the team record for catches in a career.

Arizona State is 14-15-1 in bowls and 3-2-1 in the Sun Bowl. Running back Demario Richard had 50 yards to become the first ASU runner with multiple 1,000-yard seasons since 1974-75.

UP NEXT


North Carolina State: Even though they will lose nine seniors on defense, the Wolfpack is still a team to watch in the ACC. They'll return nine starters on offense, including quarterback Ryan Finley, running back Nyheim Hines and four of the five starters on the line. The Wolfpack will open next season on Sept. 1 at home against James Madison.

Arizona State: Edwards takes over the program, and he'll have two new coordinators. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennet declined to return next season, and the team hired San Diego State defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales to replace him. ASU already had promoted quarterbacks coach Billy Napier to the role of offensive coordinator, but then Napier left to become the head coach at Louisiana. The team's new offensive coordinator will be Rob Likens, who was the wide receivers coach. The Sun Devils will open the next season at home Sept. 1 against UT-San Antonio.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Wake Forest: 2017 Belk Bowl Champions



CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- John Wolford threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns, and Matt Colburn ran for 150 yards and the go-ahead score in Wake Forest's 55-52 victory over Texas A&M on Friday in the Belk Bowl.

The teams combined for 1,260 yards and 107 points, making it one of the highest-scoring games in bowl history.

Wolford, a four-year starter and the game's Most Valuable Player, threw all four TD passes in the first half for Wake Forest (8-5). Colburn had a 1-yard touchdown with 2:18 left in the game to give the Demon Deacons the lead.

Wake Forest stopped the Aggies on downs on their final drive to seal the win, which was no easy task given Texas A&M's potent offense. Texas A&M's Nick Starkel threw for a Belk Bowl-record 499 yards and four touchdowns -- three of those to wide receiver Christian Kirk, who caught 13 passes for 189 yards.

Scotty Washington had nine catches for 138 yards and a touchdown for the Demon Deacons, while tight end Cam Serigne had nine catches for 112 yards and a score. Tabari Hines had eight receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns.

Wake Forest spotted Texas A&M (7-6) a 14-point first quarter lead following a pair of special teams miscues, but rattled off 31 straight points in a span of 11 minutes, 16 seconds to take a 31-14 lead.

But Texas A&M battled back to take the lead late in the third quarter.

The Aggies turned two blocked punts in the game's first five minutes into a 14-0 lead.

DeShawn Capers-Smith smothered Wake Forest's first punt attempt and Charles Oliver recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. On Wake Forest's next possession, Roshauud Paul partially blocked a punt that advanced just 19 yards. Starkel then completed a 42-yard strike to Kirk to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Trayveon Williams.

But Wake Forest bounced right back as Wolford completed TD passes of 50 yards to an open Washington along the left sideline and 7-yarder to Harris on a slant route to tie the game midway through the first quarter. The second score came after Texas A&M ran into the kicker on a missed field goal attempt, giving the Demon Deacons an automatic first down.

TAKEAWAYS:


Texas A&M: You would have to think Kirk will think strongly about heading to the NFL after a terrific bowl game. It's hard to believe he could do much more to impress the NFL scouts after an unbelievable performance.

Wake Forest: The most difficult task next offseason will be replacing Wolford, a four-year starter and the clearly the leader of the team.

UP NEXT

Texas A&M: The Jimbo Fisher officially begins as the Aggies usher in a new era after six seasons under Kevin Sumlin.

Wake Forest: The future is looking bright for the Demon Deacons after their second bowl win in as many years under coach Dave Clawson.

Michigan State: 2017 Holiday Bowl Champions



SAN DIEGO -- Michigan State put a nice, big exclamation mark on its turnaround season.

Brian Lewerke threw for 213 yards and three touchdowns, and LJ Scott ran for 110 yards and two scores for No. 18 Michigan State, which took advantage of Luke Falk's absence to rout No. 21 Washington State 42-17 in the Holiday Bowl on Thursday night.

Lewerke also rushed for 73 yards for Michigan State (10-3), which rebounded from a dismal 3-9 record last year to reach double digits in wins for the eighth time in program history.

"We were ready to play. We were fresh," said Mark Dantonio, who earned his 100th victory in 11 seasons as Spartans coach. "It wasn't good enough to win nine games. We needed to win 10. We needed to have a great bowl game. This was a national stage. Holiday Bowl is an outstanding bowl. It's catapulted us up the rankings at least a little bit further.

"We reaffirmed our stature a little bit in college football. This has been a good football team and should continue to be a good football team."

Falk, who was photographed earlier in the week with a cast on his left wrist, went through warmups but came out in street clothes at game time. He was replaced by redshirt sophomore Tyler Hilinksi, who made his first start and eighth appearance of the season. It's unclear precisely when Falk injured the wrist on his non-throwing hand, but he had issues with it throughout the season.

Coach Mike Leach refused to give specifics during the week and was condescending afterward when asked about Falk's injury.

"Luke is doing exactly what we want Luke to do and Luke has had a fine career here and also done a great deal for this program, probably more than most people will ever realize," Leach said. "Tyler was the ideal guy to start with our lineup today."

Pressed on Falk's injury, Leach said: "You will remain unclear on it. Next question."

Hilinski led WSU (9-4) to a 45-yard field goal by Erik Powell on the Cougars' second drive, but the Cougars were overpowered by the Spartans.

Lewerke threw the first of two TD passes to Cody White, a 7-yarder midway through the second quarter, when he was flushed to the left but found the receiver in the back of the end zone.

On MSU's next possession, Lewerke took the snap and glanced at his running back, which froze the secondary and allowed Felton Davis III to get wide open for a 49-yard scoring pass.

"The quick answer is our eyes weren't in the right place," Leach said. "But the answer is we didn't do our job. I did think we unraveled a little bit after that play."

