Monday, January 02, 2017

Oklahoma: 2017 Sugar Bowl Champions



NEW ORLEANS -- Baker Mayfield passed for 296 yards and two touchdowns, including one scoring pass to fellow Heisman Trophy finalist Dede Westbrook, and seventh-ranked Oklahoma ended its season on a 10-game winning streak, defeating No. 17 Auburn 35-19 in the Sugar Bowl on Monday night.

Sooners running back Joe Mixon heard repeated boos from Auburn fans who also shouted derisive comments regarding a recently publicized video of Mixon punching a woman in the face in 2014. Mixon, who has apologized for the assault, also drew cheers from crimson-clad Oklahoma fans with his play. His two short touchdown runs were among the highlights of a performance in which he gained 180 yards from scrimmage -- 91 rushing on 19 carries and 89 receiving on five catches.

Auburn (8-5), which wound up in the Sugar Bowl despite dropping its last two Southeastern Conference games to Georgia and Alabama, entered the game hopeful that it would be buoyed by the return of quarterback Sean White, who'd missed the Tigers' final two games with a throwing shoulder injury. White led Auburn to a touchdown on its first series -- Chandler Cox's 3-yard run on fourth down -- but the quarterback left the game for good in the first half with a right arm injury.

With John Franklin and Jeremy Johnson taking the remainder of the snaps, the Tigers' offense was less consistent, increasing pressure on Auburn's 20th-ranked defense to keep the Sooners' fast-paced, high-powered attack in check.

That was bound to be a struggle.

Mixon broke loose for a 35-yard run in the third quarter that set up his second TD, which he scored from 4 yards out by diving for the pylon. Early in the fourth quarter, Samaje Perine took a direct snap for a 2-yard TD that made it 35-13.

With the Sooners (11-2) pulling away for their second Sugar Bowl triumph in four years, Auburn fans started filing out.

RUSHING RECORD

With back-to-back fourth-quarter runs of 16 and 15 yards, Perine reached the 83-yard mark, giving him the Oklahoma record for career yards rushing with 4,119. He added 3 more yards afterward to reach 4,122. The previous record of 4,118 was set by Billy Sims back in 1979. When Perine set the mark, Mixon quickly trotted toward him for a congratulatory embrace on the field.

THE TAKEAWAY

Auburn: The Tigers had the talent to beat some good teams, but a lack of depth hurt them against elite competition. Oklahoma, winner of the Big 12, was the third conference champ Auburn faced this season, along with Clemson of the ACC and Alabama of the SEC. The Tigers lost all three.


Oklahoma: The Sooners continued to make a case that they've been playing well enough at the end of the season to be worthy of a College Football Playoff bid, which only makes their early season stumbles, including a lopsided loss to Ohio State, seem all the more costly.

UP NEXT

Auburn: The Tigers head into next season with some questions at quarterback. White hoped to solidify his position as starter, but his injury could affect his spring. Meanwhile, Jarrett Stidham, a transfer from Baylor, eagerly awaits his chance to compete for first-team snaps.

Oklahoma: Mayfield is coming back after throwing for 3,965 yards this season, but the Sooners will be looking for a new starter at receiver as Westbrook, a senior, departs. Oklahoma also could lose both Mixon, a red-shirt sophomore, and Perine, a junior, to the NFL draft.

Southern California: 2017 Rose Bowl Champions



PASADENA, Calif. -- After 98 combined points and 1,040 yards of spectacular offensive play, the highest-scoring Rose Bowl in history rested on the left foot of a Southern California kicker who had already missed two field goals.

Matt Boermeester somehow blocked out the cacophonous tension in the chilly air. He focused only on securing a perfect ending to an epic evening.

"Game was on the line, but you've got to keep true to your technique and trust it," Boermeester said.

His technique was sound. His kick was true. And the Trojans got their storybook finish in Pasadena.

Boermeester hit a 46-yard field goal as time expired , and No. 9 USC rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 52-49 victory over No. 5 Penn State on Monday night in the 103rd edition of the Granddaddy of Them All.

Freshman Sam Darnold passed for 453 yards and five touchdowns while leading a stirring comeback by the Trojans (10-3), who won their ninth consecutive game and triumphed in their first Rose Bowl since 2009. USC trailed 49-35 with nine minutes to play, but persevered to win one of the greatest Rose Bowls ever played.

"It was just two really good football teams playing at the highest level and competing until the absolute, very end," USC coach Clay Helton said. "The greatest players shined brightest on the biggest stage. It's what fairy tales are made of."

