Thursday, January 03, 2019

Ohio State: 2019 Rose Bowl Champions



PASADENA, Calif. -- Urban Meyer says he decided to end his remarkable coaching career at Ohio State partly because of the stress inherent in this high-intensity job.

After his Buckeyes blew most of a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter and had to recover a last-minute onside kick to win the Rose Bowl, anybody could understand why this 54-year-old coach can't wait to retire.

But the stress is over. Meyer is going out at the top of his profession. And for the first time, he is a Rose Bowl champion.

Dwayne Haskins passed for 251 yards and three touchdowns, and Meyer headed into retirement with a 28-23 victory after the fifth-ranked Buckeyes held off No. 9 Washington's thrilling comeback in the 105th Rose Bowl on Tuesday.

After the confetti flew in the north end zone, the Buckeyes gathered around Meyer for one last celebration of their coach. He is walking away after going 83-9 at Ohio State with one national championship, three Big Ten titles and this Rose Bowl victory, the Buckeyes' eighth overall in the Granddaddy of Them All.

"I'm a very blessed man," Meyer said. "I'm blessed because of my family, (but) this team, this year, I love this group as much as any I've ever had."

Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon and Rashod Berry caught TD passes in the first half for the Buckeyes (13-1), who took a 28-3 lead into the fourth and seemed to be cruising to a blowout.

But star running back Myles Gaskin threw a touchdown pass and rushed for two more scores for the Huskies (10-4), scoring from 2 yards out with 42 seconds left.

The Huskies got no closer, however. Defensive player of the game Brendon White intercepted Jake Browning's pass on the 2-point conversion attempt, and Dixon recovered Washington's onside kick.

"We're going down as one of three teams in Ohio State history to win 13 games," Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young said. "Legendary team. Legendary coach. We're all legendary right now."

Meyer cited his health last month in his decision to step down. A cyst in Meyer's brain causes severe headaches that are even worse for a man who says he gets not just nervous, but "deathly ill" before big games.

Meyer largely refused to reflect publicly on his career during the month since he announced his plans. After he shook Washington coach Chris Petersen's hand, raised the trophy and walked off the Rose Bowl turf, Meyer finally thought about the journey that brought him back to his home state for a stellar seven-year tenure capped by this late-breaking thriller.

"Every week, every yard, every down, when we recruited these players, I just wanted to make sure that we made the great state of Ohio proud," Meyer said. "And once again, we weren't perfect, but we did a lot of good things."

After Southern California's epic win over Penn State and Georgia's double-overtime thriller with Oklahoma over the past two years in Pasadena, the Rose Bowl got another matchup packed with late-game fireworks.

Browning passed for 313 yards and Gaskin rushed for 121 in the final game of the four-year starters' landmark careers at Washington, which has lost three straight New Year's Six bowl games.

But after three poor offensive quarters, the Pac-12 champions made it awfully interesting late. The Huskies racked up 170 yards of offense while making three strong drives in the fourth, but they had fallen too far behind in their first Rose Bowl game appearance in 18 years.

"It was too little, too late, but we're always going to keep swinging," Browning said. "That's how we are as a team. We're never out of it."

Petersen dropped to 1-4 in bowls during his otherwise remarkable tenure at Washington, including consecutive defeats in the Peach, Fiesta and Rose.

"Very frustrating when you start the first half like we started," Petersen said. "I have no idea why. It's on me. It's not these kids. ... We'll go back to the drawing board on how to prepare these guys better to come out of the gate a little bit faster. But I am proud of how hard these guys play, and I never doubt that."

While Petersen likely will get more chances for his first Rose Bowl win, Meyer insists his three-decade collegiate coaching career is over. After starting out as a graduate assistant at Ohio State, he has been a head coach since 2001, achieving huge success at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida before his stellar run in Columbus.

These Buckeyes are Meyer's eighth team to finish with one loss or fewer in his 17 seasons as a head coach.

