Saturday, December 31, 2016

Clemson: 2016 Fiesta Bowl Champions



GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Deshaun Watson ran for two touchdowns and threw for another and No. 3 Clemson crushed No. 2 Ohio State 31-0 Saturday night in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl to set up a rematch with Alabama for the College Football Playoff national championship.

Tigers coach Dabo Swinney had sold his team on making this a redemptive trip to the desert by winning at the site where they lost to Alabama in the national title game last season. With that taken care of, Clemson (13-1) now gets another crack at the top-ranked Crimson Tide in Tampa, Florida, on Jan. 9. The teams that started the season ranked Nos. 1 and 2 will most certainly end it that way, too.

In what figures to be Watson's final college game, he will try to lead Clemson to its first national title since 1981. The junior and Heisman Trophy runner-up passed for 259 yards and ran for 57 against the Buckeyes (11-2), who could not keep Clemson's big and quick defensive line out of their backfield.

Freshman Clelin Ferrell had a sack among his three tackles for loss and Clemson allowed only 215 yards and nine first downs. The Buckeyes were shut out for the first time since 1993 against Michigan, and Urban Meyer had one of his teams held scoreless for the first time in 194 games as a head coach.

Watson made it 24-0 with 2:06 left in the third quarter when he faked a pitch, cut through a hole and into the end zone from 7 yards out. He hopped through the back of the end zone and did a little dance in front of the Ohio State section.

The rest was a formality.

Much the way Alabama's defense suffocated Washington in the day's first semifinal, Clemson gave Ohio State no options. The Buckeyes came in averaging 258 yards rushing per game and finished with 88. J.T. Barrett threw for 127 yards and was intercepted twice.

The sellout crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium of 71,279 had far more Ohio State scarlet than Clemson orange at kickoff, but by the halfway point in the fourth quarter Tigers fans mostly had the place to themselves.

THE TAKEAWAY

Ohio State: In a rebuilding year with only six returning starters, the Buckeyes reached the playoff. Hard to call that a disappointment, but Ohio State's issues on the offensive line and limitations in the passing game were badly exposed by a Clemson defensive line that features a bunch of future NFL players. Expect some Penn State fans to again start asking why their team was picked for the playoff instead of the Big Ten champion Nittany Lions, who beat the Buckeyes in October.

Clemson: The Tigers seemed to spend much of the season trying to explain why they were not running roughshod over opponents. Expectations were so high after last season ended with a stinging 45-40 loss in a classic national championship game against Alabama.


There were close calls for Clemson early in the season against Auburn and Troy, and the Tigers needed some luck to beat North Carolina State in overtime. Watson was throwing more picks and an offense that welcomed back star receiver Mike Williams was not quite the unstoppable juggernaut so many expected.

But the best Clemson was the Clemson that showed up in the desert. And that Clemson has always been the team best equipped to beat Alabama.

UP NEXT

Ohio State: The immediate concern for the Buckeyes is figuring out which underclassmen will jump to the NFL. The most notable players who have decisions to make in the next two weeks include Barrett, who will be a fifth-year senior next season; H-back Curtis Samuel; linebacker Raekwon McMillan and defensive backs Malik Hooker and Gareon Conley.

Clemson: Watson put on an all-time performance with 478 total yards against Alabama last season. This Tide defense is even better, but Clemson brings something new to the fight in Williams, who missed most of last season because of an injury. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound junior had six catches for 96 yards against Ohio State.

Alabama: 2016 Peach Bowl Champions



ATLANTA -- Alabama is heading back to the national championship game.

Bo Scarbrough and another stifling performance by Nick Saban's defense made sure of that.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide scored 10 points off turnovers, including Ryan Anderson's interception return for a touchdown late in the first half, and Scarbrough's 68-yard TD run in the fourth quarter clinched a 24-7 victory over Washington in the Peach Bowl semifinal Saturday.

Scarbrough finished with 180 yards and two scores, garnering offensive MVP honors.

Alabama (14-0) moves on to Tampa for a shot at its second straight title and fifth in the last eight years under Saban. The Tide will face either Ohio State or Clemson -- who were meeting later Saturday at the Fiesta Bowl -- in the Jan. 9 championship game.

No. 4 Washington (12-2) reached the College Football Playoff with a remarkable turnaround season after struggling much of the last two decades -- including an 0-12 debacle in 2008.

But Jake Browning and the Huskies' balanced offense were no match for Alabama's top-ranked defense, even after an impressive drive gave them an early 7-0 edge.

"After we got into the flow of the game, I thought we did pretty well on defense," said Saban, who now has a chance to join Bear Bryant as the only coaches to win six national titles in the poll era.

The Tide began to exert its dominance late in the first quarter when John Ross caught a screen pass, only to have the ball stripped away by Anthony Averett. Jonathan Allen recovered, giving Alabama possession at the Washington 40 and setting up Adam Griffith's 41-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead.

Anderson made an even bigger defensive play with just over a minute to go in the half. With blitzing linebacker Reuben Foster bearing down on him, Browning desperately heaved a pass into the flats for Lavon Coleman. Anderson stepped in to pick it off, knocked Coleman over in the process and was off to the end zone on a 26-yard return that made it 17-7 at the half.

For Alabama, it was the 11th defensive touchdown of the season.

Nothing could have been more fitting.

"We've studied every snap that they've had this year, and the tape doesn't lie when you watch that much tape," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "I mean, that's as good a defense as there is out there in college football, and they played like it."

Any hopes of a Washington comeback were snuffed out by Scarbrough, a starter at most schools but a backup for the deep, talented Tide. On a simple running play to the left, he appeared to be stopped by two players just short of the line of scrimmage.

But Scarbrough somehow managed to stay on his feet and -- boom! -- he was gone. Streaking down the field in front of the Alabama bench, he avoided another defender with a subtle deke, cut back toward the middle of the field at the Washington 30 and outran everyone to the end zone.

Scarbrough also scored Alabama's first touchdown with a bruising, 18-yard run.

"Bo's been playing pretty well for us the last three or four games," Saban said. "We wanted to play him more. He's hard to tackle. He's big and powerful. He's playing with a lot of confidence."

STYMIED HUSKIES

Washington was held to a season-low for points and yards, even after an impressive 64-yard drive on its opening possession capped by Browning's 16-yard TD pass to Dante Pettis.

The Huskies finished with 194 yards, below their previous low of 276 in a 26-13 loss to Southern Cal. That was also their lowest-scoring game of the season until they ran up against the Tide.

Washington scored at least 31 points in every game except its two losses.

The final two offensive plays pretty much summed up the Huskies' frustration. Browning was sacked for a big loss, and then threw his second interception on a desperation heave into the end zone.

UGLY ENDING


A scuffle broke out after Minkah Fitzpatrick's pick in the closing seconds, leading to a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Alabama.

Several Washington players were shaken up while chasing down Fitzpatrick, but they all managed to walk off the field while the officials sorted things out.

UP NEXT

Alabama will face a familiar opponent in the national championship game.

A year ago, the Tide beat Clemson 45-40 in a classic title showdown at Glendale, Arizona. Two seasons ago, Alabama was upset by Ohio State 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl semifinal, and the Buckeyes went on to capture the national championship.

"Both those teams are great football teams," Saban said. "It's going to be a very challenging game for us either way.

Georgia Tech: 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl Champions



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Dedrick Mills got a shoutout, some head nods and several high-fives as he walked toward the interview room at EverBank Field.

And those came from opposing players.

The freshman was an even bigger hit inside Georgia Tech's locker room and in the stands.

Mills ran for a career-high 169 yards and a touchdown, leading the Yellow Jackets to a 33-18 victory against Kentucky in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Saturday. It was the seventh-most rushing yards in bowl history, earning Mills the Most Valuable Player trophy and making some forget about his two suspensions this season.

"I think he can be a very special player," coach Paul Johnson said. "He's a very talented young man. We've got to try to help him grow up. Sometimes, you know, at that age, when you're 18, we all didn't make great decisions. It's our job to help him make the right decisions because he's got a bright future if he'll continue to work hard."

Playing without running back Marcus Marshall, who decided to transfer after the regular-season finale, Georgia Tech (9-4) turned to Mills to handle the workload against Kentucky (7-6). The newcomer from nearby Waycross, Georgia, delivered. With dozens of friends and family members in attendance, he carried a career-high 31 times as the Yellow Jackets won back-to-back bowl games for the first time in more than a decade.

"It wasn't that tough. It wasn't that tough," Mills said. "Behind the offensive line, running off their blocks, made it easier for me to find holes and get through them."

He got plenty of help, too, as Tech won its fourth consecutive game.

Senior P.J. Davis returned a fumble 38 yards for a touchdown. Fellow linebacker Terrell Lewis blocked a punt late in the first half that set up one of Harrison Butker's four field goals. Thomas added a 21-yard TD run in his final collegiate game.

"It's a great feeling," Thomas said. "Everything has to come to an end one day. Happy it ended like this. Looking forward to see what the future holds."

THE TAKEAWAY

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have to replace two significant cogs in their flexbone spread option, with Thomas graduating and Marshall transferring. But Mills looks like he could be a force for at least two more years.

Kentucky: The Wildcats return 36 of 44 players on their two-deep roster, and with quarterback Stephen Johnson and running back Benny Snell blossoming late in the season, coach Mark Stoops could have a solid nucleus in place to make another bowl in 2017.

FINAL SHOT

Despite struggling most of the day, the Wildcats had a final shot in the closing minutes. Johnson scrambled for a 21-yard touchdown with 3:57 remaining and then connected with C.J. Conrad for the 2-point conversion to make it a one-score game. But Thomas found Ricky Jeune wide open on a third-and-4 play near midfield for 42 yards. Mills scored three plays later to seal Tech's victory.

