College Football Bowl Game Wrap-Up, Dec. 20-26
While the first week of bowl season might not have featured a lot of big name, perennial power schools, it certainly didn’t lack for excitement. Here are all the highlights.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Louisiana-Lafayette 16, Nevada 3
For an NCAA-record fourth straight year, the Ragin’ Cajuns won this bowl game to cap a 9-4 season. ULL quarterback Terrance Broadway completed his first 14 passes, an NCAA bowl record, and finished with 227 passing yards and a touchdown. After rushing for 200+ in each of its previous five games, the Wolf Pack managed just 89 on the ground and 213 total while failing to reach the end zone in a game for the first time since 2009.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Utah State 21, Texas-El Paso 6
After a string of injuries, Utah State was down to its fifth-string quarterback for a while in this game. But the Aggie defense and a stout running game gave Utah State all the cushion it would need. The Aggies rushed for 279 yards while the defense kept UTEP out of the end zone and held them to 5-of-20 on third down. Utah State is now riding a three-game bowl winning streak while the Miners have not won a bowl game since 1967.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
No. 22 Utah 45, Colorado State 10
What was expected to be an offensive shootout turned into a one-sided affair as Utah quarterback Travis Wilson scored four touchdowns and the Utes defense forced two turnovers, both of which were turned into scores. The Rams have now lost 16 consecutive games against ranked opponents while Utah has won 11 of its last 12 bowl games.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Air Force 38, Western Michigan 24
After going just 2-10 last year, Air Force finished off one of college football’s best turnaround, securing its first bowl win in four years to cap a 10-3 season. Western Michigan is now 0-6 all-time in bowl games, so even a bowl of potatoes would have looked good in the trophy case.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Bowling Green 33, South Alabama 28
If you like offensive shootouts, this was the game for you. The two teams combined for 915 yards of offense and Bowling Green secured the win with a 78-yard touchdown pass with just 1:04 to play. South Alabama turned the ball over four times in the loss, the school’s first-ever bowl game since starting the program in 2009.
Miami Beach Bowl
Memphis 55, BYU 48 (2OT)
Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch threw for four touchdowns and ran for three more (his seven total scores tied an NCAA bowl record) to lead Memphis to a double-overtime victory and the Tigers’ first ten-win season since 1938. But that’s when things got interesting: you don’t often hear about BYU involved in bench-clearing brawls, but that’s exactly what happened as the two teams exchanged blows at midfield after the game. This game was played on the site of the old Orange Bowl, so maybe there's just something in the water there.
Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall 52, Northern Illinois 23
Marshall’s Rakeem Cato threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns while leading the Thundering Herd to its fourth consecutive bowl win. Cato finished his career by throwing for a touchdown in an NCAA-record 46 straight games and leading Marshall to a 13-1 record, the second-best season in school history.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy 17, San Diego State 16
In a game filled with turnovers and other miscues, it seems appropriate that the game was decided by who made the final mistake. San Diego State kicker Donny Hageman missed a 34-yard field goal that would have put the Aztecs on top with just 20 seconds left. Navy took the lead with a field goal with 1:24 to go, the first time this season the Midshipmen came back to win in a game in which they trailed in the fourth quarter (0-5 previously).
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Western Kentucky 49, Central Michigan 48
The folks in the stands for the first bowl outside the US or Canada since 1937 are already the biggest winners of the bowl season. Not only did they get to spend the holidays in the Bahamas, they got to see one of the wildest bowl games ever. Western Kentucky jumped out to a 49-14 lead going into the fourth quarter before the Chippewas began an epic rally, scoring 34 unanswered points in less than 12 minutes. The highlight was the final touchdown, just your standard Hail-Mary-with-three-laterals-with-no-time-on-the-clock play.
Central Michigan failed on a two-point conversion, meaning the comeback came up just short. But Chippewas quarterback Cooper Rush threw for a bowl-record seven scores in the loss while the two teams combined for 1,254 yards of total offense. So the fans who made the trip definitely got their money’s worth.
Rice 30, Fresno State 6
Rice scored two touchdowns in 19 seconds late in the second half, and the defense took it from there, forcing two turnovers and holding the Bulldogs to less than 100 passing yards for the first time since 2010.
For Fresno State, a free trip to Hawaii is not a bad reward for a 6-8 season.
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Louisiana Tech 35, Illinois 18
Illinois outgained Louisiana Tech, 451-361, but had no answer for the Bulldogs’ big plays. LA Tech scored on an 80-yard pass, a 69-yard interception return and runs of 16 and 28 yards. But the player of the game was Bulldog defensive end Houston Bates, who transferred from Illinois and had 4 ½ sacks against his old team.
Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers 40, North Carolina 21
Underdogs in all of its bowl games, the Big Ten scored at least one bowl win as newcomer Rutgers routed the Tarheels to secure its first bowl since since 2011. North Carolina had no answer for the Scarlet Knights’ running game, which racked up 340 yards on the ground and jumped out to a 40-7 lead. Josh Hicks (202 yards) and Robert Martin (100) became the first Rutgers players to top 100 yards in the same game since Ray Rice and Brian Leonard did it in 2006.
Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
North Carolina State 34, Central Florida 27
NC State dominated for three quarters, jumping out to a 34-13 lead before UCF scored two late touchdowns to make the final score close. Wolfpack quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw for 262 yards and a touchdown in the win. He is the only quarterback in school history to throw for 20+ touchdowns and five or fewer interceptions in a season. This is North Carolina State’s first bowl win since 2011 while the loss snapped a three-game bowl winning streak for the Knights.