Saturday, January 03, 2015

Florida: 2015 Birmingham Bowl Champions

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Treon Harris threw an 86-yard scoring pass to Ahmad Fulwood and Vernon Hargreaves III intercepted a pass in the end zone late to preserve Florida's 28-20 victory over East Carolina on Saturday in the Birmingham Bowl.
The big plays helped the Gators (7-5) finish a disappointing season with a winning record while new coach Jim McElwain was among the spectators. Brian Poole also scored on a 29-yard interception return and Florida's defense repeatedly turned East Carolina's high-powered offense away from the end zone.
Shane Carden was 34 of 66 for 427 yards for the Pirates (8-5) but Hargreaves' pick with 1:20 left ended his day.
Harris left late in the third quarter with an apparent lower left leg injury and was replaced by former starter Jeff Driskel.
Driskel ran for a first down on a third-down play on the final drive to allow Florida to run out the clock.
Florida delivered the win under interim head coach D.J. Durkin, who took over for the bowl game after Will Muschamp's firing.
Reserve running back Adam Lane was named the game's MVP after rushing 16 times for 109 yards and a touchdown. He had only eight carries coming into the game, all coming in two lopsided wins.
East Carolina came in averaging 37.2 points a game but managed only a field goal in the fourth quarter despite a number of flirtations with the end zone.
Justin Hardy finished with 11 catches for 160 yards and Cam Worthy gained 130 yards on eight catches.
Florida's Harris was 5-of-11 passing for 123 yards and two touchdowns, including an 86-yarder to another little-used player Ahmad Fulwood early in the third quarter. It was the Gators' longest play from scrimmage this season.
Fulwood had just 113 yards receiving in the regular season. Driskel had 48 passing yards in what could be his final Florida game. McElwain said before the game Driskel had asked for a releasefrom his scholarship.
Florida's offense mostly sputtered without Harris, but the defense delivered.
Trying to expand the lead, Driskel led the Gators into East Carolina territory before Josh Hawkinsforced a fumble by receiver Chris Thompson.
East Carolina drove to Florida's 27 before getting forced back by a penalty and Dante Fowler Jr.'sthird sack of the game in his Gators finale. Fowler has already said he's skipping his senior season to turn pro.
The Gators took over with 4:21 left and went three and out. With two incompletions, Florida burned only 44 seconds off the clock before giving it back to Carden and the Pirates' high-powered offense at their own 42.
Carden completed three straight passes, including a nifty catch and run by Hardy for 24 yards.
Then East Carolina caught a momentary reprieve. Isaiah Jones fumbled at the end of a catch, the ball squirted away from a Florida player and Jimmy Williams dove on it at Florida's 5.
Hargreaves, the Gators' All-Southeastern Conference cornerback, picked off Carden's pass two plays later.