"Just made an aggressive mistake," Stoops said.

TURNING POINT

Trailing 10-3, Kentucky was threatening to score when Jojo Kemp was stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the 5 late in the second quarter. Tech responded with a 94-yard drive that included a fourth-and-inches conversion from their 15. Thomas' TD run capped the drive and made it 17-3.

Making matter worse for the Wildcats, they had a punt blocked on the ensuing possession and Georgia Tech turned it into a 52-yard field goal on the final play of the half.

Stoops was angered that officials didn't restart the clock after Thomas' first-down completion to Brad Stewart.


"I believe there was just some confusion," Stoops said. "Maybe some of them thought it was out of bounds when he was inbounds. They later told me he was inbounds. I just couldn't understand why they would, with one second, give them as much time as they wanted to line up."

VERBAL EXCHANGE

Stoops and Johnson exchanged words in the first quarter. Stoops initially seemed upset that two of his players were injured on consecutive plays. But Stoops said he took issue with something someone on Tech's sideline said.

"I have great respect for Coach Johnson, but nobody else over there is going to say a word to me," he said.

UP NEXT

Georgia Tech: Plays the final of three straight games against Southeastern Conference teams when it opens 2017 against Tennessee on Labor Day night in Atlanta.

Kentucky: Opens next season at Southern Mississippi on Sept. 2.

LSU: 2016 Citrus Bowl Champions



ORLANDO, Fla. -- For much of the first half Saturday, LSU sophomore running back Derrius Guice found little room to work as Louisville's defensive front filled the gaps and swarmed to the ball.

But the second half of the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl was a different story.

The game slowed down and Guice took the time to let the blocks develop before hitting the holes. Finally he popped a 12-yard run off left tackle and then the big one came the next play when he burst up the middle, broke a tackle and then was off to the races for a 70-yard touchdown early in the third quarter that all but closed the door on the 15th-ranked Cardinals and sealed the 19th-ranked Tigers 29-9 victory at Camping World Stadium.

"As a running back you just have to be patient, you can't get upset, you can't get mad when things don't always go your way," said Guice, who earned the Citrus Bowl MVP after finishing his day with 138 yards and a rushing touchdown while also catching a 1-yard touchdown pass. "You just got to work and grind, go on the sidelines with the coaches and get everything fixed."

The spotlight has been on Guice since star running back Leonard Fournette announced earlier this month that he would not play in the Tigers' bowl game so that he can focus on getting his injured ankle healthy to begin his path toward an NFL career. Guice had filled in nicely for Fournette during the season and Saturday was no different as his clock-draining runs and the Tigers' (8-4) suffocating defense limited Louisville's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson.

"We had probably one of the best players in college football in Leonard Fournette get hurt, and he stepped in and didn't blink an eye," said LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who won his first official game as head coach since being relieved of the interim title last month. "He is one of the best players in America and I totally expect him to be the best player in America next year and we're fortunate to have him."

Guice made explosive plays running the ball and catching it, but his most memorable play may have come on special teams in the fourth quarter when he took a kickoff return 50 yards, steamrolling Cardinals kicker Blanton Creque near the sideline in the process. It was the perfect capper on a breakout season while delivering a glimpse of is in store for next season.

"LSU is Army U so when one man goes down you've got to step up," Guice said. "I feel like I've done a great job of stepping up this year."

KEY MOMENT

The Tigers sacked Jackson eight times and linebacker Arden Key was responsible for two of the sacks.

Key sacked Jackson for a safety late in the second quarter and then on the opening play of third quarter, he sacked Jackson again to establish a school record for sacks with 12.

TAKEAWAY

LSU: The Tigers defensive front was too fast and too dominant for Jackson and the Cardinals offense. Louisville was 0 for 13 on third-down conversions well into the fourth quarter before converting its first.

LOUISVILLE: Clearly the Cardinals' offense had not seen the type of speed on defense in the ACC they encountered against the SEC's LSU. The Tigers got to Jackson early and often from their base defense and with a variety of blitzes. Defensively, the Cardinals (9-4) struggled without starting secondary members Josh Harvey-Clemons (safety) and Trumaine Washington (cornerback) along with sack leader James Hearns (linebacker) all missing due to injuries.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

LSU: The Tigers looked overpowering on both sides of the football and will certainly see their stock sore from No. 19 in the AP poll after a convincing win over Louisville.


LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals suffered their third straight loss to conclude the season, which certainly makes it appear their No. 15 ranking was inflated. Louisville may remain in the Top 25 but it will be just barely.

UP NEXT

LSU: Now that the bowl season is over, the Ed Orgeron era begins in earnest. Matt Canada has been hired as the new offensive coordinator and can begin to install his system. His biggest decision will be at quarterback where Etling is returning with experience but the Tigers have two recruits coming in in pro-style quarterback Myles Brennan and dual-threat quarterback Lowell Narcisse.

LOUISVILLE: Led by the tremendous talent of Jackson, the Cardinals could contend for the ACC title and College Football Playoffs next season. But coach Bobby Petrino will definitely have more playmakers to help Jackson. The offensive line also has to get better in its protection of Jackson. The Cardinals lose a couple of talented seniors off the defense but the core returns, giving Petrino a chance to have his best team since returning.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Florida State: 2016 Orange Bowl Champions



MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Renegade, the horse that serves as Florida State's mascot, took an uncharacteristic tumble while prancing on the field before kickoff.

The horse got up and was just fine.

Hours later, Florida State collapsed -- and like Renegade, recovered with a flourish.

Deondre Francois' 12-yard touchdown pass to Nyquan Murray with 36 seconds left put No. 10 Florida State ahead for good, and the Seminoles topped No. 6 Michigan 33-32 in a frantic, down-to-the-wire Orange Bowl on Friday night. It capped a simply wild final few minutes of a game that Florida State controlled most of the way before needing a rally in the final moments.

"The character on this team," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I've said it before. I'm as proud of this team as any I've coached."

Dalvin Cook rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown for Florida State (10-3), which led 17-3 and 20-6 early -- and was up by 12 midway through the fourth quarter before falling behind. Francois completed only 9 of 27 passes but made the most of them, throwing for 222 yards and connecting with Murray for two scores.

"There's no team in the country like this team," Seminoles offensive lineman Alec Eberle said.

Chris Evans had a 30-yard touchdown run and Khalid Hill an 8-yard scoring catch in the final minutes for Michigan (10-3), which also got a defensive conversion when Josh Metellus ran a blocked extra point back after the second Francois-Murray TD.

But Michigan turned the ball over on its final possession, and the Seminoles held on to win after the teams combined for 23 points and two lead changes in the final 5:22.

"I love them. Love these guys," Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Great group of competitors, great group of workers, and a great group of guys that find a way."

Well, almost, in this case.

The Wolverines played without Heisman Trophy finalist Jabrill Peppers, their do-everything guy who couldn't go because of a bad left hamstring, and lost standout tight end Jake Butt to what was believed to be a serious knee injury in the second quarter.

Wilton Speight was 21 for 38 passing for 163 yards for Michigan, which got a 14-yard interception return from Mike McCray for a touchdown.

Florida State was in total control, but the game turned midway through the fourth when Trey Marshall was ejected for targeting on a punt return -- giving Michigan a short field on which to start its comeback.

Marshall missed an amazing finish.

"Best game of my life," Cook said.

Hill's scoring grab was Michigan's first offensive TD of the night, and Evans' run with 1:57 left gave the Wolverines their first lead.

It lasted 81 seconds.

"Coach Harbaugh kept saying it's going to happen, it's going to happen, just stay patient," Speight said. "And I think before that drive that we scored, he basically just said now is the time. We were able to capitalize and almost pull it out."

Florida State's Keith Gavin swung momentum back to the Seminoles with a 66-yard kickoff return right up the middle -- setting up the drive where his team would take the lead for good.

Francois lobbed one up perfectly for Murray, and the Seminoles escaped.

"This game here took so many turns," Cook said. "But we kept fighting ... and things turned our way."

THE TAKEAWAY

Michigan: The Wolverines' three losses this season were by a combined five points. ... Michigan managed only 3.4 yards per play, and had players tackled for losses 15 times in the game. ... Michigan also played in the last Orange Bowl to be decided by a single point, the game on Jan. 2, 2000 when Tom Brady led the Wolverines past Alabama 35-34 in overtime.

Florida State: The Seminoles had 201 yards in the first quarter alone. That's more than Michigan allowed in any of four entire games from Sept. 24 through Oct. 22. ... Cook broke his own school single-season rushing record, finishing 2016 with 1,765. ... Florida State snapped a two-game bowl slide. There's never been a three-game bowl losing streak in school history. ... The ACC improved to 6-2 in this season's bowl games.

ORANGE RECORDS


Francois' scoring pass to Murray in the first quarter was the longest TD throw in Orange Bowl history, the 92-yarder topping the mark set in 1959 when Oklahoma's Brewster Hobby connected with Ross Coyle on what became a 79-yard score against Syracuse. Francois also was part of the shortest interception return for a TD in the game's history, when McCray ran his back 14 yards late in the third.

UP NEXT

Michigan: Another Sunshine State team awaits the Wolverines, with Michigan starting its 2017 slate Sept. 2 against Florida in Arlington, Texas.

Florida State: The Seminoles open their season Sept. 2 in Atlanta, against Alabama -- in the new domed stadium being built for the NFL's Falcons.

Air Force: 2016 Arizona Bowl Champions



TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arion Worthman threw for 207 yards to balance out Air Force's run-heavy offense, Jacobi Owens scored two touchdowns and the Falcons overcame a sluggish start to beat South Alabama 45-21 in Arizona Bowl on Friday.