"He's a really tough guy," said Ohio State running back Mike Weber, who rushed for 96 yards. "Sometimes you never really know what he's thinking. He really doesn't show a lot of emotion, but I felt him today. You could tell he was giving his all. It felt a little different."

Although Meyer's final season began with an embarrassing three-game suspension over his mismanagement of domestic abuse accusations against former assistant Zach Smith, he propelled the Buckeyes to another dominant regular season despite missing out on the College Football Playoff.

This game could be Haskins' farewell to Ohio State as well, if the sophomore goes pro. The offensive player of the game and Heisman Trophy finalist became the sixth FBS quarterback to throw 50 touchdown passes in a season while picking away at the vaunted Washington secondary minus injured Taylor Rapp, the second-team All-American safety.

Gaskin became the fourth running back in NCAA history with four 1,200-yard seasons during the third quarter, but Ohio State increased its lead with J.K. Dobbins' TD run.

The Huskies finally scored their first offensive touchdown since the Apple Cup when Gaskin threw a TD pass to Drew Sample with 12:17 to play.

THE TAKEAWAY

Ohio State: The offense did enough to win despite punting on five straight late drives. Fans can only wonder whether this bunch of Buckeyes would have done better than overmatched Notre Dame or Oklahoma in the playoff semifinals.

Washington: The defeat wrapped up an unimpressive Pac-12 football season. The Huskies were the class of the conference, and they showed tremendous heart in the fourth -- but they'll be frustrated with a campaign bookended by losses to national powers Auburn and Ohio State.

UP NEXT

Ohio State: Ryan Day is now the 25th head coach in program history. Haskins could be the first quarterback drafted if he leaves, and he's just one key contributor who must be replaced. But Meyer has built a fierce machine in Columbus, and he seems certain Day is the man to drive it forward.

Washington: Replacing the most prolific quarterback and running back in program history isn't easy, but many Huskies fans are excited to see who's next. Petersen has built a powerhouse in Seattle, and Washington should be in position to contend for a trip to Pasadena almost every year.

Texas: 2019 Sugar Bowl Champions



NEW ORLEANS -- Bevo's pregame strategy was to run right at the Bulldogs.

Once the football started, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger took the same approach with outstanding results.

Ehlinger ran for three touchdowns, the Texas defense largely held Georgia's offense in check, and the Longhorns earned their first 10-win season since 2009 by beating the Bulldogs 28-21 in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night.

"We're back!" Ehlinger shouted to a raucous contingent of Texas fans after winning the game's Most Valuable Player award.

Ehlinger was the star of a gritty win, running for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter, a 9-yard score in the second, and a 1-yard TD in the fourth. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound sophomore finished with 64 yards rushing on 21 carries and also threw for 169 yards.

The quarterback's impressive performance came after a startling pregame display from Bevo, the team's huge longhorn steer mascot. About an hour before kickoff, he charged through a barricade and toward Georgia's red sweater-clad bulldog mascot Uga X.

A few people, including photographers, were knocked to the ground, but there were no reported injuries and Bevo was quickly restrained.

No. 14 Texas (10-4) continued its quick rise under coach Tom Herman, capping his second season with a Sugar Bowl win that will surely send expectations soaring after nearly a decade of mostly mediocrity.

During the postgame celebration, some Texas players were making snow angels in the confetti on the field. The different position groups -- like receivers and linebackers -- stayed on the field to take pictures together as the Longhorns obviously relished every moment.

"It is incredible," Ehlinger said. "We are on the way. This was a stepping stone for Texas to get back to the elite level. This is going to give us great momentum headed into the offseason, and I am really excited for what we are going to do next year."

Texas stretched its lead to 28-7 with 11:49 left in the fourth quarter on Ehlinger's 1-yard run, finally scoring on fourth down after his first three attempts at running for the score fell just short of the end zone.

"We pride ourselves in our physicality," Herman said. "At this point in our program, that is how we are going to win games. That is always how we are going to win games.

"I'm just so proud of how hard our guys played. They played hard early. They played hard late. They overcame some adversity. It was a complete team effort."

