Saturday, December 30, 2017

Wisconsin: 2017 Orange Bowl Champions



MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Alex Hornibrook's first pass of the night was a wobbler, one that seemed to slip out of his hand.

Nearly everything else he threw was just about perfect.

Hornibrook threw four touchdown passes, three to Danny Davis, and No. 6 Wisconsin capped off the winningest season in school history by topping No. 11 Miami 34-24 in the Orange Bowl on Saturday night.

"We were pretty relaxed," Hornibrook said. "We knew we had what it takes to win this game."

Everyone does now.

And the Big Ten -- shut out of the College Football Playoff after Wisconsin lost to Ohio State in the conference title game -- moved to 7-0 in bowls this season.

"You play the whole season and you earn what you get and I'm proud of this team," Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. "They can call themselves Orange Bowl champions. That's pretty big."

Jonathan Taylor ran for 130 yards on 26 carries for the Badgers (13-1), who rallied from an early 14-3 deficit. Taylor finished the year with an FBS-freshman-record 1,977 yards. A.J. Taylor also had a scoring catch for Wisconsin.

"I take as much responsibility as anybody, actually more because I'm in charge of everything," Richt said. "I didn't coach good enough and we will get better. I can promise you that."

The Badgers dominated time of possession, holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes. Hornibrook completed 23 of 34 passes for 258 yards, going 20 for 25 in the final three quarters.

Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas had rushing scores for Miami (10-3), which lost on its home field for the first time in 2017. Lawrence Cager had a touchdown catch for the Hurricanes, while quarterback Malik Rosier was 11 for 26 passing for 203 yards -- with three interceptions.

The Hurricanes had a chance to get within a touchdown midway through the fourth, but Michael Badgley's chip-shot field goal went off the right upright. By the time Miami got the ball back, most of their fans were gone and only 1:37 remained. Rosier was picked off for the third time 18 seconds later, and the Badgers ran out the clock.

"They did a really good job making me throw balls into tight coverage," Rosier said.

Homer went in from 5 yards out to give Miami the early lead, and Dallas' 39-yard scamper for a score out of the wildcat formation pushed the Hurricanes' edge to 14-3 late in the first quarter.

Miami was rolling.

It was temporary.

Rosier's pass was intercepted by Wisconsin's Andrew Van Ginkel on the first play of the second quarter, and the game quickly changed. Hornibrook threw touchdown passes on three consecutive possessions -- two to Davis, one to A.J. Taylor -- and the Badgers held the ball for more than 11 minutes in that quarter alone on the way to taking a 24-14 lead into the half.

Richt was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct just before the third of those scores, after losing his cool while arguing with officials about what replays showed was a missed holding call that would have pushed Wisconsin back. He grabbed at head linesman Gus Morris -- part of the SEC crew on the game -- while pleading his case, as Miami security personnel unsuccessfully tried to keep him calm.

"Apologies to anyone who can read lips," Richt said.

The Hurricanes got within three points twice in the second half, the first coming when Rosier bought some time and lobbed the ball to a wide-open Cager for a 38-yard score. Rosier tried to connect with Cager again later in the third, but got intercepted again on a play where the Hurricanes thought Cager got held as he neared the end zone.

Hornibrook and Davis connected on a scoring play for the third time with 7:44 left, the Badgers weren't threatened again, and started talking about a title run in 2018 right afterward.

"We're all coming back," Hornibrook said. "But nothing is going to happen if we don't put in the work."

BIG PICTURE

Wisconsin: Hornibrook became just the third Badgers quarterback in the last 15 years to have multiple games with at least four touchdown passes in the same season. Scott Tolzien had a pair of four-TD games in 2009, and Jim Sorgi had games of four and five TDs in consecutive weeks back in 2003. From 2012 through 2016, the Badgers never had a quarterback throw for four scores in a game.

Miami: The Hurricanes were on a four-game losing streak last season, then started what became a 15-game winning streak that ended in the regular-season finale against Pitt, and now will take a three-game slide into 2018. The four touchdown passes allowed matched the most allowed by Miami in any game since Oklahoma threw for six TDs in a 2007 romp over the Hurricanes.