Scott scored on a 3-yard run to give the Spartans a 21-3 halftime time.

Early in the third, Lewerke rolled left and had his pass tipped, but a sliding White caught it for a 7-yard touchdown.

Lewerke, who finished 13 of 21, was hit hard on a keeper in the third quarter and came out for a few plays. His backup, Damion Terry, scored on a 6-yard keeper to make it 35-3.

The Cougars closed the gap when Hilinski threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Tay Martin late in the third quarter and a 15-yarder to Tay in the fourth quarter.

Scott scored on a 28-yard burst up the middle with about six minutes left to play.

Hilinski was 39 of 50 for 272 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.

QUOTABLE

Lewerke said he was "very careful" on his long throw to Davis. "I saw how wide open he was and I tried to throw it right at him and make sure."

THE TAKEAWAY

Washington State: It was the second straight lackluster Holiday Bowl for Leach's Cougars, who lost 17-12 to Minnesota last year. Besides being without Falk, leading receiver Tavares Martin Jr. was kicked off the team after the regular season and third-leading receiver Isaiah Johnson-Mack left the squad. The Cougars, who started 6-0, were routed in their final two games, including a 41-14 loss to rival Washington.

Michigan State: Scott had his third 100-yard game of the season and ninth of his career. Felton had four catches for 118 yards.

UP NEXT


Washington State: Falk will move on to the NFL Draft while Hilinski will take over the Air Raid offense. It was Hilinski who led the Cougars to a comeback victory against Boise State in triple overtime on Sept. 9 after Falk was knocked out of the game.

Michigan State: The young Spartans appear to be in good hands with Lewerke, who was just a redshirt sophomore this season. "We can build off the momentum this game brings us," he said. "We've got a lot of young guys, still a lot of work to be done, a lot of potential to be reached. It's very big for us."

TCU: 2017 Alamo Bowl Champions



SAN ANTONIO -- There is something about TCU and big comebacks in the Alamo Bowl. Never count out the Horned Frogs.

In 2015, they stormed back from down 31-0 to win. They did it again Thursday night, rallying from 21-3 down to beat No. 15 Stanford 39-37 behind Kenny Hill, who passed for two touchdowns, ran for another, and even caught one. Cole Bunce kicked the winning 33-yard field goal with just over 3 minutes left after Stanford had retaken the lead.

"The bottom line is we need to start faster," TCU coach Gary Patterson joked after the game. "We fought back tonight."

Hill landed the biggest punches. He scored the Horned Frogs' first touchdown on a 6-yard scramble. His 27-yard TD catch on a throw from receiver Desmon White capped No. 13 TCU's first drive of the second half.

And Hill's 93-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Reagor in the fourth quarter sent a charge through an Alamodome crowd that was dominated by TCU fans.

It was the second time this season Hill had a rushing, passing and receiving touchdown, providing a memorable finale to his college career. Hill began his career at Texas A&M, where he succeeded Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel in 2014, but transferred to TCU (11-3) after a rocky first season with the Aggies.

"To come back to win (tonight) with this group of guys who accepted me from the minute I came in, means everything to me," said Hill, who had 314 yards passing and a team-high 60 yard rushing.

Bryce Love, a Heisman Trophy finalist, rushed for 145 yards for Stanford (9-5), including a 69-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. K.J. Costello threw three touchdown passes to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, the last one giving Stanford a 37-36 lead.

Hill completed three passes on TCU's winning drive. The Horned Frogs sealed the victory with an interception by Innis Gaines with 2:01 left.

Love finished with the season with 2,118 yards rushing, setting a Stanford single-season record.

THE TAKEAWAY

TCU: The Horned Frogs defended Love about as well as anyone this season despite the long touchdown run. Most important, they didn't let him take over in the second half, which let Hill and the offense rally. When the Stanford running game wasn't working, the TCU defense could get after Costello, who struggled under pressure after his quick start.

Stanford: The Cardinal were doomed by the big play just when they had a chance to put the game away. After pinning TCU deep, Hill found Reagor for the long TD pass early in the fourth quarter. White, who earlier had a costly fumble, then gave TCU its first lead with a punt return touchdown.

"He outkicked his coverage. I saw green and took off running," White said.

"We really want a lot of those plays back. Those long drives and a couple big plays, they caught back up really quick," Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips said.

ON TO NEXT YEAR

TCU: Coach Gary Patterson has his program humming with 40 wins over the last four seasons, and the Horned Frogs expect to remain Big 12 title contenders even as Hill moves on after his final game. The Horned Frogs will have to find a new quarterback, but Patterson's teams always play some of the best defense in the league.


Stanford: Love will have to decide his future and whether that will mean another year of school for the biology major and aspiring pediatrician with an interest in stem cell research, or a jump to the NFL. The trend has seen top players leave early, but Love already bucked the latest fad by choosing to play in his team's bowl game as he ponders his decision.

Coach David Shaw said this week he hopes Love will return next season. If he does, pencil in the Cardinal as a Pac-12 favorite again.

"A lot of guys have some decisions to make, whether they will leave or not. But I'm so excited about what we have coming back on this football team," Shaw said. "I think we'll make a huge jump."

UP NEXT

Stanford hosts San Diego State on Sept. 1, 2018.

TCU hosts Southern in its 2018 opener.

Oklahoma State: 2017 Camping World Bowl Champions



ORLANDO, Fla. -- They started playing football at Oklahoma State 116 years ago, and never in that span had there been a run of three consecutive 10-win seasons.

Until now.

Mason Rudolph threw for 351 yards and a pair of touchdowns on his way to winning game MVP honors, James Washington had a long touchdown grab and became Oklahoma State's career receiving yards leader, and the 17th-ranked Cowboys beat No. 22 Virginia Tech 30-21 in the Camping World Bowl on Thursday night.

