Saturday, December 26, 2015

Nebraska Cornhuskers: 2015 Foster Farms Bowl Champions

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Nebraska cap a losing season by beating UCLA 37-29 in the Foster Farms Bowl on Saturday night.

The Cornhuskers (6-7) scored 30 straight points after falling behind 21-7 early to overpower the Bruins (8-5) and provide a happy ending to coach Mike Riley’s first season.

Stanley Morgan Jr. gave Nebraska the lead for good with a one-handed, 22-yard catch in the third quarter and Imani Cross, Terrell Newby and Andy Janovich all ran for scores for the Cornhuskers.
Armstrong completed 12 of 19 passes for 174 yards and ran for 76 more to lead the way for Nebraska, which had a season high with 326 yards rushing.

Josh Rosen threw for 319 yards and two touchdowns for the Bruins. They ended what had once been a promising season with losses to Southern California and in the bowl game.

Virginia Tech Hokies: 2015 Independence Bowl Champions

Virginia Tech played hard for their hall of fame coach Frank Beamer in his last game, beating Tulsa 55-52 in the Independence Bowl.

Although Tulsa lost, the team's fight and this season's turnaround are things that won't be forgotten.

The Golden Hurricane started the game hot with a 48-yard TD run by D’Angelo Brewer to give the Golden Hurricane a 7-0 lead.

Virginia Tech bounced back quick, answering with a 51-yard TD run from Travon McMillian to tie it up 7-all.

The game's lack of defense became very apparent when TU's Zack Langer broke off a long run, leading to a two-yard score to put the Golden Hurricane up 14-7, followed by another VT score to tie it again just minutes in. The tying score tallied 1,000 receiving yards for Isaiah Ford, making him the first 1,000-yard receiver in Virginia Tech history.

At this point, the game was looking like both teams would post 50+ points. Both teams were dominating with the ground game and neither team's defense was making tackles.

Total Yards (11:42, 1st Quarter)

Tulsa- 145

Virginia Tech- 138

The Hokies took their first lead with ten minutes left of one with a 27-yard field goal by Joey Slye, giving VT a 17-14 edge.

The 31 combined points by both teams set an Independence Bowl record for most points in a single quarter.

Sam Rogers increased Tech's lead 24-14 with a 14-yard run. But Tulsa stayed high tempo.

Josh Atkinson hauled in a 44-yard reception from Dane Evans to put TU right back in VT territory. Atkinson's catch helped him slate over 1,000 yards on the season and led to a 9-yard TD connection from Dane Evans to Bishop Louie, cutting Tulsa's deficit 24-21.

By the end of the first, Evans had thrown for 117 yards on 7-10 passing; three of those were to Atkinson for 70 yards.

In just one quarter, Tulsa and VT combined for 463 yards and 45 points.

The Hokies opened the second half hype with a score from Bucky Hodges to put Virginia Tech up 31-21. Tech's 31 points marked the most ever in the 1st half of a bowl game.

VT quickly advanced its lead 45-21 with back to back scores from McMillian and Greg Stroman.

A 29 yarder by Redford Jones and another score from Brewer cut the Hokies lead 45-31 just before the half.

Virginia Tech got the second half rolling with a score from Trey Edmunds that elevated them 52-31. The score recorded the most ever points in a bowl game. Ford also set an Indy Bowl record with 202 receiving yards mid third quarter.

Tulsa fought back, to put up more points. A nine-yard rush up the middle from Evans made it 52-37 as VT lead with 4:11 left of the third quarter.

Later in the final quarter, Evans connected with Atkinson for the TD play, followed by a two-point conversion from Evans to Keyarris Garrett to make it a 10-point game (55-45). At this point, both teams combined for 1,045 yards (7:35 to play). Tulsa continued to fight, posting another score from Garrett to make it 55-52.

In front of a crowd of 31,289 people, Virginia Tech went on to win the record-setting game, 55-52.b

Duke Blue Devils: 2015 Pinstripe Bowl Champions

Indiana and Duke's Pinstripe Bowl matchup went back and forth so many times you'd think it was a basketball game (Indiana and Duke are historically better at basketball than football, you see).

