Friday, December 29, 2017

Wake Forest: 2017 Belk Bowl Champions



CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- John Wolford threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns, and Matt Colburn ran for 150 yards and the go-ahead score in Wake Forest's 55-52 victory over Texas A&M on Friday in the Belk Bowl.

The teams combined for 1,260 yards and 107 points, making it one of the highest-scoring games in bowl history.

Wolford, a four-year starter and the game's Most Valuable Player, threw all four TD passes in the first half for Wake Forest (8-5). Colburn had a 1-yard touchdown with 2:18 left in the game to give the Demon Deacons the lead.

Wake Forest stopped the Aggies on downs on their final drive to seal the win, which was no easy task given Texas A&M's potent offense. Texas A&M's Nick Starkel threw for a Belk Bowl-record 499 yards and four touchdowns -- three of those to wide receiver Christian Kirk, who caught 13 passes for 189 yards.

Scotty Washington had nine catches for 138 yards and a touchdown for the Demon Deacons, while tight end Cam Serigne had nine catches for 112 yards and a score. Tabari Hines had eight receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns.

Wake Forest spotted Texas A&M (7-6) a 14-point first quarter lead following a pair of special teams miscues, but rattled off 31 straight points in a span of 11 minutes, 16 seconds to take a 31-14 lead.

But Texas A&M battled back to take the lead late in the third quarter.

The Aggies turned two blocked punts in the game's first five minutes into a 14-0 lead.

DeShawn Capers-Smith smothered Wake Forest's first punt attempt and Charles Oliver recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. On Wake Forest's next possession, Roshauud Paul partially blocked a punt that advanced just 19 yards. Starkel then completed a 42-yard strike to Kirk to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Trayveon Williams.

But Wake Forest bounced right back as Wolford completed TD passes of 50 yards to an open Washington along the left sideline and 7-yarder to Harris on a slant route to tie the game midway through the first quarter. The second score came after Texas A&M ran into the kicker on a missed field goal attempt, giving the Demon Deacons an automatic first down.

TAKEAWAYS:


Texas A&M: You would have to think Kirk will think strongly about heading to the NFL after a terrific bowl game. It's hard to believe he could do much more to impress the NFL scouts after an unbelievable performance.

Wake Forest: The most difficult task next offseason will be replacing Wolford, a four-year starter and the clearly the leader of the team.

UP NEXT

Texas A&M: The Jimbo Fisher officially begins as the Aggies usher in a new era after six seasons under Kevin Sumlin.

Wake Forest: The future is looking bright for the Demon Deacons after their second bowl win in as many years under coach Dave Clawson.

Michigan State: 2017 Holiday Bowl Champions



SAN DIEGO -- Michigan State put a nice, big exclamation mark on its turnaround season.

Brian Lewerke threw for 213 yards and three touchdowns, and LJ Scott ran for 110 yards and two scores for No. 18 Michigan State, which took advantage of Luke Falk's absence to rout No. 21 Washington State 42-17 in the Holiday Bowl on Thursday night.

Lewerke also rushed for 73 yards for Michigan State (10-3), which rebounded from a dismal 3-9 record last year to reach double digits in wins for the eighth time in program history.

"We were ready to play. We were fresh," said Mark Dantonio, who earned his 100th victory in 11 seasons as Spartans coach. "It wasn't good enough to win nine games. We needed to win 10. We needed to have a great bowl game. This was a national stage. Holiday Bowl is an outstanding bowl. It's catapulted us up the rankings at least a little bit further.

"We reaffirmed our stature a little bit in college football. This has been a good football team and should continue to be a good football team."

Falk, who was photographed earlier in the week with a cast on his left wrist, went through warmups but came out in street clothes at game time. He was replaced by redshirt sophomore Tyler Hilinksi, who made his first start and eighth appearance of the season. It's unclear precisely when Falk injured the wrist on his non-throwing hand, but he had issues with it throughout the season.

Coach Mike Leach refused to give specifics during the week and was condescending afterward when asked about Falk's injury.

"Luke is doing exactly what we want Luke to do and Luke has had a fine career here and also done a great deal for this program, probably more than most people will ever realize," Leach said. "Tyler was the ideal guy to start with our lineup today."

Pressed on Falk's injury, Leach said: "You will remain unclear on it. Next question."

Hilinski led WSU (9-4) to a 45-yard field goal by Erik Powell on the Cougars' second drive, but the Cougars were overpowered by the Spartans.

