Friday, December 27, 2013

Washington: 2013 Fight Hunger Bowl Champions

Washington got a glimpse of what next year could look like in the second half of Friday's Fight Hunger Bowl. And it wasn't by choice.
Injuries to both quarterback Keith Price and running back Bishop Sankey -- players who have combined for almost 5,000 yards of total offense this season -- forced the duo out of the game, but the Huskies defense made sure that the offense didn't need to score again in a 31-16 win over BYU.
Sankey, a Doak Walker Award finalist who entered the game with 1,775 yards rushing and had 95 yards and two touchdowns Friday, left the game in the third quarter after suffering an injury to his right hand. While he's a junior, he's requested his draft evaluation from the NFL (and gotten a third-round grade), and is expected to make his decision about turning pro soon. He was replaced by junior Jesse Callier.
Price, a senior, was replaced by freshman Cyler Miles after he took a shot to the ribs on a third quarter run. Price went to the locker room and returned to test himself on some warmup passes on the sideline but wasn't able to come back. Miles, who got extensive playing time against UCLA and Oregon State, finished the game.
After BYU made it a five-point game at halftime, Washington got the ball to start the second half and Price hitAustin Seferian-Jenkins, the Mackey Award winner, for a 16-yard touchdown and a 28-16 lead.
And then the Cougar offense was stifled. While, as to be expected, BYU ran a ton of plays (97), Washington limited quarterback Taysom Hill's chances down the field and sacked him five times.
Washington finishes with it's first nine-win season since 2000, while BYU is 8-5. The quarterback in that 2000 Rose Bowl season was Marques Tuiasosopo, the Huskies' interim coach for Friday night's game after Steve Sarkisian was hired by USC.

Syracuse: 2013 Texas Bowl Champions

It wasn't pretty by any means, but a late touchdown run from quarterback Terrel Hunt gave Syracuse a 21-17 win over Minnesota on Friday night to claim the 2013 Texas Bowl title.
Despite leading by two scores early in the fourth quarter, Syracuse found itself needing to rally in the closing minutes to reclaim the lead. Hunt evaded a handful of Golden Gophers to run into the end zone from 12 yards out to give the Orange a four-point lead with just 1:11 remaining on the clock.
It seemed the Orange had the game in the bag midway through the third quarter. Minnesota's offense hadn't scored a touchdown since Nov. 9, and the Gophers were struggling to get much of anything going. Two touchdowns in about three minutes gave UM the lead, though, and it seemed the Orange had lost all momentum. But the Orange rallied thanks to a 70-yard Brisly Estime punt return, Hunt's score and Minnesota failing to connect on a hail mary try as time ran out.
After an up-and-down season under first-year coach Scott Shafer, it was a fitting way to end the year. The team could've folded after the two quick scores, and it's a testament to Schafer, the coaching staff and the players for battling back the way they did in the final minutes.
Box Score Hero:
Mitch Leidner: 11/22, 205 yards, 2 TD
Terrel Hunt: 19/29, 188 yards; 15 carries, 74 yards, 2 TD
Jerome Smith: 16 carries, 74 yards, 1 TD
Drew Wolitarsky: 4 receptions, 94 yards, 1 TD
Rankings Ramifications: Even with the win, Syracuse won't come anywhere close to the top 25 at the end of the season. It was a nice victory for the Orange and it will certainly give the program some momentum heading into the offseason, but that's about it.
But Did They Cover? Minnesota opened as a 4.5-point favorite, though the line shifted a point or two on most sites by kickoff. The Gophers obviously failed to cover. The two teams came in below the opening over/under line of 47.5 points.