"It's cool. It speaks a lot about the senior class, about the leadership on both sides of the ball," Rudolph said. "It's a great achievement for us."

Washington caught five passes for 126 yards, giving him 4,472 for his career and passing Rashaun Woods for the school mark. Justice Hill ran for 120 yards and another score for the Cowboys (10-3).

"A really good win for our organization," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "Defensively, we gave up a lot of rushing yards but we were able to make some stops and force some turnovers. For Oklahoma State, really in the end, that's what it comes down to."

Josh Jackson ran for two scores and threw for another for the Hokies (9-4), including a rush that got Virginia Tech within 27-21 with 5:40 remaining. Deshawn McClease ran for 124 yards, a Virginia Tech season-best, but the Hokies were hurt by two turnovers in Oklahoma State territory.

"We had a plan and we executed well at times," Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. "I don't really remember Oklahoma State making very many, if any, mistakes. And we made a handful, just enough to kind of keep us from pulling the thing off. That's not to say that Oklahoma State doesn't deserve credit for winning the game. They do."

Hill came through with perhaps the play of the night. Facing a third-and-11 with 3:30 left, Hill took a handoff, went left, waited for a lane to open -- and broke loose for a 31-yard gain down to the Hokies' 18. Matt Ammendola's 38-yard field goal with 2:34 left put the Cowboys up by nine, essentially sealing the outcome.

"Hats off to them," said Virginia Tech defensive lineman Ricky Walker, who said the Hokies expected a run on that key late third down. "They made a good call and they executed it."

Virginia Tech actually outgained the high-octane Cowboys, 518 yards to 492.

A pair of big missed Hokie opportunities helped Oklahoma State take a 13-7 lead at the break. An 18-play, 10-minute drive that got to the Oklahoma State 1 resulted in no points when the Hokies fumbled a snap away. And after the Cowboys took the lead late in the half, Jackson had a wide-open Henri Murphy down the middle for what would have been a 54-yard score.

But the pass was overthrown, the Hokies never led again, and Rudolph and Washington got the winning ending they sought.

"Just a fun college experience," Rudolph said. "It's been fun."

BIG PICTURE

Oklahoma State: Rudolph ended his college career with no less than 52 school records. His two touchdown throws gave him 37 on the season, tying Brandon Weeden's school mark. And he came into the game needing 175 yards to break Weeden's season passing record, eclipsing that in the third quarter.

Virginia Tech: Hokies kicker Joey Slye came up with a highlight in his college finale, making a big tackle on a third-quarter kickoff and celebrating by flexing his biceps as he skipped to the sideline. He ended his career as the Hokies' all-time leader in field goals and points.

TOUGH NIGHT


Oklahoma State cornerback Rodarius Williams got shaken up twice -- both after collisions with teammates. He and defensive end Jordan Brailford crashed into one another in the first quarter on a play where they were pursuing Jackson, and Williams went knee-to-helmet with fellow cornerback A.J. Green in coverage during the third quarter.

LEGEND WATCHES

Ryan Howard, who hit 382 home runs in 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, was at the game and cheering for Oklahoma State -- even giving Cowboys DT Enoch Smith a Twitter shoutout.

UP NEXT

Oklahoma State: Host Missouri State on Sept. 1 to start the 2018 slate.

Virginia Tech: Visit Florida State on Sept. 3 in an ACC Monday night season-opener.

Navy: 2017 Military Bowl Champions



ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Two quarterbacks put on one heck of a show for Navy in the Military Bowl.

Backup Zach Abey scored five touchdowns, starter Malcolm Perry ran for 114 yards and two scores and the Midshipmen rolled to a surprisingly easy 49-7 victory over Virginia on Thursday.

After Virginia's Joe Reed took the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, the Midshipmen (7-6) got two TDs apiece from Perry and Abey in taking a 28-7 halftime lead.

Perry left in the third quarter with a foot injury, leaving Abey to score on runs of 5 and 20 yards to make it 42-7 in a game Navy entered as a 1 1/2-point favorite.

"Malcolm did a masterful job. The kid's phenomenal, man," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "He brings another dimension to our offense. To Zach's credit, he came in there and played really, really well."

The Midshipmen rolled up a Military Bowl-record 452 yards rushing, including 101 by Chris High and 88 by Abey, who began the season as the starter before losing the job.

"That's the best we've played all year," Niumatalolo said. "We put it together on both sides of the ball."

Going back and forth with Perry and Abey might be the way to go in 2018.

"They're both really good football players. I've got to find a way to use them both," Niumatalolo said. "Just what you saw today is probably what you're going to see next year."

After scoring on a 1-yard run with 11:11 remaining, Abey sat down after becoming the fifth player in FBS history to rush for five TDs in a bowl game.

"We did what we were supposed to do," Perry said. "It all starts up front. The guys were really physical. We played Navy football today."

Playing in their first bowl since 2011, the Cavaliers (6-7) could not contain Navy's triple option and had no success moving the ball.

"I think coach Niumatalolo had his team very well prepared," Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "Clearly, I didn't have our team prepared to perform to their true potential, offensively, defensively or special teams."

Seeking its first winning season in six years, Virginia instead absorbed its sixth loss in seven games.

"The team worked really hard to get to this point, and that's an accomplishment," Mendenhall said. "I don't think it takes the edge off (the season), but it certainly takes some off because it's never fun to not play well and to lose the game. But it's also reflective of exactly where we are."

They're currently in the second tier of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and at least on this day not nearly as good as Navy.

"They just outplayed us," Virginia free safety Quin Blanding said. "That's the bottom line. They came ready to play and we didn't."

Virginia senior Kurt Benkert came in with a school-record 3,062 yards passing this season, along with 25 touchdown passes. In this one, he went 15 for 34 for 133 yards and an interception, and the Cavaliers finished with a season-low 175 yards in offense.