Air Force (10-3) struggled to get its triple-option going, falling into an 18-point first-half hole. Once the Falcons got rolling, they couldn't be stopped, scoring 42 straight points to turn it into a rout.

Worthman was the trigger, jump-starting Air Force's option while completing 7 of 10 passes, including a 75-yard touchdown to Jalen Robinette to open the second half. He also had 71 yards on 21 carries.

South Alabama (6-7) appeared to be headed toward its first bowl win after jumping on the Falcons early, starting with Dallas Davis' 75-yard touchdown pass to Josh Magee on the game's first play.

The Jaguars couldn't sustain their early offensive success or stop the Falcons to lose a bowl game for the second time in three seasons.

Davis threw for 245 yards and a touchdown, but also had an interception and lost a fumble. Magee had five catches for 154 yards.

Davis hit Chris Lewis on a 51-yard pass to set up Dami Ayoola's 2-yard TD run. Davis next found Magee on a 37-yard pass, then scored himself on a 4-yard run that put the Jaguars up 21-3.

South Alabama also seemed to have the combination for stopping Air Force's tricky triple-option, the Falcons to a pair of field goals into the second quarter.

Air Force finally unlocked its option late in the half. Ronald Cleveland scored on 14-yard run , then Owens on a 2-yard run after Santo Coppola returned Davis' fumble to 1-yard line.

Once down 21-3, Air Force found itself at halftime after converting the 2-point conversion .

The Falcons took their first lead by doing exactly what South Alabama did to open the game: a 75-yard TD pass on the first play of the second half, from Worthman to Robinette.

Tyler Williams later took a pitch left to the pylon for a 6-yard TD and Owens scored on a 22-yard run to put Air Force up 45-21.

THE TAKEAWAY


Air Force is typically dominant running team, but had a nice balance in the Arizona Bowl to win 10 games for the second time in three seasons.

South Alabama was unable to hit long passes after its initial first-half flurry and fell short of its first winning season in four years as a Division I program.

UP NEXT

South Alabama will get Davis back and several defensive starters next season, but will have to replace tight end Gerald Everett and receiver Tyrone Williams, two of its best playmakers.

Air Force will have plenty of holes to fill after losing the largest senior class in school history of 32 players.

Tennessee: 2016 Music City Bowl Champions



NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Joshua Dobbs finished his Tennessee career making one final move, helping All-America defensive lineman Derek Barnett figure out how to lead the band in "Rocky Top."

"I was a little nervous," Barnett said with a laugh.

Dobbs quickly chimed in: "He asked me what to do."

The duo led Tennessee in celebrating after beating No. 24 Nebraska 38-24 on Friday at the Music City Bowl. Dobbs ran for three touchdowns and 118 yards and threw for 291 yards and another score, while Barnett got the sack he needed to break a tie with the late Reggie White for the school career record.

The Volunteers (9-4) beat a Big Ten team in a bowl for a third straight year and notched their first win in three tries against the Cornhuskers. It's the first time Tennessee has won three straight bowls since 1994-1996 when Peyton Manning was quarterback for the Vols.

"Great, great competitor," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said about Dobbs. "I knew he was going to play one of his best games. I was worried he was too amped up before the game. I told him he had four quarters of football, don't win it in the first quarter, take what they give you."

Tennessee took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter and outgained Nebraska 521-318 in total offense in the bowl sponsored by Franklin American Mortgage.

Nebraska (9-4) ended the season with two straight losses. The Cornhuskers lost four of their final six after rising as high as No. 7 in the rankings.

Ryker Fyfe, the fifth-year former walk-on started for injured quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. He pulled Nebraska within a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Fyfe threw two TD passes to Brandon Reilly and ran for a 9-yard TD with 10:02 left in the fourth to pull the Cornhuskers within 31-24.

Dobbs answered with a 59-yard TD pass to Josh Malone for the final margin, and Nebraska coach Mike Riley said Dobbs' athleticism was a factor.

"He did a nice job of throwing a lot of balls right on time, but it looked like to me, too, that when it wasn't there, when it wasn't right on time, he moved around, bought time where he moved around and ran," Riley said. "Those plays were hard on us. You know, they had a big impact on that. I think he went for two touchdowns off of scramble plays."

THE TAKEAWAY

Nebraska: Armstrong was just one of the Cornhuskers watching from the sideline with his injured hamstring. Terrell Newby, their leading rusher with 864 yards, ran only nine times for 15 yards in the first half and didn't return. Reilly had his first TDs this season, trying to help with wide receiver Jordan Westercamp recovering from knee surgery.

Fyfe credited Barnett with being in the backfield a lot. "My head, I was seeing stars and I thought I was concussed," Fyfe said of being sacked by Barnett.

Tennessee: The Vols gave up 608 yards offense in their last visit to Nashville, a 45-34 loss to Vanderbilt that ended their hopes of a Sugar Bowl berth. With linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. and cornerback Cam Sutton among those defenders healthier after a month off, the Vols came up with four sacks and a turnover.

BARNETT'S RECORD

Barnett finally got his 33rd career sack with 3:29 left, giving him the school record for career sacks to himself. The junior came in sharing the mark with the Pro Football Hall of Fame lineman. His teammates mobbed him after the sack, and the Vols took a timeout to celebrate to avoid a penalty. "They knew that that was a milestone, that that was something very, very special," Jones said. "And that's one of those moments in time that you'll always remember."

A junior, Barnett is expected to declare early for the NFL draft. Barnett said he will consult with his family before making a decision.

IN GOOD COMPANY


Dobbs became only the third quarterback in SEC history with 15 touchdowns passing and 10 rushing in multiple seasons with his 10-yard TD run in the second quarter. Dobbs had 15 TDs passing and 11 rushing last season and came into the bowl only needing a rushing TD. He joined Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and Dak Prescott of Mississippi State, now in the NFL with Dallas, as the only quarterbacks to manage that feat.

His third TD rushing in the fourth quarter was his 12th of season, a school record for quarterbacks.

UP NEXT

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers need a new quarterback before next season with Tanner Lee, a transfer from Tulane, and Patrick O'Brien, who redshirted as a freshman this season, the options.

Tennessee: The Vols also will be looking for a new starter. Quinten Dormady backed up Dobbs this season, but freshman Justin Guarantano is a dual-threat quarterback.

Stanford: 2016 Sun Bowl Champions



EL PASO, Texas -- Stanford got its usual dual-threat, standout performance from its running back Friday, but this time it wasn't Christian McCaffrey.

Bryce Love took over for the absent McCaffrey in the backfield, running for 119 yards and catching a 49-yard touchdown pass to help No. 16 Stanford beat North Carolina 25-23 in the Sun Bowl.

"I always feel like my next game will be my best one," said Love, channeling his inner Tom Brady when asked if this was his biggest game or best win. He then added, "But it's always good to win."

Stanford (10-3) held on after North Carolina (8-5) pulled within two with 25 seconds left on Mitch Trubisky's 2-yard pass to Bug Howard, sacking Trubisky on the 2-point conversion try.

"When the game was on the line and we had to make a big play, we did," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "It was an outstanding football game. Two really tough, talented football teams played all the way to the end. Thankfully, our guys made enough plays at the end to seal the victory."

McCaffrey skipped the bowl game to focus on his NFL career. Still, in the postgame press conference, Shaw made sure his contributions to the team weren't overlooked.

"You heard my comments (in the postgame ceremony) thanking Christian," he said. "When we weren't playing well, he was playing great. At the end of the year, he played so well. He played so hard until the rest of us on offense started picking it up around him. So this six-game run that we finished the season on is a large part to him."

Enter Love, who showed flashes of what he could do with a 100-yard-plus performance and a score against Notre Dame. He ran for more than 600 yards this season in a backup role, though everyone said they were excited to see what he could do. That included North Carolina, which also recruited the Wake Forest, North Carolina, product.

Stanford took a 25-17 lead on Conrad Ukropina's 27-yard field goal with 3:23 left. North Carolina was forced to punt on its next series, but used two timeouts to get the ball back.

After taking over at their own 3, the Tar Heels drove 97 yards in 10 plays and 1:11. After competing passes of 44 and 27 yards, Trubisky capped the drive with the 2-yard scoring pass to Howard.

Stanford then sacked Trubisky on the 2-point try, a rush led by Solomon Thomas forcing the quarterback to retreat before being taken down. Thomas was selected the game's MVP.

"It's an honor to go out on a win," said Solomon, a junior who also is considering entering the draft. "I'm in no rush. I just want to enjoy this victory with my teammates."

Stanford safety Dallas Lloyd intercepted two of Trubisky's passes, returning the second 19 yards for a touchdown to give Stanford a 22-17 lead early in the fourth quarter.

"If you're in the right place at the right time, good things will happen," Lloyd said.

Trubisky also is projected by some as a possible first-round pick if he declares for the NFL draft. But the junior and former Ohio Mr. Football wasn't ready to even think about that after the game.

"I'm not going to think about it for a couple of days," he said.

Trubisky finished 23 of 39 passing for 280 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

THE TAKEAWAY

Stanford: The Cardinal faced a lot of problems Friday. Starting quarterback Keller Chryst left with a knee injury in the second quarter, forcing backup Ryan Burns into the game. At that point, they were without their top two backfield weapons. They finished the game with 12 penalties for 85 yards, but still won. "We got a little sloppy," Shaw said.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels hurt themselves in the first half with two turnovers, each of which led to a field goal, then added a killer in the third quarter when Lloyd intercepted Trubisky's pass and returned it for a TD. UNC couldn't overcome those mistakes.