Marshall: 2013 Military Bowl Champions

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Rakeem Cato threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns, and Marshall used two fourth-quarter scores to rally past Maryland 31-20 Friday in the Military Bowl.
The Thundering Herd (10-4) trailed 20-17 before Cato brought them back. After directing a 63-yard march to put Marshall up 24-20 with 12:05 left, Cato clinched it with an 8-yard touchdown throw to Gator Hoskins with 3:42 to play.
Cato completed 28 of 44 passes — with no interceptions — to help Marshall reach double digits in wins for the first time since 2002. The Thundering Herd came in averaging 43 points per game, but its underappreciated defense played a huge role in this one.
Maryland (7-6) scored only one touchdown after halftime, and A.J. Leggett followed Cato's final TD pass with an interception to set off a celebration among the huge gathering of Marshall fans among the crowd of 30,163.
Making its first bowl appearance under third-year coach Randy Edsall, Maryland closed out its association with the Atlantic Coast Conference by falling to the runner-up in Conference USA. The Terrapins will join the Big Ten next year.
Brandon Ross rushed for 116 yards for Maryland, and C.J. Brown went 14 for 24 for 197 yards.
After a whirlwind first half that produced 30 points and 24 first downs, the teams settled into a defensive struggle in the third quarter. Each of the first four possessions ended in punts, but on the last one Marshall pinned the Terrapins on their own 1.
In the same situation earlier in the game, Maryland ran three times for 2 yards and punted. This time, the Terrapins put together a 17-play drive that included a pair of fourth down conversions and lasted for 7 minutes, 44 seconds. The 99-yard march ended with a 2-yard pass from Brown to tight end Dave Stinebaugh, giving Maryland a 20-17 lead with 14:56 left.
Marshall was quick to respond. Cato completed two third-down passes, and Essray Taliaferro ran in from the 7 to make it 24-20.
Brown subsequently came up short on a third-and-5 bootleg, providing Cato the opportunity to put the game away. Although the Terrapins got the stop they needed, Cato came up big during the next series.
After completing a 28-yard pass to Hoskins on third-and-11, Cato connected with Hoskins again in the end zone. It was Hoskins' second touchdown of the game and 15th of the season, most in the nation for tight ends.
Cato went 16 for 25 for 193 and two touchdowns in the first half to help the Thundering Herd grab a 17-13 lead.
After pinning the Terrapins near their own goal line, Marshall went up 7-0 with a 37-yard drive that ended with Cato's 1-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Shuler.
Maryland answered with a 29-yard touchdown throw from Brown to Levern Jacobs, but the Thundering Herd promptly regained the lead with a lengthy march that produced an 8-yard touchdown pass from Cato to Hoskins.
The back-and-forth duel continued in the second quarter. After Maryland kicked a field goal, Marshall got one of its own for a 17-10 lead.
And then, finally, the trend ended when the Terrapins punted.
Near the end of the half, Maryland moved 81 yards in 10 plays to set up Brad Craddock for his second field goal.
The game was Maryland's last as a member of the ACC. The Terrapins will compete in the Big Ten in 2014.

Utah State: 2013 Poinsettia Bowl Champions

Utah State scored two second half touchdowns and shut down Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois to score a victory in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego Thursday night. Darrell Garretson had his moments to forget in the victory but tossed a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter and a two-point conversion attempt to followJoey DeMartino‘s fourth quarter touchdown run to send Utah State to the 21-7 victory. DeMartino rushed for 143 yards to power the Aggies to the win, the second straight bowl victory for the program.
The NIU defense was actually pretty strong in the first half, holding the Aggies to a pair of field goals and fewer than 130 yards of offense, but the halftime adjustments made by Utah State proved to be too much for the Huskies. Utah State’s offense turned the table sin the second half by holding down the Huskies offense and not allowing Lynch to hurt them. Utah State succeeded in forcing Lynch to beat them through the air, and that has generally been a successful strategy for those who have defeated Northern Illinois, including Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Game. Lynch did drive the Huskies down the field in the final minutes of the game, just after Utah State took a 21-7 lead with a little over four minutes to play, and he completed a touchdown throw to Juwan Brescacin, but an onside kick attempt by NIU was recovered by Utah State to allow the Aggies to run the clock out.
Lynch ended his collegiate career with just 39 rushing yards and a touchdown and 216 passing yards and a touchdown. It was not exactly the type of performance Lynch had been accustomed to this season, but it should be a credit to Utah State’s defense to hold him to 39 rushing yards on 18 attempts. What back-to-back losses will do to his draft stock will be best left to break down by the NFL Draft scouts, but his last two performances do leave some room for criticism when discussing where he fits at the next level.
The MAC is now 0-4 in the postseason after seeing both conference championship participants, Northern Illinois and Bowling Green, suffer losses on Thursday. The conference’s last chance to win a bowl game will be placed in the hands of Ball State, a program that has never won a bowl game.
The Mountain West Conference is now 3-2 this postseason. Both losses have come against the Pac 12. 