And just like in basketball, Duke came out on top, winning 44-41 in overtime after IU kicker Griffin Oakes — the Big Ten's kicker of the year — missed a 38-yard field goal to win it ... or did he? Field goals can't be reviewed, but Oakes thought he made it, and he may have a point.

This was a special one for the Blue Devils. This wasn't the best season for coach David Cutcliffe since he's been at Duke, as his team won seven games, compared to nine and 10 the previous two years, but Duke had lost bowl games in those seasons, plus the previous year. This was the Blue Devils' first bowl win since a 7-6 win over Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl.

Duke looked like it had a chance to run away with this game early. Despite an interception, the Blue Devils took advantage of an Indiana turnover on downs and a Hoosiers interception to take a 10-0 lead. However, even through another IU interception, the much-improved Hoosiers defense held and waited for the vaunted passing offense to get going. It did, with two straight touchdown drives and 17 total points in the second half.

The second half is where things got really nutty, like a game involving #CHAOSTEAM should.

IU's offense got rolling, with over 200 rushing yards from Devine Redding, a touchdown from an Alex Rodriguez in Yankee Stadium. However, it was the defense that stepped up, with a fumble recovery, an interception from a defensive tackle and a big fourth down stop deep in their own territory. That's not the Indiana of old, but that's fitting of this season.

IU's offense got rolling (and it got a touchdown from an Alex Rodriguez in Yankee Stadium), but it was the defense that stepped up, with a fumble recovery, an interception from a defensive tackle and a big fourth down stop deep in their own territory. However, the defense couldn't hold at the end of the game, as Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk drove his team down the field for a touchdown with 41 seconds left to send the game to EXTRA INNINGS.

Sirk got injured on third down of Duke's overtime possession, leading to a field goal. The next possession, Oakes, who missed a potential 56-yard game winner at the end of regulation, missed again.

This bowl win is just another milestone for Duke, which continues to become a strong program under Cutcliffe. With the bowl victory, and with a young offense that should get better, the Blue Devils have the momentum of four straight bowl seasons heading into 2016.

Washington Huskies: 2015 Heart of Dallas Bowl Champions

Washington entered Saturday as probably the nation's best 6-6 team. It left with a winning record, after beating Southern Miss 44-31 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
The Huskies jumped out to a 21-10 lead thanks to three rushing touchdowns in the first half, including two from Myles Gaskin. But Southern Mississippi was able to keep it close thanks to big plays. A 56-yard touchdown pass from Nick Mullens to Michael Thomas was the Eagles' first score of the game, and a second quarter fake punt led to a TD to make it 21-17.
Southern Miss tied it up in the third quarter on a seven-play, 57-yard drive, but Washington answered instantly with an 86-yard touchdown run from Gaskin.
A horrible Southern Miss punt out of its own end zone led to a Huskies field goal, making it a two-score game, and Gaskin's fourth touchdown of the day sealed it.

This was a reminder of how good Washington actually was this year.

By S&P+, Washington was the No. 20 team in the country this year. Between a loaded schedule (six top-50 opponents), youth in nearly every unit and inconsistent play from the offense, the Huskies were unable to turn that into as many wins as it probably deserved. But Washington lost three All-Americans on defense and still had one of the better units in the Pac-12.
One of its biggest problems was in the passing game, where true freshman Jake Browning suffered some ups and downs in his first season. He did a fine job in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, completing 23 of 34 passes for 284 yards, without any interceptions. Browning helped lead the way for Gaskin, who finished with 26 carries for 181 yards and four touchdowns -- all Heart of Dallas Bowl records. It was the first time a Washington back ran for at least four touchdowns since Corey Dillion in 1996, per ESPN.
Now the Huskies get a winning record to show for their good season. And that wouldn't have happened if the grouches got their way and eliminated 6-6 teams from bowl contention. Bowl season is great.

Southern Miss's turnaround rivals any in the country.

Three years ago, Southern Miss went 0-12, one season after winning 12 games. The Golden Eagles fired first-year head coach Ellis Johnson, replacing him with Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken. After four wins in his first two seasons, progress was evident but a long road back was still expected.
This year, the Golden Eagles won nine games, made a bowl game and went toe-to-toe against strong Pac-12 competition. That's more than double the victories of the previous three years combined. And while senior Michael Thomas (nine receptions, 190 yards, two touchdowns) leaves, junior quarterback Nick Mullens (25 of 37, 331 yards, two touchdowns) is scheduled to return. Well done, Southern Miss.