Deontay Burnett, who had three TD receptions, caught a tying 27-yard scoring pass from Darnold with 1:20 left to cap an 80-yard drive in 38 seconds with no timeouts available.

Leon McQuay III then intercepted an ill-advised long pass by Trace McSorley and returned it 32 yards to the Penn State 33 with 27 seconds left. In an instant, the Trojans went from preparing for overtime to having a chance to win.

"I didn't know whether to block or celebrate" after McQuay's interception, USC defensive lineman Stevie Tu'ikolovatu said. "I kind of did both."

The Trojans set up Boermeester, and the junior confidently drilled the Rose Bowl winner , sprinting away as it went through the south uprights and set off pandemonium on the hallowed field.

"It's beautiful," McQuay said. "This is a special group of guys. Oh man, this is the time to step up. This is the time to make plays."

McSorley passed for 254 yards and threw two of his four touchdown passes to Chris Godwin for the Nittany Lions (11-3), whose nine-game winning streak ended in heartbreaking fashion.

Saquon Barkley rushed for 194 yards and two TDs as the Nittany Lions (12-2) followed up their 21-point comeback in the Big Ten title game with another ferocious rally, only to watch the Trojans rally back.

"That game doesn't really define us," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "I wouldn't be any more proud tonight sitting here with a win ... after what might have been the most exciting Rose Bowl game ever."

With one jaw-dropping play after another from two talent-laden offenses, the teams obliterated the combined Rose Bowl scoring record in the third quarter, surpassing Oregon's 45-38 victory over Wisconsin in the 2012 game.

BIG 3

The Nittany Lions' offensive stars put together a highlight reel for the ages during a 28-point third quarter. After trailing 27-21 at the break, Penn State scored three touchdowns on its first three snaps of the second half: a stunning 72-yard run by Barkley, a bobbled 79-yard catch by Godwin and a 3-yard TD run by McSorley after an interception return.

BAD THROW

McSorley went 18 for 29, throwing interceptions on his first pass and his last pass. He was left lamenting that final throw in an aggressive attempt to win. "I tried too much to force it to Chris (Godwin)," McSorley said. "He had been making plays for us all game long, so that was the guy in my mind. ... To come back, to climb back like we did and not finish, it hurts."

THE TAKEAWAY


Penn State: The Nittany Lions' magical season culminated in an extraordinary heartbreaker, but this collapse won't hurt their prospects for 2017 and beyond. Penn State is firmly back on the national stage, and a wealth of talent will return to defend the Big Ten title.

USC: Darnold made sure the defense's struggles didn't matter in a legacy-defining performance. He'll be back next year as an immediate Heisman Trophy candidate, although he'll have a new offensive line.

UP NEXT

Although both teams will have gaps to fill from departing stars, Penn State and USC should both be among the top preseason candidates to get to the College Football Playoff next season. After this postseason showcase for recruits and fans, the future is bright for two proud programs firmly restored to their former glory.

Wisconsin: 2017 Cotton Bowl Champions



ARLINGTON, Texas -- Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli made a leaping 8-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter and the Badgers won 24-16 in the Cotton Bowl on Monday to deny Western Michigan an undefeated season.

The TD catch by Fumagalli with 14 minutes left, in the back of the end zone between two defenders, came three plays after a rare interception thrown by Zach Terrell and made it 24-10.

With their "Row The Boat" mentality inspired by young head coach P.J. Fleck, the 12th-ranked Broncos (13-1) made it from one win during his first season in Kalamazoo three years ago to the last FBS team other than No. 1 Alabama this season with a chance to be undefeated.

"Told them I was very proud of them, how much I love them, and the effort they gave," Fleck said about what he told his team on the sideline just before the end of the game. "We will continue to learn from this. We will embrace our past to create our future, and it just wasn't enough tonight."

Eighth-ranked Wisconsin (11-3), which finished with 11 wins for the fourth time in seven seasons, was clearly bigger and stronger -- especially up front. The Big Ten runner-up Badgers set the tone early, with rushing touchdowns on their first two drives to take a 14-0 lead against the Group of Five team.

Fumagalli had several other highlight catches, including a one-handed 20-yard grab on the Badgers' opening drive, and a 26-yard catch to convert third-and-8 as they ran out the final 3:27 after Western Michigan scored.

Terrell combined with All-America receiver Corey Davis for 51 career touchdowns, tying the FBS record on an 11-yarder on fourth down with 3:27 left. Even with cornerback Sojourn Shelton's arms wrapped around him in the back of the end zone, Davis broke free to make the catch.

