Saturday, December 23, 2017

Wyoming: 2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Champions



BOISE, Idaho -- When Wyoming junior quarterback Josh Allen stepped onto the stage to accept his MVP trophy following the Cowboys' 37-14 victory over Central Michigan on Friday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, it didn't take long for the chant to begin.

"Do it! Do it!" Wyoming players shouted in unison as snow began to fall on the field.

Surrounded by teammates and a throng of Wyoming fans, Allen couldn't resist the moment and hoisted the trophy over his head before declaring his intentions to skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

"I was hoping to spend at least a day or two thinking about it," Allen said, "but I think my teammates knew, and they were chanting for me to do it. This was the idea the whole time, to come back and trust what Coach (Craig) Bohl was doing and learn more on the offensive side of the football. It wasn't pre-planned before the season started, but we had a pretty good idea of what we were going to do."

Allen missed the final two regular-season games with a sprained right shoulder, resulting in a pair of close losses. In warmups, he looked anxious to return to the field and didn't disappoint the Wyoming contingent on hand for his final collegiate game.

"Sitting out for those two games killed me inside," Allen said. "I wanted to be back on the field with my teammates and brothers."

Allen completed 11 of 19 passed for 154 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. He didn't have to do much thanks to Wyoming's suffocating defense. But when the Cowboys needed Allen, he produced.

Allen's first touchdown pass to open the scoring was a 23-yard bullet to Jared Scott. But the potential top 10 draft pick showed off the arm strength and accuracy that has scouts drooling with a 45-yard strike that hit C.J. Johnson in stride in the end zone.

"In today's world where players are making all kinds of decisions about bowl games, Josh chose to play and I applaud him for that," Bohl said before lobbying for Allen to be drafted. "If there's any NFL team looking for a player out there, you're never going to find a bigger competitor and a better leader than him."

However, Allen's performance didn't have to be all that impressive thanks to a defense that forced eight turnovers.

Central Michigan (8-5) had won five straight. The eight turnovers broke the previous Famous Idaho Potato Bowl record of six.

"I don't feel that today's performance was indicative of the type of team we have," Central Michigan coach John Bonamego said. "The storyline obviously is eight turnovers. You're not going to win many football games against any decent opponent turning it over that many times."

Wyoming entered the game first in the nation in turnover margin, but second in forced turnovers with 30 behind Central Michigan, which had 31. But with an 8-0 advantage, Wyoming will likely finish at the top of both rankings after the bowl season concludes.

Wyoming took a 21-7 lead in the first quarter.

Wyoming's offense struggled in the red zone after the first quarter, settling for three field goals in three trips.

Central Michigan struggled everywhere on the field, watching promising drives end on turnovers or other drives stunted due to Wyoming's relentless pass rush. The Cowboys had a season-high five sacks.

Late in the third quarter, Central Michigan found a spark and cut the deficit to 30-14. The Chippewas strung together a seven-play, 65-yard drive that ended on a 3-yard run by Jonathan Ward.

But Central Michigan failed to build on that momentum, losing it all on a scoop and score. After a strip sack by Youhanna Ghaifan, Wyoming defensive end Carl Granderson took the fumble and rumbled 58 yards for the touchdowns.

"This defense is special," Ghaifan said. "We all do our jobs and do it exceptionally well. ... We got eight turnovers today-that's not too shabby."

THE TAKEAWAY

Wyoming: Finding a replacement for Allen will be a high priority for a Cowboys team that is losing only three starters on offense and three on defense. Wyoming returns leading rusher Trey Woods and a stout defense that should give the Cowboys a strong chance to contend for the Mountain West Conference title.


Central Michigan: The Chippewas face a rebuilding season next year in the MAC as they lose seven starters on offense and five on defense. The offense is a mix of good and bad. The bad? They lose starting quarterback Shane Morris along with his top two receivers, Mark Chapman and Corey Willis. However, the top three rushers-Jonathan Ward, Kumehnnu Gwilly, and Romello Ross-all return.

HONORING ENBERG

Central Michigan honored alum Dick Enberg a day after the sportscasting great died at age 82.

The team wore helmet stickers with Enberg's "Oh My!" signature call, while coaches wrote the phrase on the back of their caps.

Enberg graduated from Central Michigan in 1957 and played baseball for the Chippewas.

