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.