Monday, December 19, 2016

Tulsa: 2016 Miami Beach Bowl Champions



MIAMI -- Dane Evans passed for 304 yards and five touchdowns, three of those scoring throws going to Keevan Lucas, and Tulsa rolled past Central Michigan 55-10 in the Miami Beach Bowl on Monday afternoon.

Evans completed 28 of 38 passes for the Golden Hurricane (10-3), who scored on their first nine possessions and finished with six wins in the season's final seven games.

D'Angelo Brewer rushed for 105 yards, and James Flanders ran for another 100 and a score for Tulsa. Josh Atkinson and Chris Minter also caught scoring passes for the Golden Hurricane, and Jesse Brubaker ran an interception 66 yards back for another touchdown.

Cooper Rush was 24 for 49 passing for 241 yards for Central Michigan (6-7), throwing three interceptions in his final game with the Chippewas. Jahray Hayes ran for Central Michigan's lone touchdown.

Evans took over the top spot on Tulsa's career lists for touchdown passes (84), 300-yard games (16) and total offense (11,752). He already was the school leader in completions, attempts and yards.

THE TAKEAWAY

Central Michigan: Rush finished with 12,894 yards -- 11 shy of matching Dan LeFevour's Mid-American Conference record of 12,905. His last attempt as time expired would have given him the record, but fell incomplete. ... The Chippewas finished with five losses in their final six games, and went 3-7 after a 3-0 start. ... This was the third straight bowl trip for Central Michigan, but the Chippewas went 0-3 in them. ... The 6-7 record this season is Central Michigan's worst since going 3-9 in 2011.

Tulsa: With the outcome long decided, Tulsa took a knee on fourth-and-goal from the 5 with 1:44 left. ... This wasn't even Tulsa's biggest bowl win. It topped Bowling Green 63-7 at the GMAC Bowl to close the 2007 season.

HURRICANE HISTORY, TULSA VARIETY

Atkinson's 40-yard catch in the second quarter pushed him over 1,000 for the season. That made Tulsa the first FBS school to ever feature a 3,000-yard passer (Evans), two 1,000-yard rushers (D'Angelo Brewer and James Flanders) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Lucas and Atkinson).

HURRICANE HISTORY, MIAMI VARIETY

Marlins Park is built basically on the same site as the famed Orange Bowl -- the home field for the Miami Hurricanes for many years -- stood before it was demolished. One of the replay officials Monday was Terry Porter, who threw the infamous late-arriving flag in the Fiesta Bowl that decided the 2002 national title. Porter made a still-debated call that extended the game in overtime, and Miami lost to Ohio State in double OT.

UP NEXT

Central Michigan: It's time to find Rush's replacement. The 2017 season starts Aug. 31 at home against Rhode Island.

Tulsa: Like the Chippewas, the Golden Hurricane also need a new quarterback. Next season starts Sept. 2 at Oklahoma State.

Saint Francis (IN): 2016 NAIA Football Champions



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – (Box Score) Three touchdown receptions by NAIA All-America wide receiver Seth Coate propelled No. 4 Saint Francis (Ind.) to the programs first-ever national title with a 38-17 victory over No. 2 Baker (Kan.) at the 2016 NAIA Football National Championship, presented by Waste Pro. The banner comes 25 years to the day since the Cougar’s Hall of Fame head coach Kevin Donley won his first career title while at Georgetown (Ky.).

“It’d been 25 years since I’ve won one, and I sure as heck don’t want to wait another 25,” said Donley. “The last couple weeks I’ve had people ask me what makes this team so special. It’s unique people that care about each other. They love each other, and they have a passion for the game. There was a tremendous commitment from these guys for the last 11 months to get to this point today.”

Saint Francis, which entered the night 0-3 all-time in the national final, is the fifth champion out of the list six seasons from the Mid-States Football Association. Saint Xavier (Ill.) (2011), Marian (Ind.) (2012, 2015) and Grand View (Iowa) (2013) were the others.

Coate ended the game with nine catches for 180 yards – the most since Marian’s Anthony Jones Jr. went for 234 receiving yards in the 2014 championship – and three touchdowns. With the three scores, the Fort Wayne, Ind., native set the NAIA’s single-season receiving touchdowns record (25). Coate was named the National Championship’s Outstanding Offensive Player of the Game.

Cougar quarterback Nick Ferrer, who threw for only 63 yards in the first half, ended the game with 245 passing yards and three touchdowns – the 10th time he’s thrown for three-or-more scores. He completed 18-of-30 throws and was not intercepted for the eighth-straight contest.

Saint Francis defensive lineman Lucas Sparks was named the Outstanding Defensive Player of the Game. He tallied six tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Sparks also forced and recovered a fumble.

Outside of the game’s opening drive, which resulted in a 25-yard Clarence Clark field goal, Saint Francis controlled the tempo during the game’s opening 30 minutes en route to a 17-3 lead at the break. The Cougars held an 18:46 to 11:14 advantage in time of possession, and a 206-132 lead in total yards in the first half.