ROSIER RECORD


Rosier's third-quarter touchdown pass to Cager was the 31st touchdown he's accounted for this season, a Miami single-season record. The previous mark was 30, set by Vinny Testaverde in 1986.

FAMILY TIES

Hornibrook is the great-nephew of former Miami quarterback John Hornibrook, who was under center for a memorable play in Hurricanes history. John Hornibook ran in for a touchdown against Florida in 1971, on a play dubbed the Gator Flop -- one where every Florida defender fell to the ground in order to let Miami score and get the ball back so Gators quarterback John Reaves could break the NCAA career passing record. The ploy worked.

UP NEXT

Wisconsin: Hosts Western Kentucky on Aug. 31.

Miami: Plays LSU in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 1.

Penn State: 2017 Fiesta Bowl Champions



GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Converting on third downs had been a sore spot at Penn State, so coach James Franklin made it a point of emphasis in spring ball and fall camp.

The Nittany Lions kept working at it during the season and kept getting better, peaking at the perfect time.

Trace McSorley threw for 342 yards and had both of his touchdown passes to DaeSean Hamilton on third-down plays, helping No. 9 Penn State outlast No. 12 Washington 35-28 in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.

"Our coaches did a fantastic job and the O line protected and the receivers made plays," Franklin said. "We were very efficient. We executed."

Penn State (11-2), No. 9 in the final College Football Rankings, had its way with Washington's vaunted defense early, building a 28-7 lead by the second quarter. Washington (10-3) woke up from an offensive slumber with two touchdowns and pulled to 35-28 on Myles Gaskins' 69-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

The Huskies' inability to stop Penn State on third down kept them from getting any closer.

The Nittany Lions converted three third-down attempts on a final clock-winding drive and were 13 for 17 overall. Washington had a final shot with a desperation play of multiple laterals and passes, but Dante Pettis' final lateral was intercepted after he passed up a chance to step out of bounds to set up one more play.

"I think a lot of it was McSorley," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "He's buying time, getting out of there. And when we did get a little pressure on him, he stepped up nicely and took off and ran or bought time."

Washington had the nation's top run defense during the regular season, allowing 92 yards per game, but Saquon Barkley matched that on one run in the second quarter. Barkley had 137 of the Nittany Lions' 203 yards rushing and two touchdowns in what could be his final game if he decides to turn pro.

The Huskies, No. 11 CFP, gave up a season-high 545 total yards.

"They had us on our heels most of the night," Petersen said.

The Nittany Lions lost a chance at the CFP with consecutive losses to Ohio State and No. 24 Michigan State, but ended up in a familiar place: The Fiesta Bowl, where they had not lost in six previous trips.

Penn State raced toward No. 7 by going to the air early against the run-stingy Huskies.

McSorley picked Washington's secondary apart, hitting nine receivers for 219 yards in the first half. He connected with DaeSean Hamilton on a 48-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive, and set up scoring runs of 2 yards by Barkley and 1 yard by Miles Sanders.

Barkley then did it all himself, bursting through the left side for a 92-yard touchdown run to put Penn State up 28-7.

The Nittany Lions had 367 yards by halftime against a defense that allowed 277.4 yards per game during the regular season.

"We came out flat in the first half," Washington linebacker Tevis Bartlett said.

Washington was in the Fiesta Bowl for the first time, but Petersen had made a name for himself by trick-playing Boise State to a pair of Fiesta victories

Petersen reached into his trick-play bag to spark Washington from an early funk, calling a double pass that led to 52-yard gain to tight end Drew Sample. That set up Jake Browning's 1-yard TD dive.

The Huskies turned a recovered fumble into a much-needed touchdown just before halftime, cutting Penn State's lead to 28-14 on Gaskin's 13-yard run.

Another big score came right after halftime: Browning 28 yards to Aaron Fuller.

But Penn State answered on another third down, when McSorley hit Hamilton on a 24-yard TD pass to put Penn State up 35-21.

"(Hamilton's TD) was really, really important, because momentum was starting to swing there," Franklin said.

BROWNING'S QUIET DAY

Browning has been one of the nation's most prolific passers during his career, but found little room to operate against Penn State's secondary. He missed on several throws and finished with 175 yards and a touchdown on 18-of-28 passing.