UP NEXT

Central Michigan will open the 2018 season on Sept. 1 at Kentucky.

Wyoming will face New Mexico State on Aug. 25.

Ohio: 2017 Bahamas Bowl Champions



NASSAU, Bahamas -- Ohio coach Frank Solich knew his Bobcats were better than their record showed. You'll get no argument from UAB.

Dorian Brown rushed for 152 yards on just 12 carries and scored four touchdowns, Nathan Rourke threw for two scores and Ohio beat UAB 41-6 in the Bahamas Bowl on Friday.

It was a stirring comeback for the Bobcats, who lost their last two games of the regular season to miss a shot at the Mid-American Conference title.

"I feel like eight wins were not enough with this football team, so this ninth win puts a little icing on the cake," Solich said.

Ohio (9-4) averaged 38.9 points per game during the season, setting a school record with 467 points scored, and the Bobcats exhibited that prowess in the opening half of this one, using big plays to build an insurmountable 27-3 halftime lead.

Brown, a redshirt senior, scored on runs of 74, 9, 25 and 14 yards, two in the second quarter and two in the third as he carried the load for injured A.J. Ouellette.

"It was very important (to go out on a high note)," Brown said. "I had to step up and take my role."

Brown's heroics were too much for the Blazers, a feel-good team seeking its first bowl victory on just its second try. The loss spoiled the end of a remarkable first season back for UAB (8-5), which was predicted to struggle and didn't.

UAB President Ray Watts had cut the football program in December 2014 because a university report deemed it too expensive. After public outcry, football was reinstated, but NCAA rules required the school to skip the 2016 season to help the players who stuck it out re-adjust to competing at the top level of college football.

The Blazers, under Conference USA Coach of the Year Bill Clark, responded by winning a school-record eight games and finished second in the conference's West Division. They won six of their final eight games.

On this day, though, they ran out of miracles.

"It's hurts a lot -- to not go out with a victory," senior linebacker Tevin Crews said. "I'm just blessed to be part of a great team with a great coach and a great role model. This is a starting point -- our first season back."

"It's tough," Clark added. "This game is not for the timid or the weak. When it's really important to you, it's going to hurt if it doesn't go the way you want it to."

The high-scoring Bobcats have a veteran offensive line with more than 100 starts and they repeatedly took advantage of that experience. Rourke had plenty of time to throw, and when the Bobcats decided to run, holes were there. They finished with a 249-99 edge on the ground.

"They're a very experienced bunch and they wanted this a whole bunch," said Rourke, who finished 12 of 18 for 185 yards passing and rushed for 30 yards. "When we get the running game going on and I have all day to throw, that makes my job really easy, and that's when you see our offense start to click."

Ohio raced to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, pretty much sticking to the ground until the end of an 11-play drive. After the Blazers were called for two penalties in the red zone, Rourke hit DL Knock for a 19-yard touchdown midway through the period.

Rourke then stunned the Blazers with a bomb. After a nifty 23-yard punt return by the elusive Papi White, Rourke took advantage of UAB's preoccupation with the run game and hit White on a play-action pass for a 56-yard touchdown and a 13-0 lead. Brown's 74-yard run early in the second boosted the lead to 20-0.

When UAB finally mounted a promising drive, the Blazers had to settle for Nick Vogel's 34-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.

Spencer Brown, who broke the UAB school record for freshman rushing yards with 1,329, finished with 37 yards on 13 carries.

THE TAKEAWAY

UAB: The Blazers demonstrated this season that they belong at college football's top level. If the community support that helped resurrect the program continues, the Blazers have a coach in Clark, an Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year finalist, who can take them to the postseason on a regular basis.


Ohio: The Bobcats have a budding star in Rourke, who next season has a chance to lead them to their first MAC title since the late 1960s. A native of Ontario, Canada, the sophomore set single-season records at Ohio with 21 rushing touchdowns, 22 touchdowns scored and 132 points scored.

NOT NEEDED

Ouellette led Ohio with 980 yards rushing during the season, but he re-injured his left arm early in the third quarter and left the game with 26 yards to become Ohio's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2012.

UP NEXT

UAB: Its 2018 schedule has not been finalized, but the Blazers are expected to open next season against Savannah State.

Ohio: The Bobcats open the 2018 season at home against Howard on Sept. 1.