Saint Francis lit the scoreboard on its first drive of the game, as quarterback Nick Ferrer ended a seven-play, 56-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown strike to Coate. The score extended Coate’s NAIA record consecutive touchdown streak to 27 games – a standard previously held by Greg Thomas of Clinch Valley (Va.) (23 consecutive).

The Cougars added to their lead late in the first quarter, 10-3, on a season-best 44-yard field goal by Ryan Nix.

The first half scoring ended with Saint Francis’ Justin Green scampering 39 yards to pay dirt to round out the opening stanza’s scoring.

Baker cut the deficit to 17-10 with 6:35 left in the third quarter when Logan Brettell linked up with a diving Damon Nolan for a 13-yard touchdowns strike.

However, Saint Francis responded with a pair of long touchdown passes from Ferrer to Coate on back-to-back possessions to seize complete control of the game, 31-10, with a little over 12 minutes remaining. The first score was a game-high 59-yard scoring strike, followed by a 36-yarder after a Baker punt.

The two teams traded touchdowns over the course of the final four minutes with Baker’s Cornell Brown bursting through the pile for a 1-yard score before P.J. Dean of Saint Francis scampered 28 yards to lead to the final tally.

As a team, Saint Francis recorded 443 total yards, while Baker registered 403 yards.

Brown was arguably the player of the game for Baker, as the junior ran for 103 yards and a touchdown, while also leading the receiving corps with 13 catches for 81 yards. With the performance, Brown ends the year with 1,418 rushing yards and 871 receiving yards. He also accounted for 31 touchdowns.

Brettell, who on Friday was announced as the NAIA’s National Player of the Year, ended the game with 263 yards passing, including the aforementioned touchdown.

With the loss, Baker falls to 14-1 on the season and 0-2 all-time in the national championship. The Wildcats, whose other title game appearance came in 1986, was the only remaining unbeaten team in NAIA football.

2016 NAIA Football National Championship Awards
Outstanding Offensive Player of the Game – Seth Coate, Saint Francis (Ind.) (WR)
Outstanding Defensive Player of the Game – Lucas Sparks, Saint Francis (Ind.) (DL)

Saint Francis (Ind.) Game Notes
• Saint Francis becomes the 48th different NAIA program in the 61-year history to win the national championship.
• The football national championship is the third in Saint Francis school history – the women’s basketball team (NAIA Division II) won the banner in 2014 and the men’s basketball team (NAIA Division II) earned the title in 2010.
• Saint Francis earns its first football national title and moves to 1-3 all-time in the winner-take-all battle. The Cougars competed three-straight years from 2004-06, but came out on the losing end during those years.
• Saint Francis boasts 16 all-time appearances in the FCS and a 27-15 overall record. The FCS win total ranks third all-time, trailing Carroll (Mont.) (42) and former member Westminster (Pa.) (31).
• With a touchdown on their opening drive tonight, the Cougars now have reached the end zone offensively in seven of 14 games this year on its first offensive possession.
• Seth Coate, after a five-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter, now has been on the receiving end of a score in 27-straight contests dating back to end of 2014 season. The mark is a NAIA record.
• Coate added a second receiving touchdown – a 59-yarder in the third quarter – to give him 24 touchdown receptions in 2016. That season total set a new NAIA record, breaking former Saint Francis’ wide receiver Jeremy Dutcher in 2000 – Dutcher went for 23 that season.
• Coate is the first player since 2014 to catch three touchdown receptions, after he found pay dirt from 36 yards out in the fourth quarter. He has now finished with three TDs in three of his four postseason games this year.
• Nick Ferrer went 18-for-30 passing tonight for 245 touchdowns and three touchdowns. He now stands with 51 total touchdowns on the year.
• Ryan Nix nailed a season-long 44-yard field goal in the first quarter. The length was the longest in a NAIA championship game since 2014.
• In the first half, the Cougar defense held Baker to 132 total yards of offense and three first-half points – Baker entered the game ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring (49.9) and No. 3 in total offense per game (546.1).
• Running back Justin Green eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in the first half with 104 yards. He posted his fourth-straight 100-yard contest as he went for just one 100-yarder in one of his first 10 games.
• Saint Francis head coach Kevin Donley is the NAIA active and all-time coaching wins leader with a 302-129-1 record. He is in his 38th year as a head coach and 18th as the leader of the Saint Francis football program.
• Championship Defensive MVP Lucas Sparks finished the campaign ranked in the top 10 in both total sacks (12.5) and tackles for loss (23.0). He posted 1.5 sacks and 2.5 TFLs tonight.