"It was windy and it was cold," Benkert said. "It was hard to get into a rhythm, and we never really found our stride."

After Reed went the distance with the opening kickoff, Navy responded with a 69-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard run by Abey. The Midshipmen then forced a three-and-out, and Perry finished an eight-play drive with a 22-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead.

Perry scored from 19 yards out and Abey concluded the first-half scoring with a 1-yard TD.

By then, Reed's kickoff return was irrelevant.

"It's nothing we haven't seen all year. We just knew we had to respond," Abey said.

PASS ON THE PASS

Navy attempted only one pass, a toss by Abey in the third quarter. It fell incomplete.

THE TAKEAWAY

Virginia: The Cavaliers tripled their win total of a year ago and ended their six-year bowl drought, but now they've got this defeat to think about during the offseason.


"It might be the most valuable game of the year, in terms of now having the opportunity to reassess what we did, and reframing and addressing weaknesses in our program," Mendenhall said.

Navy: The Midshipmen salvaged a disappointing season in which they started 5-0 before losing six of the next seven, including 14-13 to Army. Navy also discovered just how good Perry can be at QB, with Abey available when needed.

UP NEXT

Virginia: Following an offseason to reflect upon their improvement and shortcomings, the Cavaliers open the 2018 season on Sept. 1 against visiting Richmond.

Navy: The Midshipmen launch the 2018 season with a lengthy journey for a Sept. 1 game against Hawaii.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Purdue: 2017 Foster Farms Bowl Champions



SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- When Elijah Sindelar took the field for Purdue's late comeback attempt in a bowl game he thought back on a failed opportunity in a similar situation in the season opener.

The difference from that interception he threw against Louisville to a bowl-game winning touchdown against Arizona sums up the progress the Boilermakers made in their first season under coach Jeff Brohm.

Sindelar threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Mahoungou with 1:44 remaining and Purdue capped its most successful season in years in dramatic style with a 38-35 victory over Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl on Wednesday night.

"I just did not want to do that again," Sindelar said about his interception in the opener. "I remembered that feeling, I was going to try to do everything I could to make sure we didn't have to experience that again."

The Boilermakers (7-6) had squandered a 17-point halftime lead when Khalil Tate threw his fifth TD pass with 3:21 remaining to give the Wildcats (7-6) the lead.

But Sindelar responded with a 75-yard drive that ended with the deep throw into the end zone to Mahoungou, giving the Boilermakers their first winning record since 2011 and first bowl win over a major conference team since beating Washington in the 2002 Sun Bowl. Purdue had won only nine games in the previous four seasons before Brohm arrived.

"That's a memory you'll cherish for the rest of your life," Brohm said "They definitely earned it because they put in the hard work, have gone through the adversity and continued to hang in there."

Sindelar threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns, with Mahoungou (118 yards) and Gregory Phillips (149) each topping the 100-yard mark and catching two TD passes.

Tate was just as good, showing he can win with his arm as well as he can with his legs that carried him to 1,353 yards rushing in the regular season. Tate threw for 302 yards and five touchdowns but his late interception to Jacob Thieneman ended the comeback attempt.

"They made one more play than we did at the end to win," coach Rich Rodriguez said. "It's pretty simple. Give them credit but I'm also pretty excited about the future."

Brohm pulled out all the stops, going for it three times on fourth down, calling a couple of flea-flickers and using an innovative trick play on a fake kneel down to set up a field goal at the end of the first half that made it 31-14.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers were dynamic in the 31-point first half, showing off offensive prowess that was rarely seen on a consistent basis during the regular season. The offense stalled mostly in the second half before the winning score. The most promising drive before that ended when Markell Jones got stopped just short of the first-down marker on a fourth-down pass.

Arizona: The Boilermakers managed to keep Tate's electric running in check, holding him to just 58 yards on 20 carries. But that opened up space for him to exploit them with downfield throws and he had career highs in touchdown passes and yards passing.

DISPUTED PLAY

Arizona was still steaming after the game about the fake kneel down at end of the first half on a play Purdue practiced all season.

The Boilermakers took over at their 32 with 56 seconds left after Tate lost a fumble. Purdue appeared to be taking a knee on the play to run out the clock, but running back D.J. Knox was crouching hidden behind a guard. Sindelar then handed the ball to Knox, who waited a second as the linemen stood and then ran around left end for a 30-yard gain that helped set up the field goal.

Rodriguez thought it should have been a dead play because he said the officials told his players not to rush.

"If the refs tells us it's a kneel it's really a dead play," linebacker Tony Fields II said. "We can't do anything as linebackers or DBs. They don't even want us to rush the quarterback because that's an injury prevention thing. They got us."

Brohm successfully ran a similar play in the Boca Raton Bowl last year at Western Kentucky.

THEY SAID IT


Mahoungou hurt his shoulder the play before his winning catch but wasn't going to leave the game. He drew on a saying from position coach JaMarcus Shephard.

"He says, `Don't tell me how rough the seas are, just bring me the damn ship," Mahoungou said. "So I just had to bring the damn ship."

UP NEXT

Purdue: The Boilermakers will try to build on Brohm's successful first season. They start with a tough conference test when they host Northwestern on Aug. 30.

Arizona: The Wildcats are excited to see what a full season with Tate at quarterback looks like. The 2018 campaign will start at home against BYU on Sept. 1.

Texas: 2017 Texas Bowl Champions



HOUSTON -- Texas coach Tom Herman knows he has a long way to go to get the Longhorns where he wants them to be.

But finishing with the school's first winning record since 2013 following a 33-16 victory over Missouri in the Texas Bowl on Wednesday night certainly has them on the right track.