GETTING HIS KICKS


Ukropina kicked four field goals to tie a Sun Bowl record and was named the game's Most Valuable Special Teams Player. He also set a Stanford record for field goals in a season with 22. He set the record with his second-quarter kick, then added two more. "It feels great. I love winning with my teammates."

UP NEXT

Stanford: Going into the Sun Bowl without McCaffrey, Shaw was asked if anything would change. He said no. The same goes for the Cardinal going into next season. Their season opener is Sept. 2 at Rice.

North Carolina: The big question is whether or not Trubisky will return next year. The Tar Heels' season opener is Sept. 2 at home against California.

Georgia: 2016 Liberty Bowl Champions



MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- No matter how difficult it was to find running room early on, Georgia kept trying to establish its ground attack.

That stubborn approach eventually paid off.

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined to rush for 229 yards and two touchdowns Friday as Georgia came from behind in the fourth quarter to beat TCU 31-23 in the Liberty Bowl.

"At the end of the day, we were able to run the ball when we had to run the ball and they knew we had to run the ball," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "That's a mark of two good backs. That's the mark of some tough guys up front."

Chubb rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, while Michel ran for 87 yards and a score on 16 attempts. Michel also had a 33-yard touchdown catch. The two juniors already have announced that they plan to return to school for their senior seasons.

Held in check for much of the game, Chubb closed the third quarter with a 48-yard burst that set up Rodrigo Blankenship's field goal to put Georgia ahead 24-23 with 13:27 left. Chubb then rushed for 57 yards in the final period, including a 13-yard touchdown with 2:48 remaining.

"We never stopped," Chubb said. "Nobody on our offense stopped. Nobody on our team stopped. We kept pounding."

Georgia (8-5) restored some pride to the Southeastern Conference. The SEC had entered the day with a 1-4 bowl record, a major step back for a league that went 9-2 in bowl games last year to set a record for bowl victories.

The Bulldogs also sent TCU (6-7) to only its third losing year in Gary Patterson's 16 full seasons as coach. Missed opportunities proved costly for the Horned Frogs, who led 16-7 in the first half and carried a 23-21 advantage into the fourth quarter.

"It was a game that we could have easily won, but you've got to make plays," Patterson said. "For us, it's kind of been the story of our season."

Brandon Hatfield was wide right on a 47-yard field goal attempt that would have put TCU ahead with 7:57 remaining. He earlier had missed an extra point attempt as well as a 41-yard field goal.

Both of Hatfield's missed field goals came after Trenton Thompson sacked Kenny Hill in third-down situations. Thompson set a Liberty Bowl record with three sacks and was named the game's most valuable player.

After Hatfield missed his 47-yarder, Georgia went on a 70-yard touchdown drive to extend its lead to 31-23. Deandre Baker clinched the victory by breaking up Hill's fourth-and-4 pass from the Georgia 44 with 1:14 remaining.

Hill threw a pair of touchdown passes to John Diarse and also ran for a third score, but he was sacked five times and lost a fumble. Georgia's Jacob Eason was 12 of 21 for 164 yards with two touchdown passes.

THE TAKEAWAYS

Georgia: The Bulldogs established themselves as potential SEC Eastern Division favorites next season, assuming Eason improves in his sophomore year. Chubb and Michel should form one of the nation's top running back tandems next season, and Georgia figures to have a quality defense.

TCU: The Horned Frogs end up with a rare losing season, but Hill's gutty performance offers at least some cause for optimism. Hill struggled with consistency all season but kept TCU in the game Friday as he eluded pressure while playing with a bad ankle.

ENTERING THE DRAFT

Georgia wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie announced after the game that he's passing up his senior season to enter the NFL draft. McKenzie had four catches for 103 yards, including a 77-yarder that set up a touchdown.

MOVING INTO SECOND

Chubb's 142-yard rushing performance increased his career total to 3,424 and made him the second-leading rusher in Georgia history. Chubb overtook Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, who rushed for 3,285 yards in his college career.

The school record is held by Herschel Walker, who ran for an SEC-record 5,259 yards from 1980-82.


NOTABLE NUMBERS

Thompson had posted just two sacks in the regular season before delivering three more Friday. ... Diarse had caught just one touchdown pass in the regular season before scoring twice in the Liberty Bowl. ... The announced attendance of 51,087 was the Liberty Bowl's smallest crowd since 1997. ... Georgia's Lorenzo Carter forced two fumbles.

NEXT UP

Georgia: will open the 2017 season Sept. 2 against Camellia Bowl champion Appalachian State.

TCU: kicks off the 2017 season Sept. 2 by hosting Football Championship Subdivision program Jackson State.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Oklahoma State: 2016 Alamo Bowl Champions



SAN ANTONIO -- Mason Rudolph passed for 314 yards and three touchdowns and No. 13 Oklahoma State's defense smothered No. 11 Colorado in a 38-8 Alamo Bowl victory Thursday night that gave the Cowboys their fifth 10-win season in seven years.

James Washington caught nine passes for 171 yards and a touchdown before leaving in the third quarter with an apparent hand injury. Rudolph and Washington have already announced they will return for their senior seasons, putting the Cowboys (10-3) among the favorites to win the Big 12.

Rudolph even set up Oklahoma State's first touchdown when he caught a throw-back pass for 24 yards. His 5-yard TD pass to Washington made it 17-0 in the second quarter. Rudolph had scoring throws to Blake Jarwin and Jhajuan Seales in the third to make it 31-0.

Colorado's best season in more than a decade -dubbed "The Rise" -- ended with a thud: consecutive losses in the Pac-12 title game and the program's first bowl appearance since 2007.

Sefo Liufau passed for 195 yards and ran for a touchdown for the Buffaloes (10-4), but was sidelined for part of the second and third quarters after limping off after a sack.

THE TAKEAWAY

Colorado: Thrust into the play-calling role for the bowl game, Colorado's safeties coach Joe Tumpkin had a tall order in trying to keep up with Oklahoma State's head coach and offensive guru Mike Gundy. The Buffaloes were solid in the first half but had no answer for Washington, who easily beat all-Pac-12 cornerback Chidobe Awuzie on several catches. The defense eventually gave out in the second as the Cowboys piled on the points.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys delivered one of the best defensive performances from a Big 12 team all season. The Cowboys play in a league where the touchdowns seem to fly by the minute. Against Colorado, the Cowboys beat up the Buffaloes quarterbacks and gave up a few big plays but didn't break near the goal line.

UP NEXT

Colorado: The Buffaloes won't be a surprise story in 2017 and will have to follow their big season without their senior quarterback Liufau and eight senior starters on defense. Colorado opens 2017 against Colorado State in Denver on Sept. 2.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys expect to be a big factor in the Big 12 in 2017 with Rudolph and Washington leading the way. Their season opener is Sept. 2 at home against Tulsa.

Virginia Tech: 2016 Belk Bowl Champions



CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It's never easy to replace an icon.

One way to do that is to create your own legacy, something first-year coach Justin Fuente is doing at Virginia Tech after taking over for Frank Beamer.

Jerod Evans threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two scores and No. 18 Virginia Tech pulled off an epic comeback -- the largest in the school's 124-year history -- by erasing a 24-point halftime deficit to beat Arkansas 35-24 on Thursday night in the Belk Bowl.

"It's a fantastic honor," Fuente said. "And I think it speaks to our guys -- the character and toughness and what it means to play for Virginia Tech. They love Virginia Tech."

Along with that memorable feat, Fuente also won 10 games this season -- something no other Hokies coach, even Beamer, can say he accomplished in his first season.

It wasn't easy though.

After being limited to 180 yards in the first half, the Hokies (10-4) took advantage of three interceptions by Razorbacks quarterback Austin Allen and scored touchdowns on five of their first seven possessions of the second half to rattle off 35 unanswered points.

Fuente said the Hokies made minor adjustments to their pass rush at halftime, but it was "nothing revolutionary."

"Playing well was important to our kids today and we didn't do it in the first half," Fuente said. "They regrouped. They came out and fought, and scratched and clawed and found a way to get the job done."

Evans scored on a 4-yard run and threw touchdown strikes to Sam Rogers and Chris Cunningham to cut it to 24-21 In the third quarter. Travon McMillan put the Hokies ahead for good with 12:03 left in the game when he scored on a 6-yard run. Evans sealed the win with an 8-yard touchdown scamper.

"Everyone kept coming to me and telling me they're following my lead," Evans said. "I definitely carried that with a chip on my shoulder, and made sure they understood that I'm with them until the wheels fall off. They fed off of me and I fed off of them."

He completed 12 of 16 passes for 129 yards and two TDs in the second half.

Virginia Tech came in averaging 35 points, but the Razorbacks (7-6) set the tone early by turning Evans' fumble and interception into 10 points to take a 24-0 halftime lead.

TAKEAWAYS

Arkansas: The Razorbacks fought well in the first half but appeared to run out of steam coming out of the locker room as the protection broke down on offense.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies showed again they never quit. They rallied from 17 points down to beat Notre Dame 31-24 earlier in the season.

ALLEN's STRUGGLES

Allen was spectacular in the first half, completing 13 of 16 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns for the Razorbacks. However, he was limited 63 yards passing and picked off three times in the second half.

"The second half has been our melting point," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. "... I've never seen anything like it and the tied turn against us like that in all three phases of the game."

ALL FOR NOTHING

With Arkansas leading 24-7, wide receiver Drew Morgan caught a 74-yard pass from Allen in the third quarter, but then fumbled at the 1 and the ball rolled out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. However, the Razorbacks were bailed out because Virginia Tech was called for illegal hands to the face, giving them a first down -- although 65 yards back down the field. But the fumble still proved costly as the Razorbacks would have to punt the ball away four plays later.