Baker (Kan.) Game Notes
• Logan Brettell completed his first six passes (6-7) of the opening drive to four different receivers, which cumulated in a field goal by Clarence Clark (26 yards).
• Baker was ranked 21st nationally in third-down conversion defense (33.9%). Tonight, Saint Francis went 7-for-16 (44 percent) on 3rd down conversions.
• Baker faced its largest first-quarter deficit of the season (seven points).
• Ranked seventh in the NAIA in sacks against (1.00) – allowed five in Championship game.
• As a team, posted only 132 total yards of offense at halftime and finished with 403 total yards (ranked third in nation with 546.1 ypg)
• Cornell Brown set a season high in receptions (13)… his previous high was 11 against Benedictine (Kan.) on Sept. 24, 2016.
• Cornell Brown notched his 24th rushing touchdown of the year after his one-yard plunge late in the fourth quarter.
• This marked only the second game all year Baker did not have an interception on defense… Eastern Oregon was the other game.
• This was Baker’s first loss of the season and worst loss since 2013.
• Cornell Brown finished the game with 13 receptions for 81 yards and 18 rushes for 103 yards and a touchdown.
• Logan Brettell went 34-for-50 for 263 yards and one touchdown passing. The one touchdown was a season low for Brettell.
• Was 6-for-20 (30 percent) on third downs in the game – was 41.3% on third downs on season.

General Game Notes
• The team to score first has won each of the past 10 championship tilts. The last team to counter that was former member Sioux Falls (S.D.) in 2006 when the Cougars came from behind to defeat Saint Francis, 23-19.
• Saint Francis earned the fifth title in the last six years for the Mid-States Football Association.
• The Cougars led 17-3 at halftime. Five of the last six champions held the lead after 30 minutes.
• Saint Francis sophomore Justin Green rushed for 140 yards on 24 carries, becoming the first player to rush for 100 yards in a championship game since D’Angelo Jordan in a losing effort for Cumberlands (Ky.) in 2013.
• The 44-yard field goal by Saint Francis’ Ryan Nix in the first quarter was just the fourth 40-plus yard field goal in a championship game since 1997.
• With 44 seconds left in the third quarter, Saint Francis’ Nick Ferrer found Seth Coate for a 59-yard touchdown pass for the longest play of the game. The two also connected for the longest pass play of the postseason with a 91-yard pass against Missouri Valley.
• Coate had three touchdown receptions for the third time this postseason. He is just the second player with three touchdown catches in a championship game. His 180 yards on nine catches are the second most in a championship game.
• Baker quarterback Logan Brettell completed 34 passes to six different receivers. With the loss, the NAIA Player of the Year is now 7-7 in the championship game since the award began in 1997.
• The top Wildcat target was Cornell Brown with 13 catches, marking the third straight championship with a receiver making 10 or more receptions. His 13 catches are also a personal season-high.

NAIA National Championship Quotes
Saint Francis (Ind.)
Head Coach Kevin Donley
On winning the championship…
“It’d been 25 years since I’ve won one, and I sure as heck don’t want to wait another 25. It’s a great feeling. The last couple weeks I’ve had people ask me what makes this team so special. It’s unique people that care about each other. They love each other, and they have a passion for the game. There was a tremendous commitment from these guys for the last 11 months to get to this point today.”

On the first half fumble that led to a touchdown…
“I knew when we got the running game going, and it wasn’t as consistent as we would have liked, but that run forced them to do some things on the back end to get another hat in the box to stop the run and we were able to get a couple big plays in the second half from that.”

On matching up on the line…
“We’re in the toughest league in the NAIA. You get through our conference schedule and you get to the postseason, you position yourself to host a round or two, and you feel like you have a pretty good chance. We played their rival in the first round and scored 79, which gave us confidence. We knew Baker was a better football team, but we had confidence. I don’t think anyone doubted we were going to win this game.”

Quarterback Nick Ferrer
On using the deep passing game…
“They started to play run support heavy. They had to make a decision with their safeties and their back end with our running game if they wanted to bring their safeties down or cut those corners for run support on the outside. Once we had a little success with the run game, we decided to go up top and play action them, and used our double moves, and really opened up the game for us.”

Wide Receiver Seth Coates
On the St. Francis defense…
“We went into the half, and (Baker) had three points. They’re supposed to be this big high-powered offense. As an offensive player, I don’t think we were performing to our standard, to what we expected. So, we were in their thanking the defense for their efforts and told them if they get a couple more stops, we promised we’d go score for them. When you have great team play like that, special teams that are solid play by play, it’s hard to lose.”

Lucas Sparks
On using the pass rush to slow down the Baker passing game…
“We knew that we were really good pass rushers all season long. Coming into this game, we had 40 sacks this year, and the school record is 46. That’s something we really prided ourselves on was our ability to rush the passer. Them not really playing anyone like us, we felt we had an advantage and executed our moves.”

Baker (Kan.)
Baker Head Coach Mike Grossner…
“The stat sheet looks fairly even, but as you watch that game, we didn’t make enough plays. You have to make plays in big games and you can’t give up the big play in crucial situations, which we did. I thought in the third quarter we came out and got back in the game quickly. We were down one score and didn’t convert on a drive, and they punched it and got up two scores.”

On the Saint Francis Defensive Front…
“I think their front three and four guys got after us. We knew coming in if we could give Logan (Brettell) time to throw the ball down the field, we would have had some good opportunities. Their defensive front dictated to us in the passing game what we were trying to do. We knew going in they were pretty talented up front and that’s where they won the game.”