Lewerke threw the first of two TD passes to Cody White, a 7-yarder midway through the second quarter, when he was flushed to the left but found the receiver in the back of the end zone.

On MSU's next possession, Lewerke took the snap and glanced at his running back, which froze the secondary and allowed Felton Davis III to get wide open for a 49-yard scoring pass.

"The quick answer is our eyes weren't in the right place," Leach said. "But the answer is we didn't do our job. I did think we unraveled a little bit after that play."

Scott scored on a 3-yard run to give the Spartans a 21-3 halftime time.

Early in the third, Lewerke rolled left and had his pass tipped, but a sliding White caught it for a 7-yard touchdown.

Lewerke, who finished 13 of 21, was hit hard on a keeper in the third quarter and came out for a few plays. His backup, Damion Terry, scored on a 6-yard keeper to make it 35-3.

The Cougars closed the gap when Hilinski threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Tay Martin late in the third quarter and a 15-yarder to Tay in the fourth quarter.

Scott scored on a 28-yard burst up the middle with about six minutes left to play.

Hilinski was 39 of 50 for 272 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.

QUOTABLE

Lewerke said he was "very careful" on his long throw to Davis. "I saw how wide open he was and I tried to throw it right at him and make sure."

THE TAKEAWAY

Washington State: It was the second straight lackluster Holiday Bowl for Leach's Cougars, who lost 17-12 to Minnesota last year. Besides being without Falk, leading receiver Tavares Martin Jr. was kicked off the team after the regular season and third-leading receiver Isaiah Johnson-Mack left the squad. The Cougars, who started 6-0, were routed in their final two games, including a 41-14 loss to rival Washington.

Michigan State: Scott had his third 100-yard game of the season and ninth of his career. Felton had four catches for 118 yards.

UP NEXT


Washington State: Falk will move on to the NFL Draft while Hilinski will take over the Air Raid offense. It was Hilinski who led the Cougars to a comeback victory against Boise State in triple overtime on Sept. 9 after Falk was knocked out of the game.

Michigan State: The young Spartans appear to be in good hands with Lewerke, who was just a redshirt sophomore this season. "We can build off the momentum this game brings us," he said. "We've got a lot of young guys, still a lot of work to be done, a lot of potential to be reached. It's very big for us."

TCU: 2017 Alamo Bowl Champions



SAN ANTONIO -- There is something about TCU and big comebacks in the Alamo Bowl. Never count out the Horned Frogs.

In 2015, they stormed back from down 31-0 to win. They did it again Thursday night, rallying from 21-3 down to beat No. 15 Stanford 39-37 behind Kenny Hill, who passed for two touchdowns, ran for another, and even caught one. Cole Bunce kicked the winning 33-yard field goal with just over 3 minutes left after Stanford had retaken the lead.

"The bottom line is we need to start faster," TCU coach Gary Patterson joked after the game. "We fought back tonight."

Hill landed the biggest punches. He scored the Horned Frogs' first touchdown on a 6-yard scramble. His 27-yard TD catch on a throw from receiver Desmon White capped No. 13 TCU's first drive of the second half.

And Hill's 93-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Reagor in the fourth quarter sent a charge through an Alamodome crowd that was dominated by TCU fans.

It was the second time this season Hill had a rushing, passing and receiving touchdown, providing a memorable finale to his college career. Hill began his career at Texas A&M, where he succeeded Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel in 2014, but transferred to TCU (11-3) after a rocky first season with the Aggies.

"To come back to win (tonight) with this group of guys who accepted me from the minute I came in, means everything to me," said Hill, who had 314 yards passing and a team-high 60 yard rushing.

Bryce Love, a Heisman Trophy finalist, rushed for 145 yards for Stanford (9-5), including a 69-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. K.J. Costello threw three touchdown passes to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, the last one giving Stanford a 37-36 lead.

Hill completed three passes on TCU's winning drive. The Horned Frogs sealed the victory with an interception by Innis Gaines with 2:01 left.

Love finished with the season with 2,118 yards rushing, setting a Stanford single-season record.

THE TAKEAWAY

TCU: The Horned Frogs defended Love about as well as anyone this season despite the long touchdown run. Most important, they didn't let him take over in the second half, which let Hill and the offense rally. When the Stanford running game wasn't working, the TCU defense could get after Costello, who struggled under pressure after his quick start.

Stanford: The Cardinal were doomed by the big play just when they had a chance to put the game away. After pinning TCU deep, Hill found Reagor for the long TD pass early in the fourth quarter. White, who earlier had a costly fumble, then gave TCU its first lead with a punt return touchdown.