Pittsburgh: 2013 Little Caesars Bowl Champions

DETROIT -- While a bowl game represents the end of the season, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Thursday night might have provided a glimpse of the future for Pitt.
Four freshman played key roles as the Panthers beat Bowling Green, 30-27, to head into the offseason with positive momentum for what seems like the first time in ages.
Freshman Chris Blewitt kicked the winning field goal with 1:17 left, his classmates James Conner and Tyler Boyd set Pitt bowl game records, and redshirt freshman quarterback Chad Voytik stepped in for the second half to lead Pitt to the win.
"What can you say?" Voytik said. "I'm excited. You can't ask for much more. Young talent and years to play with them. We can only get better."
Conner, the game's MVP, rushed for 229 yards, breaking Tony Dorsett's school bowl record of 202 yards set in the 1977 Sugar Bowl against Georgia. The freshman also chipped in by playing a handful of snaps at defensive end and caused a key holding penalty by Bowling Green late in the game that pushed the Falcons back.
"[Coach Paul Chryst] said he wanted to unleash me on both sides, so he asked me to play some defense, and I was all for it," Conner said.
As a team, the Panthers ran for 255 yards against a defense that was the best in the Mid-American Conference this season.
"He's unbelievable," Voytik said of Conner. "It makes playing the quarterback position easy when you've got a running back running like that."
Boyd had 173 receiving yards, another Pitt bowl record, which he set on a 62-yard pass from Voytik in the fourth quarter on a drive that ultimately led to a touchdown that put the Panthers ahead, 27-20.
Voytik found out at halftime he would be replacing quarterback Tom Savage, who injured his ribs on the final play of the first half. To raise the stakes a little, Bowling Green's BooBoo Gates returned the opening kickoff of the second half 94 yards for a touchdown to tie the score, 17-17.
"I was nervous when I first found out, but, once I got on the field, there was just a calm that came over me," Voytik said. "It was just football."
On Voytik's second drive, he came out with the ball on the Pitt 2. After a 20-yard pass to Manasseh Garner converted a third-and-5, Voytik reached back and found Boyd for the 62-yard completion.
"I thought it slipped," Voytik said. "I thought I underthrew him by 10 yards. I guess if I had gotten all of it with my nerves, it would've gone 10 yards over his head, so I'm glad it slipped a little bit."
Two plays later, Voytik ran it in from 5 yards out to give the Panthers a 27-20 lead.
The Falcons tied the score on their next drive, but Voytik and Conner answered right back. The duo combined for 51 yards, all on the ground, to set up Blewitt's winning field goal.
"I thought Chad did a nice job and was poised," Chryst said. "Certainly, I think it helped when we were running the ball the way we did."
Pitt needed the back-and-forth second half after giving away a 17-3 first-half lead.
After a Bowling Green field goal gave the Falcons a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter, Pitt responded with 17 unanswered points.
On the drive after the Bowling Green field goal, Pitt put together a 50-yard touchdown march. The final 37 came on the ground from Conner, who gave the Panthers a 7-3 lead with a 15-yard touchdown run with 58 seconds left in the first quarter.
The next drive kicked off with a 46-yard pass from Savage to Boyd that sparked yet another scoring march. Boyd almost came down with a spectacular one-handed touchdown catch to finish off the drive, but he was ruled out of bounds and Pitt had to settle for a field goal.
After the Panthers forced another punt, Boyd put a cap on the scoring spree with a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown. He made the two Falcon gunners miss and tip-toed down the sidelines the rest of the way to put Pitt in front, 17-3.
Even though it required some dramatics in the second half, Pitt finally put the game away on with sacks by Aaron Donald and Tyrone Ezell, two seniors who will leave Pitt saying they won their last game as Panthers.
"It's a great feeling to leave a winner," Donald said, who was chosen the lineman of the game. "For the young guys, it's something to build off. It's a great feeling just to know that the program is going back on top with coach Chryst. That's a guarantee."