On quarterback Logan Brettell…
“Fantastic year. He got every possible award on and off the field. You look at the sheet, we threw the ball 50 times, but only had 263 yards. That tells you a lot about where the ball was going. It was going short. That’s the key to the game that we couldn’t get the ball vertical more.”

Defensive Lineman Nick Becker…
On the defensive breakdowns in the back end…
“That’s what they do, that’s their game, that’s what we saw on film. Their running back (Justin Green) hesitates and waits for guys to open up. We prepared for that, we knew what to expect, but coverage sometimes was too wide.”

Running back Cornell Brown…
On leading his hometown team to the championship game…
“It’s awesome. The home town has been supporting me the whole time, which is a good feeling. We had a good season, and it’s good for us to have that respect and support.”

Southern Mississippi: 2016 New Orleans Bowl Champions



NEW ORLEANS -- Allenzae Staggers set New Orleans Bowl records with 11 catches for 230 yards and also scored a touchdown to help Southern Mississippi beat Louisiana-Lafayette 28-21 on Saturday night.

Nick Mullens, the Southern Miss all-time leader in yards passing and passing touchdowns, finished his distinguished career by throwing for 346 yards and two TDs.

One of Mullens' TD tosses was a 6-yarder to running back Ito Smith, who also rushed for 138 yards and two scores.

However, Mullens' turnovers helped the Ragin' Cajuns keep the game competitive despite the Golden Eagles (7-6) outgaining ULL (6-7) 481 yards to 252.

Mullens' second-quarter fumble and fourth-quarter interception both led to Cajuns touchdowns, the latter on a short run by ULL quarterback Anthony Jennings that trimmed Southern Miss' lead to 28-21 with 5:10 to go.

ULL got the ball back once more, starting on its own 18-yard line with 2:02 to go, but Jennings' overthrew a fourth-down pass as he rolled right.

Jennings scored twice on runs for the Ragin' Cajuns, who often struggled to move the ball through the air. A transfer who once started for LSU, Jennings completed 8 of 20 passes for 95 yards. He was intercepted once -- by Tarvarius Moore on the Southern Miss goal line -- and sacked six times, including three times by Ja'Boore Pool.

REGROUPING

The Cajuns' composure was tested early. Mullens completed his first three passes for 127 yards and a touchdown to Smith, who also rushed for the game's opening TD as the Golden Eagles took a 14-0 lead inside the first 8 minutes.

But ULL methodically pulled itself back into the game, starting when Jennings led a nine-play, 66-yard drive capped by his 4-yard TD to make it 14-7. In the second quarter, Tre'maine Lightfoot's sack and strip of Mullens was scooped and returned 15 yards by Otha Peters to the Southern Miss 29, setting up a tying 12-yard TD run by reserve QB Dion Ray, who periodically ran plays out of a "wildcat" formation.

TAKING THEIR TIME

As the first half ended, Mullens rushed the Southern Miss offense to the line of scrimmage to try to spike the ball and stop the clock so the Golden Eagles could try a 45-yard field goal. The clock read zero after his spike, but officials ordered 1 second put back on the clock. Louisiana-Lafayette then used both of its remaining timeouts in an effort to disrupt kicker Parker Shaunfield's rhythm. After the second timeout, officials decided to review the previous play and ruled that time had expired after all, ending the half in a 14-all tie.

UP NEXT


Southern Miss: The first order of business is to find a replacement for Mullens, who leaves the Golden Eagles as the program's career leader in yards passing (11,994) and TD passes (87). Complicating that transition at QB is the departure of three-year starting center Cameron Tom and starting guards Oliver Bates and Brandon Farmer.

Louisiana-Lafayette: The Cajuns are expected to apply to the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Jennings, but prospects for approval appear slim. The next QB could come from the junior college ranks. The offense also loses Elijah McGuire, who ranks second all-time in rushing for ULL, and top receiver Al Riles.

Arkansas State: 2016 Cure Bowl Champions



ORLANDO, Fla. -- Arkansas State senior wide receiver Kendall Sanders admits that he was pushed by his coaches and even teammates when he didn't want to be at times this season.

The Texas transfer came around as the Red Wolves' season progressed in his lone year with the program. Sanders finally put it all together in his final appearance Saturday night, catching five passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-13 rout of UCF in the AutoNation Cure Bowl.

It was almost like vindication for Sanders who missed two years of football after leaving the Longhorns under the controversy of a sexual assault case in which he was acquitted last year.

"I just had to continue to fight," said Sanders, who also took home the Cure Bowl MVP. "I just thank God for giving me another opportunity and I just tried to make the best of it."

Sanders speed opened up opportunities for big plays all night with quarterback Justice Hansen connecting with Sanders on touchdown passing plays of 12, 75 and 17 yards for a career night. His 75-yard touchdown reception on the third play of the second half set the tone for remainder of the game as the Red Wolves (8-5) went up by a commanding 24-10 just 51 seconds into the third quarter.

