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.