Morgan was ejected later in the game for unsportsmanlike conduct when he spit in the face of an opponent.

"That is very embarrassing as a head coach," Bielema said. "I don't want Drew to be remembered for that. When you act out of character, you get out of character results."

MVP, MVP, MVP

The MVP award was given to wide receiver Cam Phillips. He had six catches for 115 yards and said the comeback was something he wasn't sure would happen.


"When we got down 24 I was like `Sheesh, this is going to be kind of tough," Phillips said.

STEALING FROM THE SPONSOR?

Arkansas senior tight end Jeremy Sprinkle was suspended from the game after police accused him of shoplifting from the department store that sponsors the game. Sprinkle was charged by Charlotte Mecklenburg Police with shoplifting by concealment Tuesday at the Belk department store and was released. Players were given a $450 gift card to spend.

UP NEXT

Arkansas: The Razorbacks open next season at home against Florida A&M on Sept. 2.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies will open next season against neighbor West Virginia on Sept. 2 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.

South Florida: 2016 Birmingham Bowl Champions



BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- South Florida's Quinton Flowers says there were a lot of big-name college football programs that thought he could be a star player. As a running back. Or maybe as a safety.

But Flowers knew he could be a great quarterback. And on Thursday in the Birmingham Bowl against a team from the Southeastern Conference, he proved it once again.

Flowers ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more -- including what proved to be the winner in overtime -- to help No. 25 South Florida beat South Carolina 46-39.

"A lot of big schools didn't give me a chance," Flowers said. "A lot of big schools wanted me to play a different position. But South Florida was the place that loved me, cared about me and wanted me to be their quarterback."

Flowers said South Carolina coach Will Muschamp -- who was then at Florida -- was among the coaches who wanted him to switch positions. Muschamp got an up-close look at Flowers' quarterback skills on Thursday.

"He's an outstanding athlete," Muschamp said.

South Florida (11-2) squandered a 39-21 lead in the second half, but recovered for its school-record 11th victory. Flowers threw a 25-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime, finding Elkanah Dillon in the end zone.

South Carolina's overtime drive ended after Jake Bentley was sacked by Mike Love on fourth down. Bentley fumbled and Khalid McGee recovered to end the game.

It was a sweet ending for a South Florida program that has had a lot of upheaval during December. Coach Willie Taggart left for Oregon after the regular season and former Texas coach Charlie Strong was hired a few days later.

But the Bulls, who played Thursday under interim coach T.J. Weist, pushed aside the distractions and finished their season with another win.

"The bottom line is we finished this game off strong. We finished it right," Weist said. "We came through in the end."

Flowers, who was selected the game's Most Valuable Player, completed 23 of 32 passes for 261 yards and ran for 105 yards on 21 carries.

The Bulls controlled the game for most of the afternoon, but the Gamecocks rallied to tie it at 39 with 1:11 remaining on A.J. Turner's 1-yard touchdown run and a 2-point conversion.

Bentley completed 32 of 43 passes for 390 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Deebo Samuel caught 14 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown.

Muschamp said he was pleased with the offense. It was the defense -- specifically the lack of an effective pass rush against Flowers -- that left him frustrated.

"When you score 39 points, you should win the game," Muschamp said.

South Carolina (6-7) was hurt by five turnovers, including a pick-six thrown by Bentley that Tajee Fullwood returned 47 yards.

THE TAKEAWAY

South Florida: The Bulls felt they weren't getting much respect on a national level after their 10-win regular season. A win over an SEC opponent is more evidence that South Florida might have been a little underappreciated.


South Carolina: The Gamecocks had their chances, but too many crucial mistakes doomed the program to a 7-loss season. The good news is South Carolina has a promising young quarterback in Bentley.

UP NEXT

South Florida: The Bulls have a lot of changes in store as the Strong-era begins. South Florida looks well-positioned to be a factor in the AAC for years to come.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks took a small step forward during Muschamp's first season. Now he'll try to improve the talent on the roster during recruiting to get the program back among the SEC East's elite programs.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Kansas State: 2016 Texas Bowl Champions



HOUSTON -- Jesse Ertz threw for 195 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more scores in Kansas State's 33-28 victory over Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl on Wednesday night.

Ertz had a 79-yard touchdown pass and scoring runs of 1 and 5 yards to help give Kansas State its fourth straight win and first bowl victory since the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

The Wildcats (9-4) led by five when Ertz bulled into the end zone on a 1-yard run that made it 33-21 with nine minutes left. Ertz set up the score with a 20-yard run two plays earlier.

The Aggies (8-5) cut it to 33-28 on Josh Reynolds' 15-yard TD reception about a minute later.

Texas A&M attempted to convert a fourth-and-8 with about two minutes left, but Trevor Knight's pass was short, to give Kansas State the ball back and allow the Wildcats to run out the clock.

Reynolds had a Texas A&M bowl-record 12 receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns and Knight threw for 310 yards with three touchdowns and one interception as A&M dropped its second straight bowl game.

Kansas State did a good job of neutralizing Texas A&M star defensive end Myles Garrett. The junior, who is expected to declare for the draft and many believe could be the top overall pick in April, blocked an extra point in the second quarter. But he was unable to do much else while facing near-constant double teams and he finished with one tackle.

Texas A&M got to 23-21 when Reynolds made a 4-yard touchdown catch with about seven minutes left in the third quarter. A 25-yard field goal by Ian Patterson extended Kansas State's lead to 26-21 with about three minutes remaining in the quarter. A highlight of that drive came on a 36-yard run John Silmon.

The Aggies took a 7-0 lead when Keith Ford scored on a 7-yard run on their first possession.

Kansas State tied it when Ertz connected with Byron Pringle and he dashed down the field for a 79-yard touchdown run later in the first quarter.

The Wildcats took the lead when Ertz stiff-armed Justin Evans on a 5-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. But Garrett blocked the extra point to make it 13-7.


A 3-yard reception by Ricky Seals-Jones put A&M back on top 14-13 soon after that. But Kansas State regained the lead with a 40-yard field goal before pushing the lead to 23-14 on a 52-yard run by Dominique Heath just before halftime.

THAT'S A NO NO: Kansas State's cornerback Donnie Starks received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of the first half when he threw Reynolds to the ground and then squatted over him and pressed his crotch to the receiver's chest. Reynolds then punched at the crotch of Starks, but he was not penalized. The penalty was enforced on the opening kickoff of the second half.

Reynolds got a bit of revenge for the play when he caught his touchdown pass in the third quarter over Starks and stared him down after making the grab.

Utah: 2016 Foster Farms Bowl Champions



SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Joe Williams ran for 222 yards and a touchdown and Andy Phillips kicked a 27-yard field goal with 1:24 to play to lead Utah to its 14th victory in its past 15 bowl games, 26-24 over Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl on Wednesday night.

Tyler Huntley ran for another score and the Utes (9-4) forced three turnovers to spoil Tom Allen's coaching debut at Indiana and improve Utah coach Kyle Whittingham's bowl record to 10-1.

Allen took over the Hoosiers (6-7) after Kevin Wilson's sudden resignation this month. Allen had finished his first season at Indiana as defensive coordinator and is now tasked with rebuilding the team as he did in his one year with the defense.

He appeared to be off to a good start when the Hoosiers rallied from 10 points down to take a 24-23 lead early in the fourth quarter on Devine Redding's 3-yard run following a fumble by Utah's Zach Moss.

Williams then lost a fumble on the next drive for the Utes, but Griffin Oakes missed a 40-yard field goal attempt with 5:34 left to prevent the Hoosiers from adding onto the lead.

That proved costly when Williams ran for 64 yards on the ensuing drive to help set up Phillips' fourth field goal of the game to make it 26-24.

Indiana's last gasp chance ended when Richard Lagow was hit on a desperation heave near midfield.

THE TAKEAWAY

Indiana: Allen's debut started off well when Kyle Fulks fumbled the opening kickoff for Utah and Indiana turned that into a touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Lagow to Mitchell Paige. But the Hoosiers struggled on offense after that. Lagow went 14 for 39 for 188 yards and an interception. The receivers didn't help with several drops but Lagow was often off-target or had passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.

Utah: The Utes took advantage of the bowl game to get a good look at freshman quarterback Huntley, who could compete with Troy Williams for the starting job next season. Huntley completed a 36-yard pass to Kyle Fulks on his only throw but was used much more in the running game. He finished with 23 yards on eight carries with the touchdown.

UP NEXT

Indiana: Allen viewed the preparation and bowl game as the start of his first full season in 2017. The Hoosiers will jump right into it, hosting Ohio State in the season opener on Aug. 31.

Utah: The Utes will have a far easier opener, getting FCS-level North Dakota at home on Aug. 31.

Miami: 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl Champions



ORLANDO, Fla. -- Miami fans asked Brad Kaaya to end the school's 10-year bowl-victory drought, and he delivered.

Now they have another request.

"One more year! One more year!" they chanted at Kaaya on Wednesday night, after he threw four touchdown passes to help Miami top No. 14 West Virginia 31-14 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

And it's easy to see why they're clamoring for the school's most prolific quarterback to return.

Kaaya completed 24 of 34 passes for 282 yards for Miami (9-4) -- and went 18 for 19 in one dazzling stretch, the lone incompletion in that span being a drop. The four TDs tied both a Miami bowl record and Kaaya's collegiate best.

"I've got some soul-searching to do," said Kaaya, who already was Miami's career leader in passing yards and took over the No. 1 spots in attempts and completions on Wednesday.

"Regardless of if I'm here or not next season, I think this team is headed to greatness," Kaaya added. "I think there's a lot of good things going on and a lot of progress has been made, so I think this team will be good regardless of what happens over the next few days."