Sanders got by the safety, broke a tackle and outran the secondary to the end zone.

"Initially in my route I had to run a 20-yard route but I had just had the conversation with him (Hansen) and he was like just get past the safety," Sanders said. "So I kind of cut it short and tried to past the safety so he could see me and he hit me right in stride. From there I just used my God-given abilities."

It was a fitting ending to college career that was about perseverance.

"I really don't think he started out the season with too much confidence, he was rusty and had to get his feet underneath him," Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson said. "What you've seen him do the last five or six weeks he started playing better and better. That explosive play we had on the very first series of the second half, we desperately needed that to gain the momentum back."

The Red Wolves also received major contributions from their defense and special teams.

Arkansas State's defensive front, led by defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones, swarmed UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton all night, giving him little time to find open receivers. But the special teams unit also came through big, contributing two turnovers that led to touchdowns and also blocking a punt for a touchdown.

"When you look at a team that is as good (defensively) as Central Florida is you know special teams has to come up huge," said Anderson.

For first-year UCF coach Scott Frost the biggest takeaway was learning how much more his team has to grow to take the next step.

"We got to get a lot better," said Frost, who team finished the year 6-7. "I think our payers gave us absolutely all they had and I think this group got about everything they could out of themselves."

TAKEAWAY

UCF: Clearly, Frost wasn't comfortable letting Milton throw the ball down field and that hurt the offense. Jawon Hamilton found little running room with Arkansas State stacking the box and the short passing game to Tre'Quan Smith rarely produced the desired results in a disappointing showing in front of the Knights home crowd.


Arkansas State: While the special teams units made most of the highlight plays, the defense was dominant throughout. Defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones and linebacker Chris Odom kept the pressure on Milton and didn't give Hamilton any running lanes.

UP NEXT

UCF: The Knights could be a contender for the American Athletic Conference title next year but Milton has to take some big steps, especially with his mechanics. Too often he throws off his back foot which leaves passes well short of the receiver. Defensively Frost will have to find a way to replace his entire secondary.

Arkansas State: The Red Wolves lose quite a bit along the offensive line and on defense, but they have enough explosive players to run their string of postseason appearances to seven next season.

Appalachian State: 2016 Camellia Bowl Champions



MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Marcus Cox, Taylor Lamb and the Appalachian State kicker came through again in the Camellia Bowl.

Cox rushed for 143 yards and a touchdown, Lamb ran for 126 yards and Michael Rubino kicked the go-ahead 39-yard field goal to lift the Mountaineers to a 31-28 victory over Toledo on Saturday night.

"We're getting used to this Camellia Bowl trophy right here," said Satterfield, adding that it rode next to him on the return flight last year and probably would again.

"We have so much fight and so much integrity in our football team. They do things right on and off the field. You can't win close games like this if you don't do things right on and off the field."

The Mountaineers got a couple of fourth-quarter reprieves after failing on a fake field goal.

Cox became the ninth FBS player with four 1,000-yard seasons and the 22nd to top 5,000 in his career. Game MVP Lamb passed for 119 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score and some key third- and fourth-down conversions.

Kareem Hunt covered 42 yards on four straight rushes to propel Toledo (9-4) down the field after the field goal. Damion Jones-Moore was stopped on third down.

Toledo took a delay of game penalty to line up the potential tying kick. Jameson Vest pushed his 30-yard field goal attempt wide right with 1:48 remaining.

"If we had to go out and do it again, I'd kick the field goal again," first-year Rockets coach Jason Candle said. "I trust in our kicker and I trust in our protection. That was not the reason why we lost the game."

Each of the first three Camellia Bowls have gone down to the final minutes, decided by a combined 10 points.

Rubino, a freshman, opened the season with two missed field goals and a missed extra point attempt in an overtime loss to Tennessee. He finished in much better fashion.

"He's come a long way," Satterfield said.

The teams traded a pair of touchdowns each an 8-minute span of the third quarter, forging a deadlock heading into the fourth.

The Mountaineers converted two fourth-down plays to jump ahead the first time, including Lamb's 13-yard run off a play fake to Cox.

"All 11 guys on defense went to Marcus," Lamb said. "I just went around the edge and there was nobody in sight."

They also got a 94-yard kick return down the right sideline by freshman Darrynton Evans, who skipped away from the grasp of one final diving defender.

Toledo answered with Thompson's 4-yard touchdown catch and a 1-yard plunge by Hunt. Woodside set up the second touchdown with a 58-yard bomb to Thompson.

"This senior class had a storied career," Candle said. "Guys like (senior safety) DeJuan Rogers have no reason to hang their head."

On the Mountaineers' fake, holder Bentlee Critcher's pass to Collin Reed fell incomplete.

THE TAKEAWAY

Toledo: Logan Woodside completed 18 of 26 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns. He came in leading the nation with 42 TD passes. Hunt broke Chester

Taylor's school career rushing mark.


Appalachian State: Gained 297 rushing yards. Held Toledo, which came in averaging 529 yards, to 374 total yards

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Appalachian State reached 10 wins, at least making a case to finish in the rankings.