Oklahoma State: 2015 Cactus Bowl Champions

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Oklahoma State went through its most difficult season under coach Mike Gundy, losing five straight games before squeaking into a bowl game.
Once the Cowboys got to the Cactus Bowl, they rode a freshman quarterback and an offensively gifted defensive tackle to a spirit-lifting victory.
Mason Rudolph threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns, and 300-pound tackle James Castleman showed off his versatility with two big offensive plays lead Oklahoma State to a 30-22 victory over Washington in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl Friday night.
"Our offense was resilient," Gundy said. "I thought we blocked well, our running back ran hard, we made big catches and we turned James Castleman into a wide receiver."
Oklahoma State (7-6) needed a late rally over rival Oklahoma in the season finale to become bowl eligible and played the TicketCity Cactus Bowl without its most dynamic offensive player.
The Cowboys closed out the season with a flourish behind Rudolph, with some help from Castleman.
A freshman making his third start, Rudolph kept his composure against Washington's vaunted front seven, overcoming three turnovers to hit 17 of 26 passes.
Desmond Roland kept the Huskies off-balance by tearing off big runs up the middle, finishing with 123 yards on 32 carries.
Then there was Castleman.
Though he had never played offense before, the beefy defensive tackle lined up in the shotgun to score on a 1-yard run in the first half, helping Oklahoma State build a 17-point halftime lead.
Washington rallied to within a touchdown in the second half, but Castleman wreaked havoc again, catching a pass out of the backfield and rumbling down the sideline for a 48-yard catch that all but killed the Huskies' hopes.
"Honestly, I'm like, `Why hasn't somebody hit me yet?" Castleman said of his reception. "Next thing, I look up to the screen, I see someone coming and I try jabbing inside trying to get him to miss. Once he hit me, the check engine light came on."
Washington (8-6) stumbled out of the gate on both sides of the ball in the first half in the first half before finding a rhythm on offense in the second.
The hole proved to be too deep, ending coach Chris Petersen's first season with a loss.
John Ross scored on a 96-yard kickoff return and Cyler Miles threw for 268 yards and a touchdown, but had an interception on Washington's last-ditch drive.
"If we would have come out ready, it would have been a different outcome," said Huskies receiver Jaydon Mickens, who scored two touchdowns.
The Cowboys pulled off a last-minute comeback to earn a spot in the Cactus Bowl, scoring two touchdowns in the final 8 minutes to knock off Oklahoma in overtime.
Tyreek Hill had the big play in that game, scoring on a 92-yard punt return with 45 seconds left, but he was dismissed from the team last month after being arrested on charges of choking and punching his pregnant girlfriend.
That left Oklahoma State without its most dangerous threat against a Washington defense that has three first-team All-Americans.
The Cowboys didn't seem to mind.
They had no trouble against Washington's ferocious front seven on their opening drive, confidently converting a midfield fourth-and-1 to set up Castleman's 1-yard dive off left tackle.
Rudolph turned it over on the next two drives, losing a fumble when he was sacked, then on a one-handed interception by Budda Baker.
The freshman kept his poise, though. He caught a pass from receiver Brandon Sheperd on a trick play to set up a 28-yard touchdown pass to James Washington, who one-upped Baker with a one-handed catch in the end zone.
The Sheperd-Rudolph connection worked again just before the half, this time in reverse: Rudolph on the throw, Sheperd on the catch for a 47-yard touchdown that put the Cowboys up 24-0.
Washington had just as much trouble on offense, finishing with 113 total yards in the half.
"The first half was, obviously, on offense, still in practice mode," Petersen said.
The Huskies finally showed signs of life on their opening drive of the third quarter, cutting into Oklahoma State's lead on Mickens' 31-yard reverse.
Washington got a bad break when a punt hit one of its players and Oklahoma State recovered, but held the Cowboys to Ben Grogan's 27-yard field goal. Ross took the ensuing kickoff up the middle, made a couple of jukes and raced off to a 96-yard touchdown that cut the Cowboys' lead to 27-14.
Miles followed with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Mickens, trimming the lead to 30-2 with 3 1-2 minutes left.
The Cowboys then turned to Castleman again and he played the receiver role well, killing off precious seconds that helped the Cowboys finish a difficult season on a positive note.
"This was a great finish for this team," Gundy said.
They can thank their freshman quarterback and new -- and big -- offensive weapon.