"He outkicked his coverage. I saw green and took off running," White said.

"We really want a lot of those plays back. Those long drives and a couple big plays, they caught back up really quick," Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips said.

ON TO NEXT YEAR

TCU: Coach Gary Patterson has his program humming with 40 wins over the last four seasons, and the Horned Frogs expect to remain Big 12 title contenders even as Hill moves on after his final game. The Horned Frogs will have to find a new quarterback, but Patterson's teams always play some of the best defense in the league.


Stanford: Love will have to decide his future and whether that will mean another year of school for the biology major and aspiring pediatrician with an interest in stem cell research, or a jump to the NFL. The trend has seen top players leave early, but Love already bucked the latest fad by choosing to play in his team's bowl game as he ponders his decision.

Coach David Shaw said this week he hopes Love will return next season. If he does, pencil in the Cardinal as a Pac-12 favorite again.

"A lot of guys have some decisions to make, whether they will leave or not. But I'm so excited about what we have coming back on this football team," Shaw said. "I think we'll make a huge jump."

UP NEXT

Stanford hosts San Diego State on Sept. 1, 2018.

TCU hosts Southern in its 2018 opener.

Oklahoma State: 2017 Camping World Bowl Champions



ORLANDO, Fla. -- They started playing football at Oklahoma State 116 years ago, and never in that span had there been a run of three consecutive 10-win seasons.

Until now.

Mason Rudolph threw for 351 yards and a pair of touchdowns on his way to winning game MVP honors, James Washington had a long touchdown grab and became Oklahoma State's career receiving yards leader, and the 17th-ranked Cowboys beat No. 22 Virginia Tech 30-21 in the Camping World Bowl on Thursday night.

"It's cool. It speaks a lot about the senior class, about the leadership on both sides of the ball," Rudolph said. "It's a great achievement for us."

Washington caught five passes for 126 yards, giving him 4,472 for his career and passing Rashaun Woods for the school mark. Justice Hill ran for 120 yards and another score for the Cowboys (10-3).

"A really good win for our organization," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "Defensively, we gave up a lot of rushing yards but we were able to make some stops and force some turnovers. For Oklahoma State, really in the end, that's what it comes down to."

Josh Jackson ran for two scores and threw for another for the Hokies (9-4), including a rush that got Virginia Tech within 27-21 with 5:40 remaining. Deshawn McClease ran for 124 yards, a Virginia Tech season-best, but the Hokies were hurt by two turnovers in Oklahoma State territory.

"We had a plan and we executed well at times," Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. "I don't really remember Oklahoma State making very many, if any, mistakes. And we made a handful, just enough to kind of keep us from pulling the thing off. That's not to say that Oklahoma State doesn't deserve credit for winning the game. They do."

Hill came through with perhaps the play of the night. Facing a third-and-11 with 3:30 left, Hill took a handoff, went left, waited for a lane to open -- and broke loose for a 31-yard gain down to the Hokies' 18. Matt Ammendola's 38-yard field goal with 2:34 left put the Cowboys up by nine, essentially sealing the outcome.

"Hats off to them," said Virginia Tech defensive lineman Ricky Walker, who said the Hokies expected a run on that key late third down. "They made a good call and they executed it."

Virginia Tech actually outgained the high-octane Cowboys, 518 yards to 492.

A pair of big missed Hokie opportunities helped Oklahoma State take a 13-7 lead at the break. An 18-play, 10-minute drive that got to the Oklahoma State 1 resulted in no points when the Hokies fumbled a snap away. And after the Cowboys took the lead late in the half, Jackson had a wide-open Henri Murphy down the middle for what would have been a 54-yard score.

But the pass was overthrown, the Hokies never led again, and Rudolph and Washington got the winning ending they sought.

"Just a fun college experience," Rudolph said. "It's been fun."

BIG PICTURE

Oklahoma State: Rudolph ended his college career with no less than 52 school records. His two touchdown throws gave him 37 on the season, tying Brandon Weeden's school mark. And he came into the game needing 175 yards to break Weeden's season passing record, eclipsing that in the third quarter.

Virginia Tech: Hokies kicker Joey Slye came up with a highlight in his college finale, making a big tackle on a third-quarter kickoff and celebrating by flexing his biceps as he skipped to the sideline. He ended his career as the Hokies' all-time leader in field goals and points.