BIG PICTURE


Penn State could wonder what might have been in the CFP, but a Fiesta Bowl is a nice way to close out the season.

Washington's defense had its worst outing of the season at the worst possible time.

UP NEXT

Barkley is a junior, but could decide to leave for the NFL. So is McSorley and the Nittany Lions should have most of their offensive line back.

Washington will lose two offensive line starters and receiver/punt returner Pettis to graduation, but gets back most of its defense. Browning, Gaskin and DL Vita Vea also are juniors, if they decide to stay in school.

Iowa State: 2017 Liberty Bowl Champions



MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Iowa State proved its season-long bid to raise its standards was more than just a slogan.

Allen Lazard tied a Liberty Bowl record with 10 catches and put Iowa State ahead with a remarkable 5-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter Saturday, and the Cyclones beat No. 19 Memphis 21-20 on the Tigers' home field.

The victory gave Iowa State (8-5) its first bowl victory since a 2009 Insight Bowl triumph and marked the Cyclones' third win over a Top 25 team this season. That's the step forward Iowa State had in mind when it made "Raise The Standard" its team motto.

"The thing that finally resonates in our program is that this can happen, not only with our players but the people outside of our program, that success and winning football games at Ames, Iowa, can really happen," Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said.

Iowa State's progress was evident in the way it held on to win after its only lost fumble of the season. Iowa State was attempting to become the first Football Bowl Subdivision team to go an entire season without losing a fumble.

The Cyclones led 21-20 and had third-and-goal from the 1 when David Montgomery fumbled as he was crossing the goal line. As replay officials reviewed the play, Campbell told his players he hoped the call wasn't overturned because it would enable the Cyclones to show how they'd matured since a heartbreaking 20-19 loss to Kansas State in their regular-season finale.

"Coach was out there preaching to us in the defensive huddle this is what we wanted, to show people that we'd learned from what we'd been through," Iowa State linebacker Joel Lanning said.

Memphis (10-3) drove to the Iowa State 40 but lost the ball when Riley Ferguson overthrew Phil Mayhue on fourth-and-10 with 1:52 remaining. Iowa State ran out the clock from there.

"It was kind of hard getting the ball out, but at the same time, I've got to find a way to make a play," said Ferguson, who went 21 of 33 for 286 yards and two touchdowns but was sacked six times. "There on the last play, I've got to find a way to make that throw to Phil, no matter whether I have pressure on my face or not."

Iowa State pulled ahead 21-17 with 4:28 left in the third quarter when Kyle Kempt's pass appeared to get deflected just before Lazard caught it in the back of the end zone.

The touchdown came after a roughing-the-passer penalty on Genard Avery wiped out an interception by Memphis' Curtis Akins and gave the Cyclones first-and-goal.

"I was just playing the play out," Avery said. "I feel like it was a bad call."

Lazard had 142 yards receiving in his final college game and was named the Liberty Bowl's most valuable player. The only other players to catch 10 passes in a Liberty Bowl were Louisville's Deion Branch in 2000 and Arkansas' Bobby Joe Edmonds in 1984.

"I just went out there today and gave it my all," Lazard said. "I kind of tweaked my ankle a little bit, but I only had a certain amount of time and I'd be damned if I (was going to) stand there and watch the offense go to work without me."

Memphis had the benefit of playing a bowl game on its home field -- where it hadn't lost all season -- although enough Iowa State fans traveled to the game to make the sellout crowd of 57,266 a pretty even split.

RECORD SETTERS

Lazard's 10th touchdown catch of the season set an Iowa State record. Memphis' Anthony Miller had four catches for 55 yards and a touchdown to end the year with 96 catches for 1,462 yards, breaking his own school single-season records in both categories.

HELMET HIJINKS

During a pregame event, Avery and Miller flipped an Iowa State helmet upside down. Avery told reporters afterward that he wanted to show that Memphis is his team's city.

Lazard returned the favor Saturday by overturning a Memphis helmet that sat on a table while he collected awards as the Liberty Bowl's MVP and offensive player of the game.