Washington State Cougars: 2015 Sun Bowl Champions

Washington State won its first bowl game since 2003 on Saturday as the Cougars outlasted Miami in a snowstorm in El Paso, Texas, for a 20-14 victory in the Sun Bowl.

Washington State led Miami 20-7 at the half and held on to win by six despite being shut out in the second half. The Cougars had just 158 second-half yards, but their defense held tough when they needed to the most, forcing a pair of late turnovers when Miami had the ball deep in Washington State territory to preserve the victory.

Story of the game: The weather was the story of the Sun Bowl, as a snowstorm raged for the majority of the contest. As the weather got more turbulent in the second half, both offenses struggled to string together drives.

Miami had some success getting the ball into Washington State territory, particularly in the fourth quarter, but turned three drives inside the Cougars' 30 into only seven points.

Two of those drives ended in turnovers -- one on a fumble at the 5 that might have been affected by the slick conditions and the other on what has to be considered one of the worst play calls of the year: a halfback pass for an interception.

Player of the game: Washington State quarterback Luke Falk threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns, completing 29 of 53 passes in the snowstorm. Falk also had the game-sealing scramble on the Cougars' final possession that gave them a first down and put them into the victory formation.

Play of the game: This would be the second turnover of the fourth quarter for Miami. Just to set the stage for you, the Hurricanes had just fumbled on the Washington State 5-yard line after having a touchdown run called back on a block in the back.

The Hurricanes' defense held the Cougars to a three-and-out, forcing them to punt. A nice return set up the Hurricanes' offense at the 28, down six points with 3:13 to play. On the first play from scrimmage, Miami dialed up this.

That would be one of the worst executed halfback passes ever.

The offense wasn't dynamic by any stretch, but the Hurricanes were moving the ball pretty well in the fourth quarter. So rather than trying to march down with plenty of time and great field position, you call that. In the snow.

That might not be the worst part. A halfback pass is risky as is, but with a slick ball in a raging snowstorm, all you're doing is setting your poor running back up for failure. Sure enough, the ball slips out and falls like a wounded duck into the waiting arms of a Washington State defender.

Tweet of the game: Snowstorm or not, Washington State fans were going to take their shirts off at the Sun Bowl no matter what -- and of course there was some Fireball involved.

Marshall Thundering Herd: 2015 St. Petersburg Bowl Champions

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Chase Litton went 23 for 34 for 218 yards and one touchdown as Marshall won its 10th game this season by beating Connecticut 16-10 in the St. Petersburg Bowl on Saturday.

Nick Smith had three field goals for Marshall (10-3), including a 32-yarder with 1:44 to play that was part of a 13-play, 80-yard march that lasted 6:35. The Thundering Herd went 13-1 a year ago and 10-4 in 2013.

Bryant Shirreffs completed 10 of 17 passes for 86 yards and gained 75 yards on 19 carries for UConn (6-7), which came up short in a bid to have a winning record for the first time since 2010.

UConn stopped Marshall on fourth-and-2 at the 17 on the initial drive of the second half after the Thundering Herd opted to skip a field goal try that could have made it 16-7.

The Thundering Herd also failed to increase a 13-7 lead on their next possession when Smith missed a 43-yard field goal attempt with less than 3 minutes left in the third.

The Huskies got within 13-10 on Bobby Puyol's 52-yard field goal with 2 seconds left in the third.

Marshall took a 7-0 lead 7 minutes into the game when Litton, who played in high school in Tampa, threw a 16-yard TD pass to Ryan Yurachek. Deandre Reaves' 26-yard punt return set up Marshall at the UConn 20.

Reaves also had nine receptions for 88 yards.

Connecticut tied it at 7 late in the first on an 8-yard run by Ron Johnson that completed a 13-play, 75-yard drive.

Marshall responded with a 13-play, 65-yard drive that concluded with Smith's 21-yard field goal that gave the Thundering Herd a 10-7 advantage 8 minutes before halftime.

Smith made it 13-7 with a 29-yard field goal on the final play of the first half that finished off a 15-play, 85-yard drive.

Connecticut sophomore cornerback Jamar Summers got his eighth interception of the season, including six in the last five games, early in the fourth.