No. 6 Georgia (11-3) was a 12 1/2-point favorite and claimed it would be ready for the Sugar Bowl despite just missing a spot in the College Football Playoff after a loss in the Southeastern Conference championship game. But a sloppy opening sequence indicated otherwise.

Texas jumped out to a 17-0 lead by early in the second quarter, largely because of Georgia's mistakes on special teams and offense.

The most costly was when D'Andre Swift fumbled deep in Georgia's own territory, giving Texas possession at the 12. Three plays later, Ehlinger deftly escaped trouble in the pocket and scored on a 9-yard run to give the Longhorns a 17-point advantage with 14:53 left in the second quarter.

Georgia got back into the game with a methodical 12-play drive that ended with Jake Fromm finding Brian Herrien for a 17-yard touchdown, but Texas still took a 20-7 advantage into halftime.

"They played more physical than us and it showed to me that they wanted it more than we did," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "And you've got to give them credit for that."

Fromm completed 20 of 34 passes for 212 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The Bulldogs scored a touchdown with 14 seconds left to pull within 28-21 but Texas recovered the ensuing onside kick.

"They did a really good job game planning for us," Fromm said of the Texas defense. "They had an entire month to do so. They were showing a lot of different looks. They were constantly mixing stuff up."

TEXAS IS BACK? HERMAN'S NOT SO SURE

Ehlinger's "We're back!" comment on the Sugar Bowl stage certainly revved up Texas fans. His coach wasn't as big of a fan.

The coach was asked if his heart dropped when Ehlinger made the statement, the coach responded with a good-natured "Yes," while Ehrlinger, who was seated next to him, tried to stifle a grin.

"I'll never know what that means, `Is Texas back?' so I'm never going to comment on that," Herman said. "It can mean a lot of different things so I'll never comment on that. I know we're headed in the right direction. I don't ever want to give any kind of finality on where we're at, because we're always making progress."

THE TAKEAWAY

Texas: It's a validating win for Texas, which was the physically dominant team while playing one of the SEC's best programs. It's fair to say the Longhorns are ahead of schedule under Herman and expectations will skyrocket going forward.

"I'm going to speak for the Big 12," Texas defensive back P.J. Locke said. "There's a misconception saying the Big 12 is soft. We played more physical than an SEC team. That's clear cut."

Georgia: A very good Bulldogs' season ended with a huge thud after back-to-back losses to Alabama and Texas. Georgia made far too many mistakes against the Longhorns and Fromm didn't have one of his best games.

UP NEXT

Georgia is a set to be very good again in 2019, especially on offense where most of the starters should return. The Bulldogs open next season with an SEC game on the road against Vanderbilt on Aug. 31.

Texas returns several key pieces, including Ehlinger, but loses several key contributors on defense. Texas will host Louisiana Tech in the season opener on Aug. 31.

LSU: 2019 Fiesta Bowl Champions



GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Joe Burrow watched the ball land in an opposing player's hands and immediately gave chase. Locked in on preventing a pick six, LSU's quarterback didn't see Joey Connors, Central Florida's 313-pound defensive lineman, bearing down on him.

With a thunderous, blindside collision , Burrow found himself flat on his back, woozy and wondering what happened.

Minutes later, after being helped to his feet, Burrow was back on the field, hitting receivers all over the field.

The nation's longest winning streak was over. So was a second self-proclaimed national championship.

The LSU Tigers were Fiesta Bowl champions, thanks to their gritty junior quarterback.

Burrow shook off the big early hit to throw for 394 yards and four touchdowns, helping No. 11 LSU end No. 7 UCF's 25-game winning streak with a 40-32 victory in the Fiesta Bowl on Tuesday.

"I didn't really think about the hit too much after it happened," said Burrow, who had a cut on his neck from the hit. "It hurt for a second, I got right up and went on to the next play."

LSU (10-3, No. 11 CFP) started its first Fiesta Bowl without several key players on defense and fell into an early 11-point hole against the high-scoring Knights (12-1, No. 8 CFP).

The Tigers clawed back behind Burrow and a defensive front that made life difficult for UCF quarterback Darriel Mack Jr.

