Friday, December 21, 2018

BYU: 2018 Potato Bowl Champions



BOISE, Idaho -- At the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl pregame news conference Thursday, BYU coach Kalani Sitake set high expectations when asked about how he thought quarterback Zach Wilson would play.

"Perfectly," Sitake said jokingly. "That's what I'm praying for, perfect play from everyone."

Sitake didn't get it from everyone, but he did from Wilson.

The BYU freshman was 18-of-18 passing for 317 yards and four touchdowns, and the Cougars beat Western Michigan 49-18 on Friday.

Selected the game MVP, Wilson tied the NCAA bowl record for completion percentage set by Riley Skinner at 11-for-11 for Wake Forest in the 2008 EagleBank Bowl.

Wilson and Skinner are the only players in FBS history to post a 100 percent completion percentage in a bowl game (minimum 10 pass attempts).

Wilson's 18 straight completions are second-most in an NCAA bowl game behind Georgia's Mike Bobo, who had 19 straight against Wisconsin in the 1998 Outback Bowl.

His four passing touchdowns also tied a BYU bowl game record.

"I've been trying to let Zach loose for a long time now," Sitake said as he patted Wilson on the back. "I think an aggressive style of offense is what we need. This was really good for us to see that we could win a game when a team commits to stopping the run against us."

In the first half, BYU (7-6) struggled to sustain momentum offensively and had just 115 yards, despite Wilson completing all eight of his attempts, mostly on short routes. The ground game had a total of 20 yards on 17 carries.

But with BYU down 10-7 at halftime, Sitake unleashed Wilson in the second half.

The Cougars' 28-point third quarter started with an 8-yard pass from Wilson to Dylan Collie. Then, after a 37-yard TD run by Riley Burt, Wilson hit Aleva Hifo on a 70-yard scoring strike.

"I think the bar is set a little too high for the next bowl game," Wilson said. "But I think we proved what we can do as a team and found our offensive identity and discovered what we're good at."

Despite the record-setting performance, Wilson admitted afterward that he had no idea his day was going so well statistically.

"The game flashes by so quick, and I thought I had at least six or seven incompletions," Wilson said. "That's when you realize the success for a quarterback is based on the team around you."

Western Michigan (7-6), which was without starting quarterback Jon Wassink due to a foot injury, rolled up 192 yards of offense in the first half with freshman Kaleb Eleby. But the Broncos managed only 41 yards on 18 plays in the decisive third quarter.

"I thought our defense did a great job of keeping us in it," Western Michigan coach Tim Lester said. "Once they got a lead on us, they got after our secondary pretty good. We knew this game was going to be about which quarterback could get into a rhythm, we said that all week, and [Wilson] got comfortable."

Florida International: 2018 Bahamas Bowl Champions



NASSAU, Bahamas -- FIU fumbled away the opening kickoff, gave up a touchdown 23 seconds into the game and found itself trailing by double digits by the end of the first quarter.

They needed a comeback.

And Anthony Jones might know more about comebacks than anyone on the FIU roster.

Jones -- one of two FIU players who were victims of a drive-by shooting in September -- rushed for three touchdowns, including the clincher with 41 seconds remaining as the Panthers topped Toledo 35-32 on Friday in the Bahamas Bowl. Jones tied a school record with the three scores, and FIU (9-4) set a school record with its ninth win of the season.

"I'm extremely happy for my teammates, these seniors, all my coaches, the support staff at FIU, they were all behind me the whole time," Jones said. "I've been extremely blessed by the man above."

Jones and offensive lineman Mershawn Miller were shot in the city of Opa-locka, Florida -- just north of downtown Miami -- on the afternoon of Sept. 6. The alleged gunman is in custody and is facing two counts of attempted first-degree murder. Miller was hit in the arm; Jones was shot in the back and the bullet exited just under his eye. He lost about 20 pounds in the days afterward, during which he was fed by tube.

"This is a gift from God," FIU coach Butch Davis said.

Eli Peters had three touchdown passes and threw for 264 yards for Toledo (7-6), which fell in a bowl game for the third consecutive year. Jon'Vea Johnson had two of those TD grabs, and Diontae Johnson had six catches for 98 yards and a score for the Rockets.

It was FIU's second bowl victory. The other came in 2010 -- also against Toledo.

"It's been an up and down year," Toledo coach Jason Candle said. "It has had its highlights, and its moments where we weren't so good. Consistency is everything in college football. ... You have to be really consistent, really good at what you do for the long haul and there were times this year that we didn't handle that so well."

Jones scored on runs of 6, 30 and 18 yards for the Panthers. Sterling Palmer caught a touchdown pass and Maurice Alexander rushed for another score for FIU.