"It's really important for these guys to call themselves a winner," Herman said, "and to be able to walk around their hometowns over the next few weeks of Christmas break knowing they had a winning season. It wasn't going to be life or death. We would have been just fine next year, but this was a big step forward."

Freshman running back Daniel Young had 64 yards receiving with a touchdown and added 48 yards on the ground to pace Texas (7-6).

The Longhorns, in a bowl for the first time since 2014, bounced back from a loss to Texas Tech in their regular-season finale to finish with their first winning record since going 8-5 in coach Mack Brown's final season in 2013.

Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger split time at quarterback for Texas, and both players threw a touchdown pass. The defense helped out, too, with Anthony Wheeler scoring a TD on a fumble return in the first half and Davante Davis grabbing an interception with about three minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Armanti Foreman dashed 18 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive to extend the lead to 33-16 and put the game out of reach.

Michael Dickson, who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter, was selected the game's Most Valuable Player, making him the first non-offensive player to be Texas Bowl MVP and the second punter ever to win MVP of a bowl game, joining Florida State's Graham Gano, the MVP of the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl.

Dickson, who will forego his senior season to declare for the NFL draft, punted 11 times for 452 yards, with four landing inside the 5.

He was shocked that he won the honor.

"I didn't believe it when they told me at first," he said. "I was like, `Wait, why am I going on stage?' It's still kind of sinking in now."

Missouri coach Barry Odom said he's never seen a punting performance like Dickson's.

"I guess that's why he won that award," Odom said. "He's pretty good and they played well off of it."

Drew Lock passed for 269 yards and a touchdown, but also threw an interception and lost a fumble in the loss, which snapped a six-game winning streak for the Tigers. Lock led the nation during the regular season with a Southeastern Conference-record 43 touchdown passes and had thrown three or more in eight straight games.

"We'll use this as a learning tool and motivation and continue to build our program and build our team," Odom said. "We've got a lot of exciting things happening."

Buechele connected with Young on a 22-yard touchdown pass to put Texas up 7-0 early in the first quarter. Ehlinger found John Burt for a 7-yard score later in the first to push the lead to 14-0.

The Tigers (7-6) got within 14-7 when Ish Witter ran 4 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. But Witter fumbled later in the period and Wheeler scooped it up and rumbled 38 yards for a touchdown to leave Texas up 21-7 at halftime.

Lock threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to Johnathon Johnson on the first play of the second half, but the 2-point conversion failed, leaving the Tigers down 21-13.

They cut the margin to 21-16 with a 28-yard field goal by Tucker McCann with about three minutes left in the third quarter, but weren't able to move the ball much after that.

The Longhorns went up 23-16 when a bad snap sailed over Lock's head and rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety near the end of the third quarter.

Texas used a 41-yard field goal early in the fourth to make it 26-16 with about 12 minutes left.

Ehlinger was 11 of 15 for 112 yards, and Buechele finished 6 of 14 for 55 yards.

THE TAKEAWAY

Texas: Herman's first season with the Longhorns was somewhat of a disappointment, but his team's performance against Missouri should give fans hope that the program is back on the right track.

Missouri: Texas found a way to stymie Missouri's potent offense after the Tigers scored 45 or more points in each of their previous six games, a school record.

HONORING NOBIS

Texas junior linebacker Breckyn Hager honored former Longhorns star Tommy Nobis, who died this month at 74, by wearing his retired No. 60 jersey. The Longhorns also wore stickers on their helmets with No. 60 to honor Nobis. The linebacker played for Texas from 1963-65 and was the top pick in the 1966 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He was a five-time Pro Bowler who played in the NFL until 1976.

UP NEXT


Texas: Herman appears to have two improving quarterbacks in Buechele and Ehlinger, but to develop more consistency next season the coach might need to pick one as his starter and stick with him.

Missouri: Lock will have to decide if he'll declare for the NFL draft or return for his senior season. With offensive coordinator Josh Heupel leaving to coach Central Florida, Lock's decision could hinge on his feelings about the new offensive coordinator.

"This game won't affect my decision at all," Lock said. "If we had come out and scored 150 points on them, it wouldn't have made a difference. If we had scored zero, it wouldn't have made a difference. I still have things to evaluate, and I'm going to take in a little more information before the deadline."

Iowa: 2017 Pinstripe Bowl Champions



NEW YORK -- Akrum Wadley had never been to Yankee Stadium, even though he grew up about 20 miles across the river in New Jersey. On his first visit, he seemed to bring out all of Newark to cheer him on. His 40 tickets to give away weren't enough to satiate his hometown fans.

"I couldn't get more tickets," he said, laughing.

He had all his fans in New Jersey to the ones freezing inside Yankee Stadium to the black-and-gold faithful in Iowa that packed bars roaring in approval: Wadley's homecoming ended with an MVP trophy that helped put the Hawkeyes' bowl misery on ice.

Wadley rushed, received and returned in dazzling fashion on a frozen field and Iowa beat Boston College 27-20 in the frigid Pinstripe Bowl on Wednesday night to snap a five-game bowl losing streak.

"You can't pay for moments like that," Wadley said.

The only milestone that eluded him was the winning touchdown: Drake Kulick fought for a 1-yard run late in the fourth quarter on his only carry of the game that clinched the win for the Hawkeyes.

The Hawkeyes (8-5) had been the only team in the nation to lose a bowl game in each of the last four seasons. Iowa had last won a bowl game in 2010 and started the losing streak the next season.

It ended in New York.

The Hawkeyes used their first sack of the game late in the fourth to spark the winning drive. Iowa defensive end Anthony Nelson hit Darius Wade, and Parker Hesse recovered a fumble at the BC 45.