Burrow returned from the early blindside hit to pick apart UCF's secondary, hitting 21 of 34 of passes, including two touchdowns to Justin Jefferson.

"It looked like the passing game we wanted," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. "Joe was on the money."

LSU sacked Mack five times and made him rush numerous throws, holding the nation's third-best offense to 250 total yards -- 295 below its average -- while spoiling the Knights' bid for a second straight self-proclaimed national title.

Taj McGowan scored on a 2-yard run and the Knights converted a 2-point conversion to pull UCF to within 40-32. After LSU recovered the onside kick, the Knights' last-ditch attempt finished with a tipped interception, ending a run that started after a loss in the 2016 Cure Bowl.

"Obviously, everyone in the locker room is really upset," UCF defensive lineman Mason Colubiale. "We haven't lost a game since 2016."

UCF declared itself national champions after finishing as the only undefeated FBS team a year ago. The Knights earned another shot at an undefeated season by staging a massive rally to beat Memphis in the American Athletic Conference title game.

But just like last year, UCF was on the outside looking in when the College Football Playoff final four was announced, adding to the boulder-sized chip on its shoulder and only a self-awarded national title in its reach.

The Speedy Knights got the Fiesta Bowl off to a fast start, going up 14-3 on Greg McCrae's 25-yard TD run and Brandon Moore's 93-yard interception return.

The Tigers roared back behind Burrow and their disruptive defensive front.

Burrow shook off the big hit on the pick six, finding Jefferson on a pair of scoring passes and a 49-yard TD to Derrick Dillon.

UCF sputtered offensively after its opening drive, but Mack hit Gabriel Davis on a 32-yard pass in the closing seconds to pull UCF to within 24-21 at halftime.

Burrow opened the second half with a 32-yard TD pass to Ja'Marr Chase, and Cole Tracy hit three field goals to put LSU up 40-24. Tracy's final kick, the 97th of his career, broke the NCAA all-division record and ended the nation's fourth-longest winning streak since 2000.

"Love the way they competed for four quarters, continued to fight with everything that they had. Believed. Played as a group," UCF first-year coach Josh Huepel said. "Just weren't good enough at the end."

THE TAKEAWAY

Even depleted, LSU's defense proved to still be formidable and Burrow showed his grit after the big hit, giving LSU its first 10-win season since 2013.

UCF missed injured two-time AAC player of the year McKenzie Milton and had no answer for LSU's passing game to lose for the first time in two years.

SO MANY PENALTIES

The first meeting between UCF and LSU was chippy from the start, including three first-half ejections. LSU consensus All-America safety Grant Delpit was among those ejected after being called for targeting in the second quarter.

UCF had a key penalty in the second quarter, when Randy Charlton was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the Knights stopped LSU on a third-and-6. That kept the Tigers' drive alive and Burrow hit Justice for a TD that pulled LSU to within 14-10.

LSU had 14 penalties for 145 yards, LSU had 12 for 104 yards.

UP NEXT

LSU: RB Nick Brossette is a senior, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is just a sophomore and Burrow will be back. Delpit also is a sophomore and most of the defense should be back. LSU opens the 2019 season against Georgia Southern on Aug. 31.

UCF: Most of the Knights' offense skill players should be back, but they have four seniors on the two-deep offensive line roster. UCF also will have new pieces on defense next season, with nine seniors on the two-deep. UCF opens the 2019 season against Florida A&M on Aug. 31.

Kentucky: 2019 Citrus Bowl Champions



ORLANDO, Fla. -- Winning 10 games, beating Penn State on New Year's Day, and finishing in the Top 20 is no small deal for the Kentucky Wildcats.

So when Mark Stoops took a seat on the podium flanked by linebacker Josh Allen and running back Benny Snell Jr. after Tuesday's 27-24 victory in the Citrus Bowl, the coach understandably was beyond excited.

"It was extremely important to this team, to all of us, to come home with some hardware, to come home with a trophy," Stoops said.