BIG PICTURE

Iowa State: The Cyclones held the nation's No. 2 scoring offense to its second-lowest point total of the season despite missing two key players, with defensive back Evrett Edwards ruled ineligible and safety Kamari Cotton-Moya suspended for a violation of team rules. Iowa State's six sacks tied a Liberty Bowl record. Iowa State benefited from the absence of injured Memphis running back Darrell Henderson, who rushed for 1,154 yards this season.


Memphis: Missed opportunities haunted the Tigers. An ineligible receiver penalty nullified a first-quarter touchdown and led to a missed field-goal attempt. One Iowa State touchdown happened after a Memphis interception was overturned by replay, and the Cyclones' go-ahead touchdown came after a Memphis interception was nullified by Avery's roughing-the-passer penalty.

LOOKING AHEAD

Iowa State will seek to go to back-to-back bowl games, something the Cyclones haven't done since 2004-05. The Cyclones lose a lot of leadership as they attempt to replace a senior class that includes Lazard and linebacker Joel Lanning, among others.

Memphis must find a way to replace the dynamic tandem of Ferguson and Miller.

UP NEXT

Iowa State begins its 2018 schedule by hosting South Dakota State on Sept. 1.

Memphis hosts Mercer on Sept. 1, 2018.

Mississippi State: 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl Champions



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It likely was Lamar Jackson's farewell performance.

It definitely was Keytaon Thompson's coming-out party.

Thompson, a highly touted freshman making his first start in place of injured quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns to help No. 24 Mississippi State beat Jackson and Louisville 31-27 in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Saturday.

"He was phenomenal," Bulldogs interim coach Greg Knox said.

Thompson completed 11 of 20 passes for 127 yards, with an interception. He was more effective as a runner, carrying on 27 of the team's 55 running plays.

"We knew that's what he did best," Knox said. "If you go back and look at Mississippi State over the year, when Nick Fitzgerald ran the ball for a hundred yards, we were winning games. So we knew he had to run the ball today.

"We didn't care if he was a freshman. We didn't care if he was starting his first game. We knew we could scheme some things up for him to run the ball, and he could have success."

Thompson scored twice in the fourth quarter, including a 1-yard plunge with 3:39 remaining that put the Bulldogs (9-4) ahead for good.

Jackson had the Cardinals (8-5) on the move late, but safety Mark McLaurin intercepted his third pass of the game. Jackson got another chance in the waning seconds following a failed, fourth-down conversation. But his desperation heave was batted away in the end zone.

That set off a wild and tearful celebration for Mississippi State, which stuck together despite losing coach Dan Mullen and a number of assistants to Florida. Knox got doused on the sideline. Players ripped off jerseys in 50-degree temperatures and danced in the end zone.

"The last three, four weeks we've been together, it's been a tough time for everyone," Knox said. "A lot of emotions. ... I think that's what you saw on the field. It was a chance for everyone to just breathe a sigh of relief and say, `Thank you God for this win."

Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, had different emotions after probably ending his college career with a loss. Jackson has yet to declare for the NFL draft, but most outsiders believe the dynamic junior will turn pro.

"I got to sit down with my coach and my family," he said.

If he is leaving, he went out setting records.

Jackson ran 24 times for 158 yards and a touchdown, breaking the TaxSlayer Bowl record for most rushing yards by a quarterback. West Virginia's Pat White set the previous mark with 145 yards in 2007. He also broke his own school records for rushing yards and yards from scrimmage.

He had the longest run of his career, a 75-yarder late in the second quarter, and a 13-yard TD scamper earlier in the game in which he split two defenders and made another look silly . He also had a flip pass to Jaylen Smith for a score.

But his interceptions overshadowed his improvisations.

Jackson completed 13 of 31 passes for 171 yards, with two touchdowns, four picks and six sacks. He threw just six interceptions in the regular season.

Still, he became the third player in Football Bowl Subdivision history with at least 50 touchdown passes and 50 touchdown runs, joining Florida's Tim Tebow and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.

"I'd love to see him come back, there's no question about that," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "He really needs to understand where his draft status is, what the finances are that go with that. Him and his mom, we'll get people around him to help him make the decision.

"But they just need to make an educated business decision."