Nate Stanley's pass to Nate Wieting on a rollout was ruled a touchdown until a review showed the tight end was down at the 1. No worries. Kulick got the call over Wadley, who had 283 total yards in his final game, and barged through for the go-ahead score. The smattering of Iowa fans went wild and Josh Jackson gave them reason to stay on their feet when he sealed the win with an interception.

"For our team to come out the way they did in the second half, it was a breakthrough moment for us," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Boston College (7-6) had nothing on its final drive and that ended an otherwise miserable day at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees' postseason games in October seemed downright balmy compared to the kickoff temperature of 23 degrees and a wind chill that made it feel like 12 degrees. The stadium turf was akin to running on ice and the conditions forced players to change from cleats to sneakers to get some grip. The most common huddle was the one around the sideline heaters.

Boston College's AJ Dillon found the field just to his liking, and ripped off a 66-yard run in the second quarter and had 126 yards rushing overall in the first half. He had a 4-yard TD run in the first quarter. His monster half helped the Eagles hold a 281-56 edge in total yards, a staggering discrepancy that made little impact on the scoreboard.

"I thought we moved the ball well given what the conditions were," Boston College coach Steve Addazio said.

The Hawkeyes had two clutch plays that kept it close: Iowa safety Jake Gervase intercepted a pass on the third play of the game and returned it to the BC 6. The Hawkeyes got a field goal. And Wadley returned a kickoff 72 yards that led to a touchdown on Stanley's 8-yard TD pass to Noah Fant. With a short field, Iowa was stout and kept it at 17-10 at halftime.

Wadley, a two-time 1,000 yard rusher, scored on a 5-yard run in the third and Miguel Recinos and Colton Lichtenberg swapped field goals in the fourth to make it 20-all with 8:09 left in the game.

THE TAKEAWAY

Iowa: Ferentz tied Hayden Fry for first on Iowa's career wins list with 143.

Boston College: The Eagles are still trying for their first eight-win season since 2009.

THE WAVE

Iowa fans ended the first quarter with "The Wave." Iowa fans at Kinnick Stadium turn and wave to patients at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital, a 12-story building that sits right across the street. On game days, patients and their families can watch the game and, after the first quarter, wave back. The Hawkeyes kept the tradition going at Yankee Stadium.

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BOWL GAME

The Yankees remain committed to hosting the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. The wintry temps kept most of the 37,667 fans out of the seats and the stadium was sparsely populated in the second half.

UP NEXT


Iowa: Jackson faces a big decision. Jackson did not announce if he will come back for his senior season. Jackson's numbers, along with his 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame and his abundance of physical gifts, have left many NFL draft pundits pegging him as a possible first-round pick in 2018. Jackson redshirted his first season and is set to graduate in May. He finished with eight interceptions.

Boston College: The Eagles return a nice chunk of their starting offense and should again contend for another seven-win season. Under coach Steve Addazio, the Eagles have had four seven-win seasons in his five years at BC.

Florida State: 2017 Independence Bowl Champions



SHREVEPORT, La. -- Freshman James Blackman was throwing the touchdown passes. Another freshman, Cam Akers, was gaining big chunks of yards on the ground.

Florida State might still be a little melancholy after a season that started with national championship hopes ended on Wednesday with an Independence Bowl win. But the performances from young players like Blackman and Akers in the 42-13 victory over Southern Mississippi are a solid hint that the Seminoles could be a powerhouse again in a hurry.

Blackman threw for 233 yards and an Independence Bowl-record four touchdowns, including three to junior receiver Auden Tate. Akers led the Seminoles with 94 yards rushing and also caught a 14-yard touchdown pass.

Blackman started the season's final 12 games after sophomore starting quarterback Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener. He's had some ups and downs since the promotion, but saved the best for last against Southern Miss.

"It's pretty impressive, he had to grow up really fast," Florida State interim coach Odell Haggins. "He had to take the diapers off and go to work."

Florida State (7-6) ended the season on a four-game winning streak and avoided its first losing season since 1976. Now new coach Willie Taggart takes over and appears to have plenty of talent on the roster to work with going forward.

Southern Miss took a 6-0 lead in the first quarter after a 63-yard touchdown drive that was aided by two 15-yard Florida State penalties, one for unsportsmanlike conduct and the other for roughing the kicker.

But the Golden Eagles couldn't keep the momentum, mainly because of their own mistakes, including four defensive offside penalties on Florida State's opening drive.

"If you can get a little momentum going, you've got a chance to get this thing into the third quarter or the fourth quarter and we'll see what happens," Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson said. "But give (Florida State) credit, they deserved to win. They made plays, but I thought we fought hard. Just a tough loss today."

Blackman matched an Independence Bowl record with three touchdown passes in the first half to help Florida State take a 23-6 lead.

The Seminoles pushed the advantage to 33-6 late in the third quarter before Southern Miss finally responded with a touchdown. By then, the game was essentially out of reach.

Southern Miss (8-5) was led by Ito Smith, who ran for 92 yards. Kwadra Griggs completed 13 of 25 passes for just 86 yards and a touchdown.

AKERS GETS 1,000

Akers finished his freshman season with 1,024 yards rushing after running for 94 yards on just 13 carries against Southern Miss. The 5-foot-11, 213-pounder broke Dalvin Cook's program record for the most yards rushing by a freshman in a season. Cook had 1,008 yards in 2014.

THE TAKEAWAY

Florida State: The Seminoles earned a good ending to an otherwise dreary season. Florida State was simply more talented than Southern Miss at just about every position and it showed.


Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles were able to grab an early lead, but couldn't keep the momentum. Southern Miss is a program that relishes its opportunities against Power Five opponents, but the talent gap was too much for the Golden Eagles to overcome on Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Florida State: The Seminoles get a fresh start with Taggart. Florida State still has a talented roster and there's ample reason to believe it could be a quick turnaround for the storied program.

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles should be in pretty good shape next season, though they'll have to replace star running back Ito Smith and the entire starting secondary.