Skyler Howard passed for 134 yards and ran for a touchdown for West Virginia (10-3), which fell to 3-17 against Miami. Kennedy McKoy also had a touchdown run for the Mountaineers, who committed 11 penalties and allowed four sacks.

West Virginia came in averaging more than 500 yards per game. Miami held the Mountaineers to 229.

"That's the best defense we faced all year," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.

Miami's offense wasn't bad, either.

The Hurricanes had lost six straight bowl games, and punted on their first six possessions Wednesday. But Kaaya finally got rolling, and Miami soon had total control.

Kaaya connected with Ahmmon Richards, Malcolm Lewis and Braxton Berrios for touchdowns in the final 6:30 of the first half to get Miami rolling, and found David Njoku for another touchdown on the first possession of the second half.

"They were ready to play," Holgorsen said. "This meant a lot to them. ... Outcoached us, outplayed us on all three sides."

THE TAKEAWAY

West Virginia: The Mountaineers fell short of tying a school record for wins in a season. There have been five teams in West Virginia's 125 years of football to win 11 games. ... West Virginia fell to 2-10 in bowl games played in Florida. ... It was the first time the Mountaineers and Hurricanes played since 2003, when both were in the Big East.

Miami: Freshman linebacker Michael Pinckney was ejected for targeting with 10:55 left in the third quarter, and per NCAA rule will have to sit out the first half of next season's opener. ... Not only did Miami punt on its first six possessions, but it went three-and-out on the first five of those.

NJOKU GONE

Njoku announced after the game that he's skipping his final two seasons of eligibility and entering the NFL Draft, after being told that he is potentially a first-round pick.

"It's kind of bittersweet, leaving my team a couple years early," Njoku said.

The redshirt sophomore caught eight touchdown passes this season.

BOWL STREAK

Among the 109 teams that won bowl games since Miami's last postseason victory in 2006: The other Miami (Ohio), Old Dominion (which didn't even have football in 2006), and all six of the other FBS teams from the state of Florida -- Florida, Florida State, Central Florida, South Florida, Florida Atlantic and Florida International.

ORLOSKY REFLECTS

West Virginia center Tyler Orlosky, one of the best at his position in the country this season, said he will look back on this season with pride.

"To be able to go out with 10 wins says a lot. ... We may not have won today, but we won the season in my opinion," Orlosky said.

LEWIS' CAREER


Lewis wrapped up his Miami career in a most memorable way. His TD catch in the second quarter was his first in a 35-game span for Miami, and was the third scoring grab of his career. The bowl game was Lewis' 50th and final game as a Hurricane, making him the 11th to play so many at Miami. His freshman season in 2012 ended after four games when he endured a badly broken ankle at Georgia Tech, so he was able to get a fifth year of eligibility.

UP NEXT

West Virginia: The Mountaineers ended this season against an ACC opponent, and start next season with one. West Virginia plays Virginia Tech at FedExField on Sept. 2.

Miami: The Hurricanes' Week 1 opponent for next season hasn't been announced, one of many things to be sorted out in the coming weeks.

Northwestern: 2016 Pinstripe Bowl Champions



NEW YORK -- Justin Jackson has the last name made for the bright lights at Yankee Stadium.

He had the kind of postseason game worthy of the setting.

"Big city. Big stage," he said. "We walked into Yankee Stadium and everything kind of really hit us."

Jackson made his case in the home of the Yankees to become Northwestern's Mr. December.

Unlike Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson, the Wildcats' stud running back did his damage one step at a time instead of one swing. Jackson ran for 224 yards and three touchdowns to power Northwestern to only its third bowl victory, 31-24 over No. 22 Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl on Wednesday night.

"Justin's day will go down as one of the great performances by a Northwestern running back," coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

Jackson was the straw that stirred Northwestern's offense in the Bronx and helped etch this performance alongside the 1948 Rose Bowl and 2012 Gator Bowl victories in the program's oft-futile history.

Jackson, the game's MVP , was awed by the lights and monuments at the stadium. But it was a more discreet spot in the locker room Northwestern borrowed from the Yankees that really bowled over Jackson.

"Like, Derek Jeter has peed in that urinal," he said.

Jackson had TD runs of 8 and 16 yards in the second quarter, then went deep on a 40-yard burst in the third that left one defender face down on the turf following a fantastic fake and gave the Wildcats (7-6) a 21-17 lead.

Rallying without injured quarterback Nathan Peterman and running back James Conner, Pitt yanked the lead away in the fourth on a short TD pass before it collapsed the rest of the quarter.

The Wildcats turned a fourth-and-1 into a 21-yard play-action TD pass that made it 28-24 and a hit late field goal for a seven-point lead.

The Panthers (8-5), who had wins over No. 2 Clemson and Big Ten champion Penn State, still had time to spoil Northwestern's upset bid with a late drive for the tying score. Scott Orndoff failed to hang on to backup quarterback Ben DiNucci's strike in the end zone on third down. DiNucci had his fourth-down pass picked off by Jared McGee, who helped bust up the previous pass play, to clinch the win for the Wildcats.

Northwestern's defense made the stops late. Jackson carried the Wildcats to a celebration on a purple-glittered baseball field .

"We didn't tackle a really good tailback," Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said.

Jackson stiff-armed one defender, then bowled over a second for a 16-yard score that helped Northwestern take a 14-10 lead into halftime.

After some confusion over his final rushing total, Jackson fell just shy of setting the Pinstripe Bowl mark of 227 yards by Indiana's Devine Redding.

"We'll go over every yard," Fitzgerald said.

Peterman, who threw for 253 yards, gave Pitt a 17-14 lead on a 5-yard scamper in the third. Peterman's solid outing ended late in the quarter when he was sandwiched between two defenders and his head slammed the turf.

DiNucci was picked on Pitt's final drive with 30 seconds left in the game and the Wildcats would get their kicks from storming the field in a frenzy.

Conner, who capped a triumphant return from Hodgkin lymphoma, suffered a brutal helmet-to-helmet blow to the head late in the first half and did not return. Unlike some draft prospects, Conner played the bowl game even though he decided to skip his senior season and declare for the NFL draft. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Conner, who had 1,060 yards rushing and 20 total touchdowns entering the game, was far from a sure-fire early NFL pick.

"One of the defenders turned around and went for him, I guess, instead of going for the ball. Kind of interesting," Narduzzi said.

Conner was stuffed when he tried to go over the top on a failed fourth-down try in the first quarter.

THE TAKEAWAY

Northwestern: The Wildcats were stout all around. Clayton Thorson was 23 of 36 for 214 yards passing and had the winning TD pass. Garrett Dickerson caught the go-ahead TD and had five catches for 46 yards. The Wildcats can chalk this one up to a fantastic four: 4 for 4 on fourth-down conversions.

Pittsburgh: The Panthers may have pulled out a victory had their offensive stalwarts not been sidelined late with injuries. Losing to a 6-6 Big Ten definitely ends the year on a down note.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Pitt will fall out of the Top 25 and failed to finish the season ranked and with nine wins for the first time since 2009.

UP NEXT


Northwestern can only hope Jackson's latest breakout game in the national spotlight will propel the program to great heights in the loaded Big Ten.

Jackson led the Big Ten with 1,300 yards rushing and became the first Wildcat to rush for 1,000-plus yards in three straight seasons. He said he would return for his senior season. "You don't come here and not get a degree," he said.

Fitzgerald cracked: "There's no way. Your dad will kill you."

Pitt has to replace Conner in the backfield and find a new offensive coordinator. Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Canada called the shots for the final time before packing up for the same position at LSU.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Baylor: 2016 Cactus Bowl Champions



PHOENIX -- KD Cannon had 14 catches for a Cactus Bowl-record 226 yards and two touchdowns, helping Baylor end a difficult season with a 31-12 victory over Boise State on Tuesday night.

Baylor (7-6) went into a downward spiral the last half of the season after opening with six straight wins. Quarterback Seth Russell suffered a season-ending ankle injury, the sexual assault scandal that cost coach Art Briles his job continued to linger and the losses piled up, six straight to end the regular season.

The Bears ended on a positive note by revving up their quick-hitting offense again behind freshman quarterback Zach Smith, who threw for 375 yards and three scores.

"I couldn't be more proud of these guys," Baylor interim coach Jim Grobe said. "We've been through a lot of adversity together. I love every one of these guys and they know that. This is a family win."

Boise State (10-3) tried to keep up with the Bears, but struggled in the red zone: two field goals, an interception in the end zone and a failed fourth down try.

Boise State started with single coverage on Cannon and the Bears exploited it throughout the first half.

The Baylor junior scored on a 30-yard pass from Smith in the first quarter, out-leaping Boise State's Jonathan Moxey in the end zone, then beat him on a 68-yard score in the second to put Baylor up 14-3. Cannon had eight catches for 182 yards and two TDs by halftime.

"We just had to prove a point," Cannon said. "Coming off a bad season, we had to finish strong for Baylor Nation and coach Briles."

Smith had some ups and downs in three games after Russell broke his ankle, but had a month to prepare for the Cactus Bowl. The freshman from Texas was sharp with the extra work, completing 28 of 39 passes. He also threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Ishmael Zamora in the fourth quarter to put Baylor up 31-6.

Boise State's Brett Rypien moved the Broncos up and down the field, but had his share of mistakes.

He threw an interception at the Baylor 5-yard line on Boise State's second drive and had an overthrow on what would likely have been a touchdown later in the first quarter, forcing the Broncos to settle for a field goal.


Rypien also threw an interception in the end zone in the second quarter. He finished with 305 yards and a touchdown on 32-of-51 passing with two interceptions and a lost fumble.