TAKEAWAY

Louisville: Jackson has to become a more accurate passer to make it in the NFL. He had way too many errant throws, including on two of his interceptions.

Mississippi State: New coach Joe Moorhead will have a chance to win games early thanks to what Mullen built in Starkville.


RARE FEAT

It was the fourth time in the FBC this season that both starting quarterbacks topped 100 yards rushing.

UP NEXT

Louisville: Freshman Jawon Pass is the obvious choice to replace Jackson. If so, he will be thrown into the fire right away because the Cardinals open next season against perennial power Alabama in Orlando on Sept. 1.

Mississippi State: Moorhead inherits an experienced defense and an offense expected to return a number of starters, including Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams. The Bulldogs open next season against Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 1.

Ohio State: 2017 Cotton Bowl Champions



ARLINGTON, Texas -- Playoff-snubbed Ohio State got to raise another trophy in the building where the Buckeyes won a national championship.

While the streaming confetti this time was for a Cotton Bowl victory instead of a title celebration like three seasons ago, coach Urban Meyer still got a special feeling from the fifth-ranked Buckeyes' defensively dominant 24-7 win over No. 8 Southern California.

"The mindset was obvious. We wanted to go down as one of the great teams at Ohio State, Big Ten champions, obviously a top five finish," said Meyer, 73-8 in six seasons at Columbus. "This will go down as one of the best teams I've ever coached and one of the best groups of young people I've ever been around."

With Buckeyes All-America junior cornerback Denzel Ward sitting out after deciding to go into the NFL draft, fellow defensive back Damon Webb returned an interception for a touchdown after recovering a fumble to set up an early score.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 champions would usually play New Year's Day in Pasadena instead of deep in the heart of Texas, but the Rose Bowl is a College Football Playoff semifinal game this season.

Ohio State (12-2) instead quickly settled in at the NFL stadium where it won the first national championship in the four-team CFP format. The Buckeyes -- with that bad loss at Iowa after an early setback to playoff team Oklahoma -- were the first team left out this season.

USC (11-3), the Rose Bowl champion last season, lost for only the third time in its last 23 games. The Trojans had four turnovers that led to 21 Ohio State points in what could have been third-year sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold's final game.

"We kind of shot ourselves in the football in this game," USC coach Clay Helton said. "You're putting a hurt on your defense, and it led to points early in the game, and separation early in the game."

Ward was on the sideline in his No. 12 jersey over street clothes while Webb had a fumble recovery on the third play of the game. That led to J.T. Barrett's 1-yard keeper for a score that put the Buckeyes ahead to stay.

Webb's 23-yard interception return for a TD put Ohio State up 17-0 less than a minute into the second quarter. It was the first pick-six this season for the Buckeyes, and the team-leading fifth interception for Webb.

Ohio State was up 24-0 when Barrett ran 28 yards for another touchdown after the first of Darnold's two fumbles when stripped while being sacked. Darnold was sacked eight times overall.

"The strip fumbles, when I'm in the pocket, those are though," Darnold said.

"That defensive line took a quarterback that we have a tremendous amount of respect for and he didn't set his feet all night," Meyer said. "That's the way we won that game."

TAKEAWAY

Ohio State: Barrett, playing his final college game only about a two-hour drive from his hometown of Wichita Falls, Texas, broke Drew Brees' Big Ten career record for total offense with 12,697 yards. Barrett played 50 games and was 38-6 as a starter. His 147 touchdowns (104 passing, 43 rushing) are also a Big Ten record, 41 more than Brees at Purdue.

"It's pretty crazy. I mean, since I was little I looked up to Drew Brees," Barrett said. "To pass a record like that, just very grateful to the people that were around me."

USC: Darnold, who became the first Trojans quarterback ever with more than 4,000 yards passing in a season, has until Jan. 15 to decide if he will head to the NFL or return to USC for another season.

"I'm really just focused on just hanging out with my teammates for the next couple of days," Darnold said. "But it's tough. I'll look at everything and make my decision after that."

Darnold was 26 of 45 for 356 yards passing, but his turnovers were costly.