Christian Alexander completed 17 of 26 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown for FIU. The Panthers got a huge fourth-down conversion on a pass hauled in by Tony Gaiter IV with 2:40 remaining, the biggest play in a drive where Jones capped the win with his final TD run -- the 18-yarder that sealed the win.

FIU played without starting quarterback James Morgan, who has an arm injury. Morgan completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,727 yards and 26 touchdowns in the regular season. FIU also didn't have running back Shawndarrius Phillips, who was left home after a domestic battery charge stemming from a June case became known this month.

And yet, the Panthers had more than enough.

They got on the board when Jones got his first rushing score of the day early in the second quarter, took a 14-10 lead into the half and grabbed the lead for good on Jones' 30-yard run with 3:47 left in the third quarter.

"We just played as a team today, man," Jones said. "Our coaches did a great job preparing us for this bowl game. Hats off to Toledo, but we did a great job today. We made history today."

BIG PICTURE

Toledo: The Rockets scored with two seconds remaining in the game on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Peters to Jon'Vea Johnson, a play where the clock originally ran down to zero before some time was added. The Rockets then tried an onside kick, which FIU linebacker Sage Lewis recovered.

FIU: Jones became the sixth player to rush for three touchdowns in a game for FIU, and the first since Kedrick Rhodes did it in a loss to Louisiana in 2011.

ROCKET OFFENSE

Toledo finished the year with 525 points, the second most in school history. The Rockets scored 549 points in 2011, and this season's total was 16 better than the 509 they posted last season.

UP NEXT

Toledo: Opens next season on Aug. 31, 2019 at Kentucky.

FIU: Opens next season on Aug. 31, 2019 at Tulane.

Marshall: 2018 Gasparilla Bowl Champions



TAMPA, Fla. -- It was a family affair as Marshall ended the season with another bowl victory.

Isaiah Green completed 17 of 25 passes for 221 yards, cousin Keion Davis ran for two touchdowns and Marshall beat South Florida 38-20 in the Gasparilla Bowl on Thursday night.

"It's fun to get to play my senior year with my cousin, sharing the experience," said Davis, who was the game MVP.

Marshall, 6-0 in bowl games under head coach Doc Holliday, gained 503 years. The Thundering Herd (9-4) had 282 rushing yards and 221 through the air.

"It was my first time contributing to a (bowl) win," Green said. "It feels good to be able to show people that just because I'm a freshmen doesn't mean I can't play this game like I'm not a freshman."

Green also had a touchdown run in the first quarter, while Davis' second TD -- from 16 yards out -- put the Thundering Herd ahead 38-20 with 6 1/2 minutes to play.

Davis had 94 yards on 14 carries, while Brenden Knox gained 93 yards on 12 rushes -- all during the first half.

Knox left with a broken hand, giving Davis extended playing time. Davis entered with 308 rushing yards and one TD in eight games.

"Keion is a special player," Holliday said. "He makes things happen every time he gets the opportunity to play."

Blake Barnett, slowed by shoulder and ankle injuries, replaced Chris Oladokun for South Florida 10 minutes into the game and completed 11 of 23 passes for 212 yards. Barnett, a transfer from Arizona State who also started one game for Alabama in 2016, sat out two of the Bulls' previous three games.

USF (7-6) lost the bowl game played on its regular-season home field to end the season by losing six in a row after a 7-0 start.

"We know this, there's work that needs to be done in the program, and we've got to go get it done," coach Charlie Strong said.

Green scored on an 10-yard dash and Anthony Anderson had an one-yard TD run over a 37-second span as Marshall took a 14-0 lead with 4:43 left in the first. The second score was set up by Darius Hodge's fumble recovery and 29-yard return after Barnett couldn't handle a high snap.

After USF wide receiver Tyre McCants took a direct snap and threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Randall St. Felix, the Thundering Herd went up 21-7 during the final minute of the first on Knox's eight-yard TD run.

St. Felix had six receptions for a school-bowl record 165 yards.

Marshall has outscored its opponent 101-39 in the first quarter this season.

Davis' 5-yard run made it 28-7 with 90 seconds left in the second.

USF got to 28-10 on Coby Weiss' 22-yard field goal four seconds before halftime.

South Florida settled for a 31-yard field goal by Weiss on a second-half opening 14-play drive.

"We were in position to make some plays and we didn't make them," Strong said. "We had our opportunities."

Marshall countered with Justin Rohrwasser's 28-yard field before Barnett connected on a 33-yard scoring pass with St. Felix that cut the Bulls deficit to 31-20 late in the third.

UP NEXT

Marshall: Green will be back next season to anchor a promising offense as the Thundering Herd try to win eight or more games for the fifth time in six years.

South Florida: Barnett returns in 2019 and being healthy could be key in the Bulls' bid for their first American Athletic Conference championship.