Snell ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns to become Kentucky's career rushing leader and helped the 16th-ranked Wildcats end their best season in more than four decades on a winning note.

"There's no question that these guys changed the culture," Stoops said. "They've done so much and meant so much to this team and this program that it was very important to finish, to collect the trophy, win 10 games and win a game on New Year's Day. Believe me, we had a great belief that we didn't have to do anything special (to win), just be us."

Snell scored on runs of 2 and 12 yards in the second half, then carried for a couple of crucial first downs to help Kentucky (10-3) run out the clock after Penn State's Trace McSorley trimmed a 27-7 deficit to three points despite playing with a foot injury.

McSorley threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns, and the Nittany Lions' career passing and wins leader also rushed for a team-high 75 yards and one TD.

"The same thing that troubled us throughout the season troubled us here again today. Dropped balls, missed opportunities. That's really kind of the story of the game," said Penn State coach James Franklin, whose team started slowly on offense, missed one field goal and had another blocked.

Lynn Bowden Jr. scored on a 58-yard punt return for Kentucky. Allen, the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year, had three of the Wildcats' six sacks.

"The three guys we knew we needed to stop were Bowden, Snell and Allen. All three of them showed up today," Franklin said.

"They've built their program around those guys, they built their season around those guys," Franklin added. "They made plays. That's what great players do."

Penn State (9-4) trailed 27-7 entering the fourth quarter, but McSorley's wasn't finished. His 1-yard TD run capped a 75-yard drive, and he followed with an 18-yard TD pass to Pat Friermuth to cut Kentucky's lead to six.

The Nittany Lions marched to the Kentucky 14 on their next possession and pulled within 27-24 with 4:12 left.

Thanks to Snell, a junior who already has declared for the NFL draft, McSorley didn't get the ball back until just one second was left on the clock.

Franklin declined to discuss specifics of McSorley's injury.

"We don't typically get into specifics. ... Obviously Trace was experiencing some discomfort. The doctors felt like he could go, but it really just came down to Trace on how Trace felt," Franklin said.

McSorley, who was to undergo further evaluation, said he hadn't received "definitive information" on whether his foot was broken.

"I've been through too much, the team has been through too much. ... They told me it was a matter of if I could deal with the discomfort," the quarterback said. "If I could do that, I was going to play."

HISTORIC SEASON

Kentucky finished with its first 10-win season since 1977 -- when the Wildcats went 10-1 -- and just the third time in program history. The school also did it in 1950. Snell, meanwhile, broke Sonny Collins' career rushing record on his 12-yard TD run that made it 27-7 late in the third quarter. Collins rushed for 3,835 yards from 1972-75.

THE TAKEAWAY

Kentucky: Facing a tradition-rich opponent in a New Year's bowl was significant for the Wildcats, who made the most of the opportunity. Along with the three sacks, Allen blocked a field goal to key a strong defensive effort, while the offense shrugged off a slow start to help the Wildcats pull away in the second half.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions fell short of their goal to finish with 10 wins in three consecutive seasons for the first time since 1980-82. Three of their four losses were by a total of eight points.

UP NEXT

Kentucky: Wildcats look to build on success they've had under coach Mark Stoops, who has transformed them into a Top 25 team. Their 5-3 record in SEC play represented their first winning mark in the league in 41 years, spawning heightened expectations for 2019.

Penn State: Nittany Lions face challenge of replacing McSorley, the school's career leader for wins, completions, passing yards, passing TDs, total offense and rushing TDs by a quarterback.

Iowa: 2019 Outback Bowl Champions



TAMPA, Fla. -- The Iowa Hawkeyes lost a yard on the last play of the Outback Bowl, pushing their final rushing total to minus 15 yards, and didn't mind a bit.

They ran the play from victory formation.

Safety Jake Gervase's interception in the end zone helped preserve a late lead, and a ball-hawking defense compensated for a sputtering offense as Iowa beat No. 18 Mississippi State 27-22 on Tuesday.