UP NEXT

Toledo loses five starters on each side of the ball, including Hunt. But the potent passing duo of Woodside and Thompson will both be seniors next season. Opens 2017 season at home against Elon Phoenix on Aug. 31.

Appalachian State must replace Cox, but gets back Lamb and has a number of underclassmen returning who are either starters or backups. Opens at Georgia on Sept. 2.

San Diego State: 2016 Las Vegas Bowl Champions



LAS VEGAS -- Donnel Pumphrey seemed nowhere near as excited about the chance to become the NCAA career rushing record as his San Diego State teammates during the week leading up to his final game.

Fittingly, when he broke the record on a 15-yard toss sweep to the right early in the fourth quarter, Pumphrey ended being pushed out of bounds on the sideline where he could be immediately swarmed by his friends and coaches.

Pumphrey passed former Wisconsin star Ron Dayne's mark of 6,397 yards and wrapped up his sensational career in his Nevada hometown with 6,405 yards, earning the game's most valuable player honors.

Pumphrey's senior total of 2,133 yards rushing ranks in the top 10 for an FBS player.

"It means the world to me," Pumphrey said on the field immediately after the game as his father wiped away tears before hugging him.

It means just as much to his teammates.

"It's emotional," running back Rashaad Penny said. "To watch that guy do what he do and accomplish so many goals, it's amazing."

"We're just as fired up as he is," linebacker Calvin Munson said. "All of our defensive guys hate him in practice because he is good and he gets us better. He couldn't have done it without the O-line, the fullbacks, the offense.

"I'm just trying to take some credit for you," Munson joked, with a smiling Pumphrey sitting next to him.

Head coach Rocky Long turned to Munson and responded: "You don't block anybody."

Ron Smith returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown, Curtis Anderson caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Christian Chapman, Juwan Washington ran for a touchdown, and John Baron kicked two field goals for the Aztecs (11-3). They overcame a 10-0 first-quarter deficit against the Cougars (9-4) to turn their second consecutive bowl win into a laugher.

Neither the victory nor Pumphrey's record-setting performance seemed likely after Houston's defense absolutely smothered the Aztecs in the first quarter. Led by freshman Ed Oliver, Houston had seven tackles for loss on San Diego State's first 16 plays. Pumphrey had minus-1 yard rushing on seven carries in the first quarter and the Aztecs didn't have a first down until the first play of the second quarter -- on a penalty for running into the kicker.

"The first quarter, they came out with more intensity than we did, at least their defensive side of the ball," Pumphrey said.

But Pumphrey started to gash Houston on the perimeter, giving San Diego State the lead for good on a 32-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, and the defense intercepted four of Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr.'s passes in the second half.

"When you are leaving your defense out there too long that's what happens," Houston coach Major Applewhite said. "When you give a great back that many at-bats and that many opportunities, one is going to hit at some point and it did."

Ward threw for 229 yards and had a 2-yard touchdown run, tying Bryce Beall's school record of 39 rushing touchdowns.

Houston finished with 254 yards of total offense and just 25 yards rushing.

"They beat the crap out of us," tight end Tyler McCloskey said. "We didn't show up. We didn't execute the way we needed to."

THE TAKEAWAY

San Diego State: The running game for the Aztecs was historic. Not only did Pumphrey set NCAA and school records, but Penny topped the 1,000-yard mark to give San Diego State the first college backfield with a 2,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season. Capping its most prolific rushing season ever, San Diego State had 127 yards on the ground against the nation's No. 3 run defense.

"We a run-first team," Penny said. "That's all we count on."

Houston: Oliver is the real deal, finishing his remarkable freshman season with 23 tackles for loss and five sacks after picking up 3.5 stops in the backfield in his first bowl game. With his knack for delivering in showcase games -- Oliver had 8 1/2 tackles for loss, four sacks and a forced fumble against Oklahoma, Louisville and San Diego State -- it wouldn't be a surprise if his second season ends with national awards.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Aztecs could find themselves ranked in the final poll for the first time since 1977. Houston's tumultuous season will end outside the Top 25.

HE SAID IT

"They don't get their per-diems unless they show up for curfew, so they were all there because they love money." -- Long on why his team obeyed curfew this week.


Houston wide receiver Chance Allen, who had a team-leading six touchdown receptions this season, did not play after breaking curfew Thursday night.

UP NEXT

San Diego State: The Aztecs must replace four starters on the offensive line, but should be contenders to defend their Mountain West title for a third consecutive season with a strong group of returning skill players.

Houston: After dropping his first game as head coach, Applewhite must build a staff. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando is set to join Tom Herman at Texas, and the American Athletic Conference is not lacking for offensive firepower.

New Mexico: 2016 New Mexico Bowl Champions



ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Coach Bob Davie waited a long time for this moment. It had been quite a while for his New Mexico Lobos, too.

Davie earned his first career bowl victory when the Lobos, boosted by a pair of short touchdown runs from Richard McQuarley, beat Texas-San Antonio 23-20 Saturday in the New Mexico Bowl.