NOT FOR THE ROSES

This was the eighth time Ohio State and USC met in a bowl game. The first seven were in the Rose Bowl. The Trojans had won seven straight in the matchup of powerhouse programs, including four regular-season matchups since their last meeting in Pasadena 33 years ago.

LATE SCUFFLE


There was a bit of a scuffle in the final two minutes after Buckeyes linebacker Malik Harrison delivered a late hit on Darnold, who was getting out of bounds along the USC sideline after scrambling for 7 yards. Several Trojans went to Darnold's defense, including one ejected for coming off the bench. Harrison was assessed a personal foul penalty.

UP NEXT

Ohio State will play its 2018 opener at home against Oregon State on Sept. 1, the same day Southern Cal is home against UNLV. The Buckeyes and Trojans both return to the Lone Star State for games next Sept. 15. Ohio State will be back in AT&T Stadium to play TCU, and USC will be at Texas that day to take on the Longhorns.

New Mexico State: 2017 Arizona Bowl Champions



TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Arizona Bowl is not typically the type of game where fans storm the field. Certainly not for a team that finished 7-6.

But this has been a long, arduous wait for New Mexico State fans. All those losing seasons, all that disappointment, all that time between bowl games.

Storm away, Aggies. You've earned it.

Larry Rose III scored on a 21-yard run in overtime and New Mexico State won in its first bowl game in 57 years, beating Utah State 26-20 in the Arizona Bowl on Friday night.

"I'm just thrilled for these kids and this community," New Mexico State coach Doug Martin. "Just look at these fans who showed up here. This is an unbelievable day for us.

Utah State (6-7) had the ball first in overtime and Dominik Eberle hit the right upright on a 29-yard field goal attempt, sending a groan through the Utah State crowd. Eberle made 16 for 18 field goals during the regular season, but missed three in the Arizona Bowl.

New Mexico State won it when Jones burst through a hole on the left side, sending the Aggies and their fans rushing onto the Arizona Stadium field. Jones finished with 142 yards on 16 carries.

"He's my field goal kicker. I love that kid and he's been really consistent all year," Utah State coach Matt Wells said. "Was I surprised? Yes. Was I disappointed in him? Not one bit."

The third Arizona Bowl started with some early fireworks on special teams.

Utah State's Savon Scarver returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, then New Mexico State's Jason Huntley took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a score.

The excitement leveled off considerably until LaJuan Hunt scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter, set up by a shanked punt from New Mexico State's Payton Theisler.

New Mexico State's Tyler Rogers, held in check most of the game, answered by moving the Aggies on a 69-yard scoring drive, capped by his 11-yard touchdown pass to Jaleel Scott that tied it at 20. A video review overturned the initial call that Scott was out of bounds.

Rogers, who was second nationally with 347 yards passing per game during the regular season, threw for 191 yards and touchdown with two interceptions.

This was a rematch 57 years in the making.

New Mexico State had not been to a bowl game since the 1960 Sun Bowl. The opponent: Utah State.

Utah State went to eight bowls after that, including six of the last seven.

New Mexico State went into a bowl-less tailspin, finishing with a losing record 44 times since that last bowl game. It had 14 straight losing seasons, including a 0-12 mark in 2005, before winning its final two games this season to finally get back to bowling.

The long-awaited rematch turned into the Special Teams Bowl in the first half.

New Mexico State's Dylan Brown made two field goals, Eberle made two and missed two, and each team had a kickoff return for a touchdown.

After a third quarter of defensive stops and punting, both teams found the end zone to send the game overtime -- and, later, New Mexico State's fans onto the field.

"I thought it was a fairly clean game and pretty aggressive on both sides," Wells said. "If we had made the field goals early, then maybe it would have been a different ball game."

BIG PICTURE

Utah State racked up 441 yards of offense and kept Rogers from having a big game, but had a rough night on special teams.

New Mexico State made its first postseason game in nearly six decades a memorable one by rallying for a victory.

MOMENTUM SWING

Utah State had the game's best chance for the game's first offensive touchdown early in the third quarter, when Jordan Love completed a 41-yard pass to Ron'quavion Tarver to New Mexico State's 1.


On the next play, New Mexico State's Terrill Hanks knocked down Love's pitch to Hunt and recovered the ball himself at the 12-yard line, ending Utah State's hopes.