"It doesn't matter if the defender is grabbing you or whatever it is. Go make a play on the ball if it's in the air, and go attack it," said Davis, the FBS career leader in receiving yards and likely first-round NFL draft pick in April. "My four years at Western have been phenomenal. We've been through so much and I've learned so many lessons on the field, and off the field."

Terrell had 33 touchdowns and only four interceptions this season, the last pick by Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards.

"It kind of left a bad taste in our mouth after the Big Ten championship game," Edwards said. "We just wanted to get back out there and prove ourselves again."

TAKEAWAY

Western Michigan: The Broncos never backed down and Fleck has set a solid foundation for them to keep rowing forward, even with the loss of guys like Davis and Terrell, who were part of that one-win season in 2013. Western Michigan had only 280 total yards, 217 below its season average.


Wisconsin: The only losses this season for the Badgers were to Big Ten foes Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, the last in the Big Ten title game. They all also played in New Year's Six games. Freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who started nine games before a concussion forced him to miss the Big Ten championship game, was 2-of-2 passing. He threw the TD pass to Fumagalli, who finished with six catches for 83 yards.

UP NEXT

Western Michigan knows it has to continue play Power Five teams to have chances for more New Year's Six games, and maybe eventually a playoff appearance. The Broncos open next season Sept. 2 at USC, a week before they play Michigan State, another Big Ten opponent.

Wisconsin always gets a chance to prove itself in the Big Ten. So the Badgers can ease into its season, and will Sept. 1 at home against Utah State.

Florida: 2017 Outback Bowl Champions



TAMPA, Fla. -- Austin Appleby threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns, helping No. 20 Florida end a two-game losing streak with a 30-3 rout of No. 21 Iowa in the Outback Bowl on Monday.

Mark Thompson scored on an 85-yard pass play in the first half and Appleby, a graduate transfer who spent the past four seasons at Purdue, tossed a 6-yard TD pass to DeAndre Goolsby to break the game open late in the third quarter. Chauncey Gardner, Jr., returned the first of his two fourth-quarter interceptions 58 yards for a 24-3 lead.

Florida (9-4) rebounded from lopsided losses to archrival Florida State and No. 1 Alabama, scoring more points on Iowa (8-5) than the Hawkeyes allowed to Michigan, Illinois and Nebraska combined while ending the regular season on a three-game winning streak.

Iowa's C.J. Beathard led an early field goal drive, and managed to get his team close to the end zone on two other occasions. Florida's defense stiffened both times, stopping the Hawkeyes on downs at the Gator 3 in the second quarter and forcing them to settle for a 30-yard field goal that sailed wide right midway through the third quarter.

Appleby, who actually began his career at Purdue against Iowa, shrugged off throwing interceptions on Florida's first two drives of the day to finish 14 of 25 passing.

Akrum Wadley ran for 115 yards, giving Iowa a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in the same season for the first time. The junior finished with 1,081, and LeShun Daniels wound up with 1,058 after gaining 45 Monday.

THE TAKEAWAY

Florida: The Gators could be looking at having to replace at least three stalwarts on defense -- tackle Caleb Brantley and cornerbacks Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson -- who are expected to leave school early to enter the NFL draft. Linebacker Alex Anzalone and defensive back Duke Dawson also are considering turning pro.

Iowa: Like Florida's Tabor and Wilson, cornerback Desmond King is a likely high NFL draft pick. He won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back as a junior and was just as good this year, though opponents' reluctance to throw his way -- three interceptions this season vs. eight in 2015 -- may have hurt his chances to win the award again as a senior. The Hawkeyes will also lose quarterback C.J. Beathard, who finished his career 21-7 as a starter.

TURNING POINT


Beathard directed the best drive of the game by either team, moving Iowa from its own 36 to inside the Florida 10 with help from runs of 27 yards by Akrum Wadley and 11 yards by LeShun Daniels, plus an 18-yard pass to tight end George Kittle on third-and-14 from the Gators 28. Three plays later, Beathard dropped back to throw before scrambling for a 6-yard gain near the goal line. The Hawkeyes thought he scored, but officials ruled him down at the 1. Daniels was dropped for a 2-yard loss on fourth down. Florida snapped the 3-3 tie less than six minutes later, when Thompson scored on the longest reception and TD in Outback Bowl history.

UP NEXT

Florida: Opens next season Sept. 2 against Michigan in Arlington, Texas.

Iowa: Wyoming visits Iowa City for season opener on Sept. 2.