Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Toledo Rockets: 2015 Boca Raton Bowl Champions

The Toledo Rockets won a sloppy, rain-soaked Boca Raton Bowl over the Temple Owls 32-17 Tuesday night. The result hinged in large part on an onside kick recovery. Down by just eight points and with less than three minutes remaining, Temple kicker Tyler Mayes apparently recovered an onside kick that would have given the Owls a chance to tie.

However, a Toledo defender came out of the pile with the ball, and the referee declined to overturn the call on the field, giving the Rockets possession and an eventual victory.

The onside controversy threatened to overshadow a stellar performance from Toledo senior quarterback Phillip Ely. Ely, who played his first two seasons at Alabama before transferring to Toledo and missed almost all of last season after a Week 2 knee injury, was making a homecoming of sorts: The Tampa prep product was playing for the first time in his home state of Florida. He finished his last collegiate game with 285 yards and two touchdowns on 20/28 passing. It was Ely's fourth consecutive game with more than 200 passing yards and seventh multiple-touchdown game this year. An 80-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Ely to wide receiver Cody Thompson gave the Rockets a ten-point lead, a lead which Toledo never relinquished. Ely froze the safeties with a play action fake, and Thompson beat his defender on a post route.

Running back Kareem Hunt converted a subsequent Temple interception into another touchdown. Temple scored its only touchdown of the game with less than three minutes left to play, but Toledo's onside kick recovery led to another Hunt touchdown run that cemented the Rockets' tenth victory of the season.

Toledo finishes its postseason with a new head coach, vacancies left to fill at offensive coordinator and two other positions, and a veteran quarterback graduating. But the Rockets also have their second consecutive bowl win and third bowl victory in the last six seasons. And a once-promising collegiate career shortened to a single season by transfer and injury came to a successful end.

Akron Zips: 2015 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Champions

For the first time in Akron’s 30-year history at college football’s top level, it won a bowl game.
The 8-5 Zips shut down Utah State’s offense and capitalized on a few mistakes en route to a 23-21 win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Tuesday afternoon in Boise. It was only the second bowl game in Akron history, with the first was the 2005 Motor City Bowl, a 38-31 loss to Memphis.
The win over Utah State was the culmination of an impressive turnaround engineered by fourth-year coach Terry Bowden. Akron had back-to-back-to-back 1-11 seasons from 2010-2012, a stretch which includes Bowden’s first year at the helm. After going 5-7 in both 2013 and 2014, Bowden steered Akron to seven regular-season wins, and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl win gave the Zips a program-best eight victories.
It’s remarkable Bowden is the one leading this turnaround, too. The former Auburn coach — he was there from 1993-1998 and led the Tigers to five top-25 finishes in six seasons, including a No. 4 final ranking in 1993. But he hadn’t worked as an FBS head coach in 14 years when Akron hired him before the 2012 season, and his last bowl win came 18 years ago.
Utah State took a one-point lead early in the third quarter when quarterback Kent Myers found receiver Hunter Sharp for a 19-yard touchdown. After forcing a three-and-out on Akron’s next possession, Utah State had a chance to pull away a bit, but receiver Andrew Rodriguez lost a fumble at the Aggies’ 40-yard line. Akron promptly marched into the end zone in eight plays, and in the fourth quarter added a field goal that proved to be necessary late in the game.
With Chuckie Keeton back at quarterback — Kent Myers also played — Utah State drove into the end zone with 72 seconds remaining, cutting Akron’s lead to two. The Zips recovered an onside kick, though, and successfully stuffed a few last-ditch Aggie laterals to seal their victory.
Akron quarterback Thomas Woodson completed 14 of 29 passes for 168 yards, rushed 16 times for 47 yards and caught a touchdown from receiver Tyrell Goodman on a slick gadget play in the first quarter.
The bowl game was the final one on the Utah State sidelines for offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, who was hired as Mizzou’s offensive coordinator earlier this month.