UP NEXT

Baylor will be looking to get back to its winning ways under new coach Matt Rhule. The former Temple coach has already started recruiting, but Grobe coached in the bowl game. Grobe hopes to continue coaching.

Boise State has to replace running back Jeremy McNichols and senior receiver Thomas Sperbeck next season, but Rypien is a sophomore and should only get better.

Minnesota: 2016 Holiday Bowl Champions



SAN DIEGO -- After a few days of turmoil and perhaps more to come, the Minnesota Golden Gophers played lights-out in shutting down Luke Falk and the Washington State Cougars to win the Holiday Bowl.

Shannon Brooks caught a tipped pass from Mitch Leidner for a 13-yard, go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter and Minnesota, mired in controversy after 10 players were suspended after a sexual assault investigation, won 17-12 on Tuesday night.

The Golden Gophers (9-4) were looking to regroup after backing down from a threat to skip this game if their teammates suspended after the investigation weren't reinstated. Their boycott lasted less than 36 hours, with university leadership never blinking. The players backed down amid pressure from many who read details of the allegations.

"I don't think it's a matter of anybody not wanting to be here. It's just a matter of wishing our brothers could be here with us as well," Leidner said. "I love this team, these coaches. You couldn't ask for a better way to go out. I'm just really proud of these guys."

Brooks' TD catch was one of the few exciting plays in an otherwise pedestrian edition of what traditionally has been one of the country's most exciting bowl games.

WSU cornerback Marcellus Pippins reached up with his right hand and deflected Leidner's pass in the end zone but it went right to Brooks for the TD and a 10-6 lead. That capped an 84-yard, 10-play drive on Minnesota's first possession of the second half.

The Gophers had to face Falk and WSU's normally high-powered Air Raid offense without starting defensive backs KiAnte Hardin and Antoine Winfield Jr., and key backup Antonio Shenault, who were among the suspended players.

Their replacements stepped up.

"You've got to go off practice, and those kids practiced awfully well," coach Tracy Claeys said. "They did a tremendous job. All of them played their tails off. When you get in those situations and you're missing people, it all goes back to that the next person's got to step up and you ask them to do things, they're going to do it. Nobody's going to be successful if you ask them to do things you're not very good at."

WSU (8-5) ended on a three-game losing streak and was held to its lowest point total of the season. The Cougars had scored more than 50 points four times this season, a school record.

The Golden Gophers frustrated Falk most of the game, holding him to 264 yards -- 86 below his average -- on 30-of-51 passing. Falk didn't crack 200 yards until the final minutes, when he led a drive capped by an 8-yard TD pass to Kyle Sweet. After three tries due to Minnesota penalties, the conversion attempt failed. Minnesota then recovered an onside kick.

Falk came in having completed 71 percent of his passes in throwing for 4,204 yards and 37 touchdowns. The Cougars were ranked second in the nation in passing.

Falk was intercepted by Adekunle Ayinde on fourth down with 3:05 left. That set up Rodney Smith's 9-yard TD run with 2:06 left for a 17-6 lead.

"I don't think we played well offensively at all," coach Mike Leach said. "We never got any rhythm. We were frantic. You can say we were rusty and had some time off, whatever it is. We tried to make things happen and then when it didn't happen, we got frantic. We unraveled. We were pouting on the sidelines."

WSU lead 6-3 after a lackluster first half that included just three field goals.

The Cougars crossed the 50 just twice, getting field goals of 26 and 41 yards by Erik Powell.

Powell's second field goal was set up when Nnamdi Oguayo hit Leidner and forced a fumble that Isaac Dotson recovered at the Golden Gophers' 38.

Minnesota got a 43-yard field goal by Emmit Carpenter in the second quarter.

TAKEAWAY

Minnesota: The Golden Gophers had only 110 yards of total offense in the first half before finally coming alive in the second half. Smith gained 74 yards on 17 carries. He came in averaging 90 yards.


Washington State: The Air Raid offense was a no-show. After Powell kicked a field goal to cap WSU's first drive, the Cougars went three-and-out on their next four possessions. The Cougars had to settle for Powell's 41-yard field goal at the end of the first half after Falk's pass to Tavares Martin Jr. to the 1 was overturned after review.

UP NEXT

Minnesota: Tensions remain between the school administration and the team after the threat to skip this game.

Washington State: Leach said Monday that Falk would return for his senior season rather than declaring for the NFL draft. However, asked about it after the game, Falk said: "I'm not focused on that at all. All my focus has been on the team, and that's irrelevant at this point." Asked if he was still contemplating his decision, Falk said: "Next question."

Wake Forest: 2016 Military Bowl Champions



ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- When Wake Forest fans look back at 2016, perhaps they will remember an exciting victory in the Military Bowl as the culmination of the team's first winning season in eight years.

At least, that's what Demon Deacons coach Dave Clawson would like to believe.

Wake Forest attached a positive ending to a season marred by scandal, using a strong performance by quarterback John Wolford to beat heavily favored Temple 34-26 on Tuesday in the Military Bowl.

After throwing an interception on the first series of the game -- a turnover Temple used to take a 7-0 lead -- Wolford helped the Demon Deacons rattle off 31 straight points before halftime.

Wolford left with a neck strain in the third quarter with the score 31-17. Wake Forest (7-6) then withstood a comeback bid by Temple (10-4) to secure its first bowl victory since 2008.

That gave the Demon Deacons something to talk about this offseason beside a troubling spy story. According to a Wake Forest investigation, broadcaster Tommy Elrod leaked or attempted to leak game plan information to at least three opponents. Though Elrod has not released a public statement on the scandal, the school has since fired him.

The scandal was dubbed "Wakey Leaks."

"It was really important we win this game so this game and this bowl championship becomes the lasting memory for this football team and not some stupid hashtag that nobody in our program was responsible for," Clawson said. "That becomes the lasting memory for the team and not a bitterness of something we're ready to move past."

In spite of the distraction, the Demon Deacons snapped a three-game losing streak and won for only the second time since Oct. 8.

"I'm trying to fight back tears right now," linebacker Thomas Brown said. "It's such a great feeling. I really don't even know how to describe it."

Wolford, a junior, completed 10 of 19 passes for 183 yards and two scores. Though he wasn't there at the finish, he certainly did enough while in the game.

"I wanted to play, but it was probably the safest thing to come out," Wolford said.

His backup, redshirt freshman Kyle Kearns, went 4 for 10 for 60 yards and an interception.

Seeking the first 11-win season in school history, Temple came in as an 11-point favorite. A 48-yard pass from Phillip Walker to Adonis Jennings on the Owls' first offensive play gave them their only lead.

Down 31-7 late in the first half, Temple used a 19-point run to close to 31-26 with 3:56 left. Wake Forest then used an 80-yard kickoff return by John Armstrong and the resulting field goal to make it an eight-point game with 1:59 left.

Temple came in with a seven-game winning streak after capturing the American Athletic Conference title with a 34-10 rout of Navy on this same field Dec. 3.

"I know that once it all sinks in -- on how close we came to winning this game and how close we came to being the best Temple team ever -- it's going to hurt worse than it does right now," interim coach Ed Foley said.

Foley took the reins after Matt Rhule was hired by Baylor on Dec. 6. The Owls subsequently signed Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins as their new head coach, and he got a first-hand look at his new team on Tuesday.

Walker finished his career by going 28 for 49 for 396 yards and two touchdowns, both to Jennings. He was sacked four times, including a pivotal 22-yarder on second down from the Wake Forest 6 preceding the Owls' final field goal.

TALE OF TWO HALVES

Foley loved the way the Owls played in the second half, but he lamented their performance over the first 30 minutes.

"We have a certain way that we like to play football," he said. "And we did it for one half today.

"We were trying to be the best Temple team ever. Obviously, we're tied for the best Temple team ever. It doesn't sound great, but we are champions."

TAKEAWAY

Temple: The Owls showed their stuff in the second half, but this performance against a team that went 3-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference was not the way they want to remember this season.


Wake Forest: Impressive outing against a conference champion and a celebration at midfield was a perfect way to end an imperfect season.

UP NEXT

Temple: The Owls' next game will be played under Collins. One of his top priorities will be finding a replacement for Walker, the school record-holder for career completions, touchdowns, yards and wins by a starting quarterback (29).

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons hope to put the Wakey Leaks fiasco behind them during the offseason so they can start anew in 2017. Wake Forest won more games this season (7) than in Clawson's first two years combined (6).

Army West Point: 2016 Heart Of Dallas Bowl Champions



DALLAS -- For Army coach Jeff Monken, there was never really a second thought about what to do on fourth down from the 3 on the opening possession of overtime.

Not with the way the triple-option Black Knights dominate running the ball and struggle kicking it.

Jordan Asberry took a toss and scored Army's sixth rushing touchdown in a 38-31 win over North Texas on Tuesday in a rematch at the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

"One of our goals is not flinch and believe no matter what," said quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw, who ran for 129 yards and a score. "A lot of people say it's a questionable call. ... We were determined to get it in."

The Black Knights (8-5) finished with 480 yards rushing, including 119 yards and two TDs by Darnell Woolfolk. Asberry's score was the 46th rushing touchdown this season, breaking the school record held by the 1945 national championship team that had two Heisman Trophy winners in the backfield.

North Texas (5-8) had its chance in overtime. But after Alec Morris scrambled for 4 yards and Jeffery Wilson lost 3, consecutive incomplete passes followed. The former Alabama graduate transfer threw for 304 yards and three TDs, but his desperation fourth-down throw on the run ended the game.

"We may not have accomplished our mission of winning our bowl game, but these men ... set a solid foundation of brotherhood," first-year coach Seth Littrell said.