THIRD-DOWN WOES

Both teams struggled on third downs, converting a combined 5 of 40. Utah State was 1 for 18 and New Mexico State was 4 for 22. The teams had a combined 20 punts

UP NEXT

Utah State must replace seniors Hunt and cornerback Jalen Davis, a second-team AP All-American, but Love is a redshirt freshman.

New Mexico State will have big holes to replace with Rogers and Rose among the seniors it will have to replace.

Northwestern; 2017 Music City Bowl Champions



NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Go ahead and question Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald's decisions to go for it over and over on fourth down, even late in a move that nearly cost the Wildcats dearly.

His defense had their coach's back.

The Wildcats broke up Kentucky's 2-point conversion, and No. 21 Northwestern held off Kentucky 24-23 on Friday in a Music City Bowl that might be remembered more for injuries, ejections and a wild finish.

"I'm not sure words can describe that game," Fitzgerald said. "Wow. What a great job by our young men. We had to persevere through so much."

Justin Jackson ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns as Northwestern (10-3) finished off back-to-back bowl wins in consecutive years for the first time in program history. The Wildcats notched their second 10-win season in three years and third in six under Fitzgerald. The senior class also won its 27th game for the best stretch in more than a decade.

Both starting quarterbacks left in the first half with injuries, though Kentucky's Stephen Johnson returned early in the third quarter. Kentucky lost running back Benny Snell Jr. to an ejection for contact with an official early in the second quarter, and Northwestern lost leading tackler and linebacker Paddy Fisher before halftime when he was ejected for targeting.

Kentucky (7-6) still had a chance to win after Fitzgerald tried to convert his fifth fourth down of the game only to turn it over for the fourth time on downs -- this time at his own 39 with 2:31 left.

"Go for the win," Fitzgerald said of his decision. "We got it did you see the replay? I did. It is what it is, and somebody had to make a play. We went for the win right there."

Johnson ran for his second TD of the second half with 37 seconds left. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops went for the 2-point conversion rather than play for overtime. Johnson couldn't connect with Tavin Richardson on the pass. That cost Kentucky a chance at its best season since 2007 and a second straight bowl loss.

"We just lost a heartbreaker by inches," Stoops said.

With quarterback Clayton Thorson knocked out early in the second with an injured right knee , Northwestern outran Kentucky 333-65. Safety Kyle Quiero provided the winning margin taking Northwestern's second interception 26 yards for a TD with 7:49 left.

TAKEAWAYS

Northwestern: Losing Jackson won't be easy. He finished his career 10th among the NCAA's leading rushers with 5,440 yards. But Jeremy Larkin is a redshirt freshman who ran for 112 yards, and he will be back in 2018. Thorson already planned to return for his senior season too. Fitzgerald said he told Jackson he'd better get a lot of yards.

"He's coming for you, you know he's coming for you," Fitzgerald said.

Kentucky: Snell, who came in leading the SEC in rushing TDs, capped the opening drive of the game with a 3-yard TD that was his 19th this season and 32nd of his career. Both are school records, and he'll be back for his junior season.

QUESTIONABLE EJECTIONS

Both teams lost key players in a wild second quarter. The Wildcats lost Snell when he was ejected with 13:01 left in for contact with referee Chris Coyte. Snell had just lost 7 yards on a run, and Coyte appeared to be trying to give Snell a hand up. Replays showed Snell perhaps pushing Coyte's hands away as he got up. The referee then threw the flag immediately. Kentucky trailed 10-7 at the time.

"I was on top of the play," Coyte told a pool reporter. "And the player got up and grabbed my arms and pushed them away and contacted me. That's a foul."

UGLY INJURY



Thorson hurt his right knee as he was tackled after making a 24-yard catch early in the second quarter. After handing off to Larkin, Thorson ran down the left sideline and was wide open for the catch before being tackled by Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones. But Thorson, in his 38th career start, immediately grabbed at his right knee. He was carted off the field and replaced by senior Matt Alviti.

Fitzgerald said Thorson will have an MRI exam when they return home.

UP NEXT

Northwestern: The Wildcats have to replace Jackson.