Gervase also batted down an errant fourth-down pass to end the Bulldogs' final drive at the Iowa 32 with 25 seconds left. Two earlier Mississippi State threats in the fourth quarter led to only three points.

The Hawkeyes totaled just 199 yards, with 75 coming on a touchdown pass from Nathan Stanley to Nick Easley , but they converted three takeaways into 17 points.

The Hawkeyes won despite losing 27 inches per rush. Their three running backs totaled 4 yards in 15 carries.

"We had a hard time blocking their front," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Defense really bailed us out."

Iowa (9-4) earned its biggest postseason victory since an Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech to cap the 2009 season. Mississippi State (8-5) lost to a team outside the top 15 for the first time.

Trailing 24-19, the Bulldogs had a first down at the Iowa 1 early in the fourth quarter, but three quarterback draws lost 2 yards and they settled for a field goal.

They were again on the verge of taking the lead with nine minutes left, but receiver Stephen Guidry bobbled a tipped pass in the end zone, and Gervase snatched it away.

"Sometimes you get lucky," Gervase said.

The Hawkeyes then drove 50 yards for a field goal, the game's final score.

"Bowl games are a lot like early season games, where turnovers and penalties really factor in," Ferentz said. "If you aren't on top of that part of your game because you haven't played in a while, it can be a really tough thing. Obviously it helped us today being a little bit more opportunistic."

Iowa had no penalties, while Mississippi State was penalized 90 yards, including a holding call that negated a 51-yard completion.

"Too many missed opportunities, too many penalties," Bulldogs coach Joe Moorhead said. "Can't turn the ball, can't give up explosive plays, can't have penalties take scores off the board. We didn't do enough to earn the right to win."

Mississippi State receiver Osirus Mitchell put it another way.

"We definitely beat ourselves," he said. "They weren't better than us."

A takeaway helped Iowa score two touchdowns in 97 seconds for a 17-6 lead -- especially impressive against a team that allowed only 12 TDs during the regular season.

Mississippi State rallied with two touchdowns in 18 seconds to go up 19-17. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald gave the Bulldogs the advantage on a nifty 33-yard touchdown run , his 100th career score rushing or passing.

But on their next possession, Fitzgerald's tipped pass was intercepted by defensive lineman Chauncey Golston. Stanley then scrambled to convert a fourth and 1, and on the next play he hit Easley with an 8-yard score to put Iowa ahead to stay, 24-19.

MAKING THE ADJUSTMENT

Easley had a career-high 104 yards receiving on eight catches and was chosen the most valuable player. He nearly ran out from under his helmet on his long touchdown.

"I had a little bit of a malfunction with my helmet strap -- a little piece broke the play before," he said. "As I was running, it started coming off a little bit. Thankfully I was able to pull it back on and continue to run."

Easley and Gervase played their final game as seniors who walked on.

"It's how we're built," Ferentz said.

INJURY REPORT

Running back Kylin Hill left the game when he took a hit to the helmet in the fourth quarter, but he was back in the lineup on the Bulldogs' final possession.

Moorhead said Hill cleared the concussion protocol.

"I'm good," Hill tweeted with a thumbs-up emoji after the game.

TAKEAWAYS

Iowa will likely finish in the Top 25 for only the second time in the past nine seasons. Ferentz concluded his 20th season at Iowa and improved to 152-101, including 8-8 in bowl games.

The down-to-the-wire finish was a rarity for the Bulldogs, who had only one other game decided by fewer than 14 points.

UP NEXT

Stanley will be a third-year starter returning to lead the 2019 Hawkeyes, who also will have their top three rushers back. They open the season Aug. 31 at home against Miami (Ohio).

With fifth-year senior Fitzgerald departing, the Bulldogs will have a new starting quarterback when they open the 2019 season on Aug. 31 in New Orleans against Louisiana.

Texas A&M: 2018 Gator Bowl Champions



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Trayveon Williams strolled around the field, his white pants covered in dirt and grass stains, his Gator Bowl hat turned sideways and his MVP trophy secured tightly in his left hand.

He posed for pictures, hugged teammates and friends, and blew kisses to the crowd.