Davie had been 0-4 in bowls -- three when he coached at Notre Dame, then last year with the Lobos in this event.

"There wasn't a whole of jumping up and down and whole lot of screaming and a whole lot of carrying on afterward in the locker room," Davie said.

"But after the season that we had, it's more feeling. You don't experience this a whole lot of times," he said.

The Lobos' previous postseason win came in the 2007 New Mexico Bowl over Nevada. Before that, it was a victory in the 1961 Aviation Bowl.

In his fifth season at New Mexico, Davie completed the turnaround of a program that won three total games in the three seasons before his arrival.

The Lobos lost last year's New Mexico Bowl to Arizona.

"These players, I've talked to them in depth about enjoying the moment and definitely this afternoon was a great moment that doesn't come along very often," Davie said.

"It's another building block," he said. "That's what a college program is. You keep taking steps and you keep building and building and building. ... So there is no question that winning the last game is big."

Jarveon Williams ran for 125 yards for the Roadrunners (6-7), who lost in their first bowl appearance in the program's six-year history.

Despite the hype around New Mexico's triple-option threat and the Lobos leading the nation in rushing, the Roadrunners ran for more yards than the Lobos.

"We didn't make enough plays today," Williams said after his eighth game of running for at least 100 yards.

New Mexico quarterback Lamar Jordan rushed for 81 yards and threw a 34-yard pass to Dameon Gamblin that set up McQuarley's 1-yard burst for a 23-13 lead with 2:22 left.

Dalton Sturm threw two TD passes for Texas-San Antonio, including a 4-yard toss to JaBryce Taylor with 25 seconds remaining. The Roadrunners failed to recover an onside kick.

Six Lobos combined for 219 yards rushing. New Mexico was able to keep UTSA's big-play receivers mostly in check amid windy conditions.

Although the wind may have played a factor in some passes, Roadrunners coach Frank Wilson said there were other passes receivers dropped that they normally catch.


"We finished second. Period," Wilson said. "The weather didn't determine the outcome of the game."

THE TURNING POINT

The Lobos' fourth-quarter drive to a touchdown took more than seven minutes off the clock in a game that saw few passes.

"We didn't have a lot of offense," Davie said. "But when we needed it there in the fourth quarter after UTSA scored to make it a 3-point game, we had enough offense."

UP NEXT

New Mexico: The Lobos will try to capture their first Mountain West championship next year. Davie said a bowl win was key for Lobos recruiting to the next level. The Lobos open next season against Abilene Christian.

UTSA: Athletic officials from UTSA say they came to win the New Mexico Bowl but felt the bowl appearance would help get on potential recruits' radars, especially in Texas where some powerhouses are currently struggling. The Roadrunners will open next season against Houston.

Grambling State: 2016 Celebration Bowl Champions



ATLANTA -- Grambling State seized the opportunity when North Carolina Central's Quentin Atkinson celebrated too much in the Celebration Bowl.

Grambling State blocked an extra-point kick set back 15 yards by Atkinson's excessive celebration with just over two minutes left, holding off North Carolina Central 10-9 on Saturday in the bowl that decides bragging rights for historically black colleges and universities.

Joseph McWilliams surged in and swatted Brandon McLaren's 35-yard try with 2:14 remaining to preserve the Tigers' edge.

Down 10-3, the Eagles had a chance to pull even after Atkinson shook loose and caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from scrambling Malcolm Bell. But Atkinson took off his helmet while reveling with the crowd, drawing a personal foul penalty.

"I kind of felt fault for that," Atkinson said. "I do want to apologize to my team for that because that was a selfish act. I'm not selfish, but it was the heat of the moment and I was excited to bring the team back with an outstanding play."

Bell called Atkinson's mistake "kind of a bonehead play" but said the team also was hurt by other mistakes in the game.

North Carolina Central coach Jerry Mack said the longer extra point still should have been made if not for a missed block on McWilliams.

Martez Carter's 32-yard touchdown run to open the second half gave Grambling State (11-1) its first lead. The Tigers earned the bowl bid by winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.

The Eagles (9-3) won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in Mack's third year.

Trailing 3-0 at halftime, Grambling State opened the third quarter with a run-first plan. Following five power runs by 240-pound running back Jestin Kelly, the 175-pound Carter looked extra-quick on his sharp cuts through the line on his touchdown run.

"Jestin Kelly, he's a ground-and-pound type guy," Carter said. "He wore those guys down. I'm just a home-run hitter, man. He wore them down and then they put me in. What else are you going to do? You take those blows from him and then try to take me."

Carter had 109 yards rushing, two catches for 23 yards and a combined 71 yards on four punt and kickoff returns. He was named offensive MVP. Kelly added 65 yards rushing.

The Tigers threw only one play-action pass for a short gain on the touchdown drive.

Grambling State's defense later set up more points. Arkez Cooper sacked Bell, forcing a fumble recovered by Malcolm Williams at the Eagles 25. The turnover set up a 26-yard field goal by Jonathan Wallace.