 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Kansas State: 2017 Cactus Bowl Champions



PHOENIX -- Bill Snyder stood on a makeshift stage in the middle of a baseball stadium with a roof, a sparkling trophy at his side depicting a football sailing through cactus uprights.

If this was the end of his storied coaching career at Kansas State, it sure was a great way to go out.

Alex Delton ran for 158 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, leading the Wildcats to a 35-17 Cactus Bowl victory over UCLA on Tuesday night in what could be Snyder's final game.

"We've got so many people to be proud of at Kansas State University and it starts with our players, quite obviously," Snyder said.

Delton replaced Skylar Thompson late in the first quarter and scored on runs of 68 yards, 3 yards and 1 yard. Alex Barnes added 117 yards and a touchdown for the Wildcats, who rushed for 345 yards.

Kansas State (8-5) struggled in the first half against UCLA's potent offense, but shut down the Bruins in the second to give Snyder his 210th -- and possibly last -- win with the Wildcats.

UCLA (6-7) played without top NFL prospect Josh Rosen, who's recovering from a concussion, and built a 10-point halftime lead without its star quarterback.

The Bruins' offensive success didn't carry over into the second half and their defense had a hard time containing Delton, saddling interim coach Jedd Fisch with a loss in his last game before Chip Kelly takes over the program.

"We handled a ton of adversity this year and a ton of change," Fisch said. "After the (USC) week, they continued to play as hard as possible."

Snyder turned around one of the nation's worst programs after taking over in 1989, leading the Wildcats to eight straight bowl appearances after un-retiring in 2008.

He says he has not decided whether he will return for a 27th season or retire again to spend time with his family.

The 78-year-old coach made a quarterback change in the first quarter of the Cactus Bowl after Thompson threw an interception. Delton had an immediate impact, bursting up the middle for a 68-yard touchdown run.

Snyder opted to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the third quarter, and Delton came through again, bulling his way through a massive pile -- with some help from his teammates.

Kansas State's Denzel Goolsby recovered Bolu Olorunfunmi's fumble at the Bruins 24-yard line on the next play from scrimmage, and Delton hit Dominique Heath for an 8-yard touchdown to give the Wildcats the lead.

"That was possibly the play of the ballgame," Snyder said.

UCLA turned it over on downs -- after a successful fake punt -- and Kansas State turned its fourth-down try into a touchdown, with Alex Barnes putting the Wildcats up 28-17 with a 41-yard run.

Kansas State ended UCLA's comeback hopes with an eight-minute drive capped by Delton's final TD run.

"They wore us down," Fisch said.

Rosen, expected to leave for the NFL after his junior year, was in uniform and warmed up before the game, but Devon Modster trotted out to the huddle.

The Bruins still had their big-play game going even without Rosen, building a 17-7 halftime lead on two long TD passes by Modster.

UCLA's offensive roll ended with halftime. The Bruins had 100 total yards and three first downs in the second half.

"I just threw too many incomplete passes," said Modster, who threw for 295 yards. "That's pretty much it."

THE TAKEAWAY

If this was the final game of Snyder's career, the Wildcats sent him out on a high note with a dominant second-half performance.

UCLA's defense, a sore spot all season, had no answer for Delton, and its offense could have used Rosen in the second half.

ROSEN'S DECISION

Reports surfaced this week that Rosen wouldn't play in the bowl game, possibly to protect himself from injury. Fisch shot that notion down quickly.


"I want to be clear on this: Josh wanted to play," he said. "Josh was unable to play because of the fact that he had two concussions within a four-week span in November, and our physicians didn't feel comfortable putting him out there and putting him at risk for a possibility of a third concussion."

UP NEXT

Kansas State: The Wildcats should be in good shape on offense next season whether Snyder returns or not. Kansas State has no seniors on its two-deep roster on offense, though there are five on defense.

UCLA: Kelly will likely have to replace Rosen when he takes over, but will have plenty of firepower returning. He's also a top recruiter, so the Bruins should be well-stocked with talent.

Duke: 2017 Quick Lane Bowl Champions



DETROIT -- In mid-November, after a loss at Army, the Duke Blue Devils were looking at spending a second straight holiday season at home.

That made Tuesday's success in the Quick Lane Bowl even sweeter.

After a six-game losing streak dropped them to 4-6, the Blue Devils (7-6) had to beat Georgia Tech and Wake Forest just to get bowl eligible. They managed that, got a bid to spend Christmas in Detroit, and salvaged the season with a 36-14 win over Northern Illinois.

"People ask me how we came back from 4-6, especially since we don't have a star player who we could turn to," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "I tell them that we have a roster filled with great teammates. They decided they had to work together if we were going to come up with a decent finish."

Duke quarterback Daniel Jones finished with 338 yards of offense, throwing two touchdown passes while running for a third score, and Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown added rushing touchdowns.

"We knew Northern Illinois had a lot of success rushing the passer this year, but our offensive line really controlled things," Jones said. "That really opened things up for our offense.

"We were frustrated after losing to Army, but we were finally able to channel that into motivation."

Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Childers threw for 234 yards and a score for Northern Illinois (8-5), while fellow redshirt freshman Tre Harbison ran for a touchdown.

"Marcus and I know that this offseason is crucial," Harbison said. "If we work hard, we should have a special backfield next year."

The Blue Devils took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, sandwiching rushing touchdowns around a failed Northern Illinois fake punt on 4th-and-18 from their own 11.

"They were being physical with our gunners, so we thought we could get a pass interference and a first down," Huskies coach Rod Carey said. "They didn't bite, and we had a punter throwing to a defensive back."

The Huskies had two first downs and 46 yards in the quarter, but tied the game with two scores in the first 2:38 of the second. Duke, though, moved back into a 26-14 lead with two touchdowns before halftime.