North Texas, which lost five of its last six games after winning 35-18 at Army on Oct. 22, was in the bowl based on its Academic Progress Rate.

Army's 1945 team had 45 rushing touchdowns while going 9-0. Doc Blanchard scored 16 of them and won the Heisman that season. Glenn Davis had 15 a year before winning his Heisman Trophy.

The Black Knights have a three-game winning streak, including their first win over Navy since 2001.

"We're a work in a progress. I hope we always will be and be improving," Monken said. "Proud of our guys and how we finished this season."

TAKEAWAY

North Texas showed some positive signs under Littrell despite the tough finish. The Mean Green won only one game in 2015. Wilson, whose 160 yards in October were the most this season against Army, had a 22-yard TD run on the Mean Green's opening drive Tuesday. He finished with 81 yards on 20 carries, and also turned a screen pass into another 22-yard touchdown.

Army: The Black Knights finished with their most wins since going 10-2 in 1996. In the loss to North Texas two months ago, they had seven turnovers (three lost fumbles, four interceptions). They had only one this time, a muffed punt return that immediately led to a North Texas touchdown at the end of the third quarter.

NO CONVERSIONS

Woolfolk had a 5-yard TD on the game's opening possession, a vintage Army drive with six different players carrying on 11 rushing plays, but missed the extra point. North Texas led only after a TD and PAT on its opening drive, but Army then had TD runs on each of its next three drives and led 24-7 after missing 2-point conversions each time.

SEE YOU AGAIN SOON

Army will be in North Texas next Nov. 18 to play the Mean Green again. The Black Knights also have a conditional agreement already to play in next year's Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth if they are bowl eligible.

EXTRA POINTS


Tyler Campbell's 70-yard TD run in the first quarter was Army's longest running play this season. ... Bradshaw's 65-yard keeper for a score in the third quarter was his career-long run. ... Army LB Jeremy Timpf had 15 tackles (12 solo), and CB Elijah Riley had two interceptions.

UP NEXT

North Texas: QB Mason Fine, who started nine games as a freshman before a shoulder injury late in the season, should be back with Wilson when the Mean Green host Lamar in their 2017 opener on Sept. 2.

Army: is set to return Bradshaw along with Woolfolk and several other runners, and four starting linemen, for its triple-option offense. The Black Knights open the 2017 season against Fordham on Sept. 1.

North Carolina State: 2016 Independence Bowl Champions



SHREVEPORT, La. -- North Carolina State quarterback Ryan Finley has a simple philosophy when it comes to getting do-everything threat Jaylen Samuels involved with the offense.

"Just give him the ball in as many ways as possible," Finley said.

The method of choice on Monday was by air, and Finley found Samuels for three touchdowns passes in North Carolina State's 41-17 win over Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl.

North Carolina State (7-6) won three of its final four games to finish with a winning record. The Wolfpack built a 28-3 lead by midway through the third quarter -- largely thanks to Samuels' touchdown catches of 9, 55 and 17 yards -- and then held off a brief Vanderbilt rally.

Samuels was named the game's Most Valuable Player on offense and his three touchdown catches were an Independence Bowl record. Finley, who completed 19 of 30 passes for 235 yards, hit Samuels six times for 104 yards.

North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren said Samuels' big night wasn't necessarily planned, but when Vanderbilt loaded the defense to stop the run, he was the man who was open. The 5-foot-11, 223-pound junior often has had an unorthodox role on the offense and is listed as a tight end and fullback.

"We were just taking what they were giving us," Doeren said. "And then our receivers did a great job of blocking for him."

Vanderbilt (6-7) had a lot of momentum going into the game thanks to surprising wins over Mississippi and Tennessee to end the regular season. But the Commodores' offense -- which scored a combined 83 points against the Rebels and Volunteers -- struggled for most of the night.

"We looked a little rusty," coach Derek Mason said. "All the way around -- special teams, offense and defense. We just didn't look like the Vanderbilt team that came out of the regular season."

Vanderbilt's Kyle Shurmur completed just 19 of 46 passes for 158 yards and three interceptions.

"There's a fine line between being aggressive and careless," Shurmur said. "And I crossed it a few times."

Even so, the Commodores briefly made things interesting, closing to 28-17 early in the fourth quarter. But that's when NC State's Nyheim Hines responded with a 100-yard touchdown on a kickoff return to put the game out of reach.

THE TAKEAWAY

Vanderbilt: The Commodores' offense took a step backward after some late-season improvement. Veteran running back Ralph Webb had another nice game with 111 yards rushing and a touchdown, but Shurmur's struggles throwing the ball were too much to overcome.

NC State: The Wolfpack end a frustrating season with an impressive win. They were fantastic on defense for most of the night and the Finley-to-Samuels connection couldn't be stopped by Vanderbilt.

WEBB BREAKS RECORD, SAYS HE'S COMING BACK

Webb's 111 yards rushing gave him a school-record 1,283 yards for the season. The junior, who already is Vanderbilt's career rushing leader, said during the postgame press conference that he plans to return for his senior season.


DEFENSIVE MVP

North Carolina State's Airius Moore was named the game's defensive MVP after leading the Wolfpack with nine tackles, including two sacks.

UP NEXT

Vanderbilt: The Commodores took a major step forward this season by making a bowl game in Mason's third season. Vanderbilt will have a few holes to fill, but should return several key players in 2017.

NC State: The Wolfpack are still struggling to push into the upper tier of the Atlantic Coast Conference. NC State finishes with another winning season under Doeren, but the program feels a little stuck at the moment.

Boston College: 2016 Quick Lane Bowl Champions



DETROIT -- Boston College blew a fourth-quarter lead in a loss to Georgia Tech in its season opener in Ireland. In the Eagles' finale, they showed they had learned how to hold on for a victory.

Patrick Towles threw two touchdown passes and caught a pass for a score in the first half, helping Boston College beat Maryland 36-30 in the Quick Lane Bowl on Monday.

The Eagles (7-6) led by 16 at halftime, 23 points early in the third quarter and then had to force Maryland to turn the ball over on downs late in the game to seal their first bowl victory since beating Michigan State at the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl.

"We started to really develop a resolve that you see in the players' eyes," Boston College coach Steve Addazio said. "The most critical thing in building your program is having that. And, I really believe we have finally set that platform forward and that's the most exciting thing to me of all."

Maryland (6-7) had the ball at its 35 with 1:48 left with a chance to drive for a go-ahead TD.

"That's all you can ask for," Maryland coach DJ Durkin said. "You'll take that in any game."

But the Terrapins didn't gain a yard before Harold Landry helped finish them off with a possession-ending sack.

Maryland made some big plays on offense, but four turnovers, eight sacks allowed, 11 penalties and poor field position proved to be costly. In the first half, Perry Hills threw an interception, lost a fumble and was sacked four times. On the Terrapins' first snap of the second half, Hills handed off to Ty Johnson and the running back's fumble was recovered in the end zone by Boston College.

With 4:02 left, the Terrapins got to the Boston College 1 with a chance to cut into their nine-point deficit and Hills lost a fumble after bobbling a snap. They got the ball back less than a minute later when Boston College's Jon Hilliman fumbled at his 6, and were forced to settle for a field goal.

"The program is headed in the right direction, but we have to learn to not beat ourselves," Durkin said.

GOOD SEATS AVAILABLE

The announced attendance was 19,117 and the actual crowd appeared to be about half of that total.

IT'S TRICKY

On a reverse and pass from receiver Jeff Smith, Towles scored on a 20-yard TD catch in the second quarter to give Boston College a 23-7 lead.

"I was just glad I caught it and didn't get ran down," Towles said.

BIG PLAYS

Johnson had 62- and 30-yard TD runs in the first half and a 29-yard run early in the fourth quarter that gave Maryland the ball in Eagles territory, but it turned the ball over on downs at the 41.

"He's consistently been a big-play guy for us all year," Durkin said.

Hills threw a 63-yard TD pass to Teldrick Morgan and a 52-yard pass to Levern Jacobs for a score to get Maryland within nine points.

SHINING STAR

Landry was the only player in the game on The Associated Press All-America team, earning second-team honors, and showed why he merited the recognition. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound junior entered with 15 sacks, tying with Florida State's DeMarcus Walker for the most in the nation, and had 1 1/2 sacks against Maryland. Landry also had a one-handed interception and deflected passes on consecutive plays on Maryland's drive late in the fourth quarter that ended with a fumble.

Addazio said he and Landry have talked about his upcoming decision, to stay for his senior season or to enter the NFL draft, and will discuss the topic again soon after gathering information.

"My thing is, you do what's best for the players," Addazio said. "If it's best for a player to leave, you advise him that."

MISSING FOR MARYLAND

The Terrapins were without their leading tackler, linebacker Shane Cockerille, who was ruled ineligible. Durkin and school officials declined to provide details.

TAKEAWAY

Maryland: Durkin, a first-year head coach, has built a career on defense and special teams. The Terrapins struggled on defense against a previously offensively challenged team, giving him plenty to work on in the offseason.

Boston College: The Eagles were impressive on offense in the first half, scoring 29 points and gaining 238 yards, with a creative mix of plays through the air and on the ground before appearing to relax and regress.

UP NEXT


Maryland: With Hills out of eligibility, the Terrapins will have North Carolina transfer Caleb Henderson and highly touted freshman Kasim Hill competing for the job. Maryland will play Sept. 2 at Texas in Tom Herman's coaching debut with the Longhorns.

Boston College: The Eagles also will be looking also be looking for a new quarterback. To replace the departing Towles next season, Connor Strachan and Darius Wade will have a shot in the spring and summer to take the first snap when Boston College opens the 2017 season Sept. 1 at Northern Illinois.