Kentucky: Replacing Johnson at quarterback will be Stoops' challenge.

North Carolina State: 2017 Sun Bowl Champions

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EL PASO, Texas -- North Carolina State's offense came up big in a Sun Bowl matchup that was supposed to be about defense.

Nyheim Hines had three of North Carolina State's Sun Bowl-record six rushing touchdowns to help the Wolfpack beat Arizona State 52-31 on Friday. Hines' three scoring runs were all from 5 yards.

"It just really goes to show how great our offensive line is," Hines said. "I'll definitely have to treat them when I get back to Raleigh."

Hines was named the game's MVP. He helped the team score on four of five first-half possessions to fuel the rout.

Hines finished with 72 yards on 16 carries for North Carolina State (9-4). The Wolfpack played in their fourth consecutive bowl game and sixth in seven years under coach David Doeren.

"Top 25 (in the College Football Playoff rankings) is the standard we want for this program," Doeren said.

Reggie Gallaspy added 79 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries for the Wolfpack, Ryan Finley completed 24 of 29 passes for 318 yards and a score, and Stephen Louis had three catches for 115 yards.

Arizona State (7-6) played its final game under fired coach Todd Graham, with former NFL coach Herm Edwards taking over the program. The Sun Devils had four turnovers.

"I don't think we've turned the ball over four times all year," Graham said. "But give them a lot of credit. They're a very good football team. We just couldn't stop them."

Manny Wilkins was 25 of 40 for 352 yards and three touchdowns for the Sun Devils. He also threw three interceptions.

N.C. State played without defensive end Bradley Chubb. Chubb, a projected top-10 pick in the NFL draft, announced before the game that he wouldn't play. It marked the second year in a row that the biggest star at the game didn't play. Last year, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey skipped it.

THE TAKE AWAY North Carolina State: The team's defensive experience showed. Even without Chubb, the Wolfpack limited ASU to 10 points through three quarters.

Arizona State: Graham called the plays Friday. It wasn't a great showing for him. The offense was unable to run the ball. ASU had 469 yards of offense, but 21 of their points came in the fourth quarter.

CHUBB SITS OUT

N.C. State's Chubb, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, announced Friday morning he wouldn't play. "I just let them know that the decision I made is not anything about them," Chubb said in a CBS interview. "It's just looking out for myself. They all understood."

AND ANOTHER ONE

Arizona State played without one of its leading tacklers, linebacker Christian Sam, who also sat out to prepare for the draft. Jay Jay Wilson had 13 tackles, but ASU missed Sam. The Sun Devils allowed 491 yards of offense. The Wolfpack ran 73 plays and had a 9:00 edge in time of possession.

RECORDS

The 42 points scored in the fourth quarter set a Sun Bowl record for points in a quarter. The 45 points in the second half tied a game record, and the 83 total points was the second most in game history.

BY THE NUMBERS

N.C. State is 17-13-1 in bowl games and won its first appearance in the Sun Bowl. Hines is the first Wolfpack rusher to have consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since 1977-78. Receiver Kelvin Harmon had four catches for 24 yards, pushing him over 1,000 yards for the season. All-purpose back Jaylen Samuels had seven catches for 46 yards, setting the team record for catches in a career.

Arizona State is 14-15-1 in bowls and 3-2-1 in the Sun Bowl. Running back Demario Richard had 50 yards to become the first ASU runner with multiple 1,000-yard seasons since 1974-75.

UP NEXT


North Carolina State: Even though they will lose nine seniors on defense, the Wolfpack is still a team to watch in the ACC. They'll return nine starters on offense, including quarterback Ryan Finley, running back Nyheim Hines and four of the five starters on the line. The Wolfpack will open next season on Sept. 1 at home against James Madison.

Arizona State: Edwards takes over the program, and he'll have two new coordinators. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennet declined to return next season, and the team hired San Diego State defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales to replace him. ASU already had promoted quarterbacks coach Billy Napier to the role of offensive coordinator, but then Napier left to become the head coach at Louisiana. The team's new offensive coordinator will be Rob Likens, who was the wide receivers coach. The Sun Devils will open the next season at home Sept. 1 against UT-San Antonio.