"We let up for a little while, and they took advantage of our mistakes," Duke linebacker Joe Giles-Harris said. "We knew we had to get focused again, and we shut them out from there."

Jones fumbled on the first possession of the second half, but Northern Illinois turned the ball back over after a failed fake field goal.

THE TAKEAWAY

Duke: Other than the start of the second quarter, where they lost defensive focus on back-to-back possessions, the Blue Devils were in complete control.

"They hit a couple big plays against us, and our offense stalled, so we made some adjustments," Cutcliffe said. "We started passing the ball more, which is what we needed, and our defense started making plays."

Northern Illinois: The Huskies recovered from the disastrous first-quarter fake punt to get back into the game, but couldn't stay with Duke on either side of the ball.

"We were flying around out there, trying to make plays, but we didn't execute our game plan," said safety Mycial Allen, who was playing in his hometown. "Duke came up with the big plays and we didn't."

STUNNING SPECIAL TEAMS MOVE

The Blue Devils were startled by Carey's decision to run a fake punt in such a tough spot, especially in the first quarter of a 7-0 game.

"That was a very risky move," Cutcliffe said. "We're going to jam their gunners at the line, just like in press coverage, but we aren't going to hit them after that. That means you have to complete the pass to get a first down, and that's not easy to do."

UP NEXT

Duke: By winning their final three games, including Cutcliffe's second bowl victory in 10 seasons at Duke, the Blue Devils take some momentum into the offseason.

Jones will be back as a junior next season, while Brown is expected to replace Wilson as the No. 1 running back.


"We showed a lot of mental toughness to finish this season with three wins instead of rolling over and losing the last two games," Jones said. "This is an exciting way to go into the offseason."

Northern Illinois: After winning at Nebraska, the Huskies thought they were on the verge of another big season. However, conference losses to Toledo and Central Michigan knocked them out of MAC title contention and they were overmatched against Duke.

"This is disappointing, but we're going to have a good group of players coming back next year," Carey said. "We can build on this."

LAST WORD

"A month ago, no one thought we had a chance at a bowl game, so this was a great way to finish the season," said Giles-Harris, who was named First-Team All-ACC as a sophomore.

Utah: 2017 Heart of Dallas Bowl Champions



DALLAS -- Zack Moss took a third-down handoff and burst through the line into an opening in the middle of the field. Utah was off and running to another bowl victory.

Moss ran for 150 yards, including a career-long 58-yard run for a touchdown on the Utes' opening drive in the Heart of Dallas Bowl as they went on to a 30-14 win over West Virginia on Tuesday. Utah is now 11-1 in postseason games under Kyle Whittingham, who matched Alabama's Nick Saban for the most bowl wins by an active coach.

"He knows how to coach the team and he always caps the year off right," Utah sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley said.

Huntley scored twice on 2-yard keepers , but the Utes led for good in their fifth straight bowl victory after Moss broke free early on a drizzly and chilly day in Cotton Bowl Stadium.

"It was very important for us to come out of the gates with a big play early on and set the tone," said Moss, who like Huntley still has two seasons left with the Utes (7-6).

West Virginia (7-6) finished the season with its third straight loss. The Mountaineers had only 153 total yards without junior quarterback Will Grier, who broke a finger Nov. 18, and 1,000-yard rusher Justin Crawford, a senior who bypassed the bowl game in advance of the NFL draft.

"It was a pretty disappointing loss to end a pretty disappointing season," Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said. "You never hear me use it as an excuse. If you lose guys, you need guys to step in and play at a high level and that is the bottom line."

Whittingham's debut as head coach was a Fiesta Bowl win at the end of the 2004 season. He co-coached that game with Urban Meyer, who had taken the Florida job three weeks earlier but returned to be part of Utah's postseason win over Pittsburgh after his defensive coordinator had been promoted to head coach.

Under Whittingham, the Utes prepare for bowl games like regular season games, often in full pads and with continuing conditioning work. There is also a little bit of peer pressure.

"We've got a group of guys and have had several groups of guys come here that take a lot of pride in their bowl performance and the bowl record that we have," Whittingham said. "This group was no different. Each subsequent group doesn't want to be the group that lets the previous groups down. They want to keep that bowl prowess alive."

THE TAKEAWAY

Utah: Both of Huntley's TDs came after West Virginia miscues. The first came after a muffed punt return set Utah up at the Mountaineers 13, and the second came after an offside penalty on a short punt gave the Utes a second chance on fourth down. Huntley then completed a 25-yard pass on the fourth-and-3 play before scoring on another short run.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers missed Grier, who broke the middle finger on his throwing hand early in a loss against Texas. Grier, whose 34 TD passes were the second most in a season for West Virginia, already has said he will return next year for his senior season.

SABAN'S TIEBREAKER?

Saban has a chance, maybe two, to add a bowl win this season. The Crimson Tide will play Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day in the College Football Playoff. Two other active coaches can get their 11th bowl wins before then: Miami's Mark Richt and Meyer, who is now at Ohio State.

ONE SHORT OF 1,000


KaRaun White's 18-yard TD catch with 2 minutes left for West Virginia put him over 1,000 yards receiving this season, along with teammate Gary Jennings. But David Sills V, who had 18 TD catches, had no catches Tuesday and finished 20 yards shy of giving the Mountaineers three 1,000-yard receivers.

UP NEXT

Utah: The junior seasons for Huntley and Moss begin at home on Aug. 30 against Weber State. For the start of what will be Whittingham's 14th full season, the Utes could have back 14 of their starters from the bowl game (eight on offense, six on defense).

West Virginia: Grier can be back in the lineup for the 2018 season opener Sept. 1 against Tennessee in Charlotte. It will be the third time in five years the Mountaineers will open a season against another Power Five opponent in an NFL stadium.