TOUGH NIGHT


Oklahoma State cornerback Rodarius Williams got shaken up twice -- both after collisions with teammates. He and defensive end Jordan Brailford crashed into one another in the first quarter on a play where they were pursuing Jackson, and Williams went knee-to-helmet with fellow cornerback A.J. Green in coverage during the third quarter.

LEGEND WATCHES

Ryan Howard, who hit 382 home runs in 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, was at the game and cheering for Oklahoma State -- even giving Cowboys DT Enoch Smith a Twitter shoutout.

UP NEXT

Oklahoma State: Host Missouri State on Sept. 1 to start the 2018 slate.

Virginia Tech: Visit Florida State on Sept. 3 in an ACC Monday night season-opener.

Navy: 2017 Military Bowl Champions



ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Two quarterbacks put on one heck of a show for Navy in the Military Bowl.

Backup Zach Abey scored five touchdowns, starter Malcolm Perry ran for 114 yards and two scores and the Midshipmen rolled to a surprisingly easy 49-7 victory over Virginia on Thursday.

After Virginia's Joe Reed took the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, the Midshipmen (7-6) got two TDs apiece from Perry and Abey in taking a 28-7 halftime lead.

Perry left in the third quarter with a foot injury, leaving Abey to score on runs of 5 and 20 yards to make it 42-7 in a game Navy entered as a 1 1/2-point favorite.

"Malcolm did a masterful job. The kid's phenomenal, man," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "He brings another dimension to our offense. To Zach's credit, he came in there and played really, really well."

The Midshipmen rolled up a Military Bowl-record 452 yards rushing, including 101 by Chris High and 88 by Abey, who began the season as the starter before losing the job.

"That's the best we've played all year," Niumatalolo said. "We put it together on both sides of the ball."

Going back and forth with Perry and Abey might be the way to go in 2018.

"They're both really good football players. I've got to find a way to use them both," Niumatalolo said. "Just what you saw today is probably what you're going to see next year."

After scoring on a 1-yard run with 11:11 remaining, Abey sat down after becoming the fifth player in FBS history to rush for five TDs in a bowl game.

"We did what we were supposed to do," Perry said. "It all starts up front. The guys were really physical. We played Navy football today."

Playing in their first bowl since 2011, the Cavaliers (6-7) could not contain Navy's triple option and had no success moving the ball.

"I think coach Niumatalolo had his team very well prepared," Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "Clearly, I didn't have our team prepared to perform to their true potential, offensively, defensively or special teams."

Seeking its first winning season in six years, Virginia instead absorbed its sixth loss in seven games.

"The team worked really hard to get to this point, and that's an accomplishment," Mendenhall said. "I don't think it takes the edge off (the season), but it certainly takes some off because it's never fun to not play well and to lose the game. But it's also reflective of exactly where we are."

They're currently in the second tier of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and at least on this day not nearly as good as Navy.

"They just outplayed us," Virginia free safety Quin Blanding said. "That's the bottom line. They came ready to play and we didn't."

Virginia senior Kurt Benkert came in with a school-record 3,062 yards passing this season, along with 25 touchdown passes. In this one, he went 15 for 34 for 133 yards and an interception, and the Cavaliers finished with a season-low 175 yards in offense.

"It was windy and it was cold," Benkert said. "It was hard to get into a rhythm, and we never really found our stride."

After Reed went the distance with the opening kickoff, Navy responded with a 69-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard run by Abey. The Midshipmen then forced a three-and-out, and Perry finished an eight-play drive with a 22-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead.

Perry scored from 19 yards out and Abey concluded the first-half scoring with a 1-yard TD.

By then, Reed's kickoff return was irrelevant.

"It's nothing we haven't seen all year. We just knew we had to respond," Abey said.

PASS ON THE PASS

Navy attempted only one pass, a toss by Abey in the third quarter. It fell incomplete.

THE TAKEAWAY

Virginia: The Cavaliers tripled their win total of a year ago and ended their six-year bowl drought, but now they've got this defeat to think about during the offseason.


"It might be the most valuable game of the year, in terms of now having the opportunity to reassess what we did, and reframing and addressing weaknesses in our program," Mendenhall said.

Navy: The Midshipmen salvaged a disappointing season in which they started 5-0 before losing six of the next seven, including 14-13 to Army. Navy also discovered just how good Perry can be at QB, with Abey available when needed.

UP NEXT

Virginia: Following an offseason to reflect upon their improvement and shortcomings, the Cavaliers open the 2018 season on Sept. 1 against visiting Richmond.

Navy: The Midshipmen launch the 2018 season with a lengthy journey for a Sept. 1 game against Hawaii.