McLaren's 23-yard field goal provided the only points of the first half.

THE TAKEAWAY

Grambling State: The Tigers placed a cap on their continued strong progress made in three years under coach Broderick Fobbs, who won seven and nine games, respectively, in his first two years. Fobbs, who played for former coach Eddie Robinson, showed on the national stage the program has returned to prominence as a force among historically black colleges.

North Carolina Central: Despite being a two-touchdown underdog, the Eagles played even with Grambling State, posting a shutout in the first half.

QB NUMBERS

Bell completed 18 of 32 passes for 240 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He had several passes dropped, including a would-be touchdown catch by Atkinson in the first half. Devante Kincade completed 15 of 31 passes for 149 yards with an interception for Grambling State.

HERE TO STAY


Both coaches praised the second-year Celebration Bowl as the more attractive alternative to a possible spot in the FCS playoffs.

"It exceeded all expectations," Fobbs said. "This deal is here to stay."

Added Mack: "The way we've been treated ... I would rather come back to this game next year."

UP NEXT

Grambling State: The Tigers will return a good talent base, including Kincade, as they try to defend their SWAC championship. They'll need to replace six starters on offense and 10 overall. Key losses from the defense include noseguard Blain Winston and leading tacklers Guy Stallworth and Cooper.

North Carolina Central: The Eagles must replace nine senior starters, including six on offense, as they look to defend their MEAC championship. Freshman Naiil Ramadan was listed as the top backup to Bell at quarterback. The Eagles also lose four of their five starting offensive linemen, with only left tackle Nick Leverett returning. The Eagles have not released their 2017 schedule.

Northwest Missouri State: 2016 NCAA Division II Football Champions



The weather was frightful, but the outcome of the NCAA Division II football championship game was delightful for Northwest Missouri State.

The Bearcats outlasted North Alabama 29-3 in wintry conditions that included snow falling from the kickoff through the game’s conclusion.

The temperature was 13 degrees with a minus-4 wind chill when the game started and dropped from there.

The snow was a dusting at first but soon covered the field and fell at such a pace in the second half that workers at Children’s Mercy Park were constantly clearing the sidelines with leaf blowers and shovels. The yard lines were guesswork throughout the game.

For North Alabama quarterback Jacob Tucker, the problems started after a few plays in a series.

“I’d come from the sideline and my hands were warm and dry,” Tucker said. “But you’d get tackled and my hands would get wet and freeze. It’s something I hadn’t experienced before.”

Northwest Missouri State was in better shape to handle the conditions. The Bearcats are a power team; the Lions rely on speed and getting the edge. That wasn’t possible Saturday. Northwest Missouri outrushed North Alabama 226-22.

“I certainly do think it played into our favor,” Bearcats coach Adam Dorrel said. “We know if you want to win playoff games you have to be able to punt and kick into the wind, run the football, play action. We’ve tried to build our team around days like today.”

It took a while, and a change of offensive pace for Northwest Missouri to get rolling. Starting quarterback Kyle Zimmerman injured his right shoulder in last week’s semifinal victory over Ferris State and didn’t finish the game. The team didn’t know until Thursday that he would start.

He did, but the Bearcats benefited from Randy Schmidt, a wide receiver, lining up in the wildcat on its first touchdown.

Schmidt took the snap and went a couple of steps to his right before pitching the ball forward to Jordan Grove. The shovel pass covered 7 yards for the touchdown.

North Alabama had an earlier opportunity, but Northwest Missouri safety Jack Young intercepted a Tucker pass in the end zone.

“I didn’t make the best decision, and they took advantage of the bad decision,” Tucker said.

The Lions got on the board with their most impressive drive that started after the Bearcats’ first touchdown. North Alabama went 60 yards in less than a minute and booted a short field goal.

The teams traded turnovers to open the second half, and Northwest Missouri got the better of the deal.

Tucker was taken down by linebacker Jacob Vollstedt and lost the ball. Ben Spaeth was there for the recovery, and the Bearcats started on the North Alabama 40.

Zimmerman set up a touchdown with a 19-yard keeper. Running back Phil Jackson powered in from the 2 on the next snap.

The Bearcats had their insurance, and would add a safety, a Zimmerman touchdown pass to tight end Shane Williams and a short scoring run by Jackson to pad the advantage and turn things over to a defense that never let North Alabama have a chance.

The Lions finished with 201 total yards, and sacked Tucker four times, with 2  1/2 credited to Cass Weitl.

“We had a game plan to make (Tucker) spill out, and we executed the game plan really well,” Weitl said.

The ball was slippery for both teams but Northwest Missouri took advantage on special teams, putting constant pressure on North Alabama’s punting team. The Lions had a couple of costly bad snaps, and the Bearcats took advantage of field position.

It added up to the program’s sixth Division II championship. That breaks a tie with North Dakota State for the most in the classification.

It’s also the third championship for Dorrel, matching the total of legendary Northwest Missouri coach Mel Tjeerdsma.