UCLA: 2015 Alamo Bowl Champions

SAN ANTONIO -- Even with a 31-6 halftime lead, UCLA coach Jim Mora knew the Bruins had a lot of work to do to finish off Kansas State in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
"We're playing the 11th-ranked team in the country, and it's not going to be easy," Mora said. "You know they're going to fight back. If they don't fight back, they don't deserve to be No. 11."
The No. 14 Bruins held on, beating the Wildcats 40-35 on Friday night.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder bristled at the thought that TV broadcasters might say the same thing about his Wildcats that they did about Florida State in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual.
"We had a TV announcer indicate in another ballgame that a football team had quit, and that's the last thing in the world anybody wants to hear on national TV, I assure you," Snyder said. "I reminded our youngsters of it, that we weren't about to let somebody say that about us. And they didn't."
Kansas State (9-4) scored 22 of the first 25 points in the second half, cutting it to 34-28 on quarterback Jake Waters' 1-yard run with 4:54 left.
Paul Perkins countered for UCLA (10-3) with a 67-yard run with 2:20 to go.
"That hole was huge. Anybody could have run through it," said Perkins, who ran for 194 yards on 20 carries. "And on the kick, I just wanted to secure the ball and get us out of here with the win."
The Wildcats weren't finished.
Waters threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett with 1:21 left, but Perkins recovered the onside kick for UCLA and the Bruins ran out the clock.
"Our players didn't give in," Snyder said. "Fought back. It wasn't enough."
Mora and Snyder had an awkward exchange on the field after the game. Apparently upset that Kansas State took a timeout and hit Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley as he kneeled to down the ball on the final play, Mora quickly turned away from Snyder after barely shaking hands, then went back and got into an animated chat.
It has been a week of big comebacks at bowl games. Michigan State trailed Baylor by 20 in the fourth quarter at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic and won 42-41. Earlier Friday, Houston scored 29 points in the fourth quarter to beat Pittsburgh 35-34 in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.
Waters was 31-of-48 for 338 yards but was sacked seven times -- twice by Butkus Award winnerEric Kendricks -- and threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
Lockett had 13 catches for 164 yards for Kansas State.
Hundley ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, and passed for 136 yards. Mora has said Hundley is forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
UCLA raced to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, with Hundley scoring on runs of 10 and 28 yards. The Bruins outgained Kansas State 218-4 and had a 9-1 edge in first downs in the quarter.
In the second quarter, Perkins had a 32-yard touchdown run and Hundley threw a 7-yard scoring pass to Devin Lucien. The Bruins sacked Waters five times in the half.
"By my count, we left 28 points on the field in the first half," Snyder said. "That's our fault."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tennessee: 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl Champions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Tennessee coach Butch Jones was soaked from a celebratory sideline dousing. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs carried the Most Valuable Player trophy with him all around EverBank Field. Both of them, as well as the rest of the Volunteers, donned championship hats for the first time in years.
It was tangible proof that the program is headed in the right direction.
Dobbs accounted for three touchdowns, Jalen Hurdran for two scores and Tennessee beat Iowa 45-28 on Friday in the TaxSlayer Bowl for its first postseason victory since the Phillip Fulmer era.
"This is the start of something big that's going on at Tennessee," Dobbs said. "It's momentum that we can carry into the offseason. It's the start of something big, a lot of momentum going into the offseason to get ready for next year."
The Volunteers (7-6) took the momentum early Friday, scoring on their first four possessions and leading 28-0 before Iowa (7-6) managed 70 yards.
Hurd, Dobbs and a bit of trickery helped Tennessee build the big lead.
Hurd broke tackles on nearly every run, capping Tennessee's first possession with a 3-yard score and adding a 29-yard touchdown scamper on the next drive.
Tennessee made it 21-0 late in the first quarter when Dobbs threw a lateral to running backMarlin Lane in the right flat. Lane, a senior from nearby Daytona Beach, turned and hit Vic Wharton in stride down the sideline.
It was a nice send-off for Lane, one of just a handful of Tennessee's seniors.
But the victory, which was Tennessee's first in the postseason since beating Wisconsin in the 2008 Outback Bowl, was more about the future. The Vols won four of their last five games, showing plenty of potential for one of the youngest teams in college football.
"We still have a long way to go, but we're making progress," said Jones, who finished his second season in Knoxville. "We talk about building this program brick by brick, and we built another brick in the foundation today."
Jones also delivered the program's first winning season since 2009. And it's not out of the question for Tennessee to be a trendy pick to contend for the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division title in 2015.
Hurd and Dobbs could be integral parts.
Hurd, a freshman, had his fourth 100-yard game. He finished with 122 yards -- three shy of his career high -- and totaled the most yards on the ground by a Tennessee player in a bowl game since Travis Henry ran for 180 against Kansas State in the 2001 Cotton Bowl.
"Jalen really set the temperament of the game for us, getting yards after contact, finishing runs and he just had that look in his eye of `give me the ball, coach," Jones said. "He earned every yard that he got today."
Dobbs, a sophomore filling in for injured quarterback Justin Worley, completed 16 of 21 passes for 129 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 76 yards and two scores. His 19-yard scoring pass to Von Pearson in the closing seconds of the first half made it 35-7. It came one play after the duo hooked up for an 11-yard gain on a ball that was tipped by a defender.
It was that kind of day for Iowa, which was looking for its first postseason victory since the 2010 Insight Bowl.
The Hawkeyes missed tackles, made mistakes and looked like they would end up with their worst bowl loss in school history before scoring three times in the fourth quarter.
"They were ready right from the start, and we certainly couldn't match their tempo in the first half," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Best execution that we've seen from their football team all season long."
The Volunteers dominated on the field -- and in the stands. Tennessee fans vastly outnumbered Iowa fans, not surprising considering they feel really good about the direction of the program under Jones and hadn't been to a bowl game in several years.
Players kept them entertained, scoring their first six touchdowns in less than 3 1/2 minutes.
"We've learned how to win," Jones said. "Our players expect to win now every time they step on the football field. In anything you do, that's the starting process."

Houston: 2015 Armed Forces Bowl Champions

Down by 25 in the fourth quarter, with nothing to play for except school pride and a better showing for their interim head coach, Houston staged a memorable rally in Friday’s Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.
Deontay Greenberry’s 2-point conversion catch with 59 seconds left gave the Cougars a 35-34 victory against Pittsburgh on a soggy and chilly day before an announced crowd of 37,888 at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
The 25-point comeback is largest ever in a bowl game that did not go to overtime.
“Holy cow, I tell you what, these guys, they continue to fight,” said Houston interim coach David Gibbs, who was a place-holder coach Friday as was Pitt’s Joe Rudolph. “And it’s amazing because we’ve, obviously both teams, had some adversity, coaching changes and all that. And these guys kept plugging.”
Trailing 31-6 early in the fourth quarter, Houston began its comeback, scoring 29 points in the final quarter.
Down 34-20 with 3:41 left, Houston recovered back-to-back onside kicks that led to their final two scores. Cougars running back Kenneth Farrow, from Hurst L.D. Bell, recovered the second one.
“We had to get it, man, we had to get it,” said Farrow, who was named the Houston MVP for the game. “We knew it wasn’t over until it was over. We just kept grinding it out. We got it, man. It was just hard work.”
Farrow rushed for 103 yards on 22 carries, and scored twice, including early in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been in a lot of games like that where we had to come back,” Farrow said. “We’ve been in three games where we lost on the last play of the game. We needed this one. We came out here and we got it.”
Farrow’s recovery of the onside kick led to a 25-yard touchdown pass from Greg Ward Jr. to Greenberry, and the Cougars wideout followed that with the 2-point catch.
“We’ve been through a lot of games where we were coming from behind and we got close, but we just couldn’t finish it,” Greenberry said. “Just like coach Gibbs said. It’s all about just never quitting.”
Gibbs, the Cougars’ defensive coordinator until Tony Levine was fired last month, said a PAT kick was never an option.
“We made a decision that day at practice that if it came down to the end of the game, we were going for two, no matter what,” Gibbs said. “There was no decision. They knew three weeks ago.”
Houston’s spread offense struggled, until the fourth quarter when the Cougars reeled off 292 yards on 26 plays, including the game-ending kneel-down.
“They’re a big, physical football team,” Gibbs said. “I don’t think they’re accustomed to playing that kind of spread offense with our speed and our skill.”
The Panthers had one last shot to win it, but four incomplete passes from midfield ended the threat. Houston defensive end Eric Eiland pressured Pitt quarterback and team MVP Chad Voytik into a poor attempt on fourth down.
“It’s been a bowl season where you’ve seen some comebacks,” Rudolph said. “And, obviously, this isn’t the side of it you want to be on. We need to make a play there in the end.
“You’ve got to respond by making a play, and we just weren’t able to do it.”

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Iris. Hold Me Close.

The star
That gives us light
Has been gone a while
But it’s not an illusion
The ache
In my heart
Is so much a part of who I am
Something in your eyes
Took a thousand years to get here
Something in your eyes
Took a thousand years, a thousand years

Hold me close, hold me close and don’t let me go
Hold me close like I’m someone that you might know
Hold me close the darkness just lets us see
Who we are
I’ve got your life inside of me

Iris… Iris…

Once we are born, we begin to forget
The very reason we came
But you
I’m sure I’ve met
Long before the night the stars went out
We’re meeting up again

Hold me close, hold me close and don’t let me go
Hold me close like I’m someone that you might know
Hold me close the darkness just lets us see
Who we are
I’ve got your life inside of me

Iris… Iris…

The stars are bright but do they know
The universe is beautiful but cold

You took me by the hand
I thought that I was leading you
But it was you made me your man
I dream
Where you are
Iris standing in the hall
She tells me I can do it all
Iris wakes to my nightmares
Don’t fear the world it isn’t there

Iris playing on the strand
She buries the boy beneath the sand
Iris says that I will be the death of her
It was not me

Iris… Iris…

Free yourself, to be yourself if only you could see yourself
Free yourself, to be yourself if only you could see…