It sure looked like a farewell party.

Williams ran for 236 yards and three touchdowns, smashing a 30-year-old school record and carrying No. 21 Texas A&M to a 52-13 victory against North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl on Monday night.

The Aggies (No. 19 CFP) ended 2018 with a four-game winning streak and broke a three-game postseason skid. It was the first bowl victory for most of Texas A&M's roster, including Williams.

It also capped an impressive inaugural season for coach Jimbo Fisher in Aggieland.

"The most important thing is we got that bowl win, that bowl win that we've been missing out on the last four or five seasons," Williams said. "We got that. We're definitely molding and showing this program is going in a new direction."

Williams earned MVP honors, a potential final curtain call for his college career. The junior is expected to leave school early and enter the NFL draft.

He said afterward he's still contemplating his future, but no one could blame him for turning pro after the way he closed out the season.

Williams ran for 829 yards and eight scores during Texas A&M's final four games, all wins. His performance against the Wolfpack gave him 1,760 yards for the season, topping Darren Lewis' previous Texas A&M mark of 1,692 set in 1988.

Williams had 61 yards rushing in the first half and then got rolling in the third quarter. He carried five times for 82 yards on one drive, including a 17-yard touchdown run . He topped that with a 93-yard scoring run on Texas A&M's ensuing drive.

His longest scamper broke the previous Gator Bowl record of 216 yards rushing set by Syracuse's Floyd Little in 1966 against Tennessee.

"It was a special moment," Williams said.

Texas A&M's Kellen Mond completed 14 of 26 passes for 140 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Mond also ran five times for 85 yards and a score. Kendrick Rogers made a leaping, 6-yard catch in the back of the end zone to help Mond.

Little went right for the Wolfpack, which was trying to get to double-digit wins for the second time in school history. North Carolina State finished with 273 yards and went 0 for 13 on third down.

"It's on all of us," coach Dave Doeren said. "It's not the players' fault. It's not the coaches' fault. It's all of our faults, and we own it that way. Bottom line is they played better than we did, They coached better than we did, and I'll own that."

Ryan Finley, a senior playing his final game, completed 19 of 32 passes for 139 yards. He threw a touchdown passes and two interceptions. Tyrel Dodson returned one of the picks 78 yards for a score early in the third quarter, a play that turned a close game into a two-touchdown advantage.

Finley also was sacked twice before getting pulled in the fourth quarter. Doeren clearly wanted to protect Finley, who's expected to be an early round pick in the NFL draft in April.

It certainly didn't help that NC State played without two of its best players, including the team's leading tackler. Receiver Kelvin Harmon and linebacker Germaine Pratt skipped the bowl to protect their NFL draft stocks.

It's unlikely Pratt could have done enough to make a difference against Williams, who averaged 12.4 yards on 19 carries against a defense that allowed 109.1 yards a game all season.

"You give him enough touches, great things are going to happen in every phase of the game," Fisher said. "That's what great players do."

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina State: The Wolfpack failed to get a third straight postseason win. It was a disappointing finale after ending the regular season with three consecutive wins, but still proof that Doeren has the program headed in the right direction.

Texas A&M: The Aggies have one of the youngest rosters in the Southeastern Conference and have enough talent to challenge Alabama in the coming years.

CROWD CONTROL

The game drew 38,206, the bowl's smallest crowd since 1952.

UP NEXT

North Carolina State will have to replace Finley, Harmon, Pratt and three starters on one of the nation's best offensive lines.

Texas A&M has one of the county's most challenging schedules in 2019, a slate that includes Alabama and road games against Clemson, Georgia and LSU.

Northwestern: 2018 Holiday Bowl Champions



SAN DIEGO -- A cold, hard rain in normally warm, dry San Diego made the Northwestern Wildcats feel right at home, especially as they enjoyed a downpour of Utah turnovers in the Holiday Bowl.

In a dizzying nine-minute stretch of the third quarter, the Wildcats turned three turnovers into 21 points to stun the No. 20 Utes 31-20 Monday night.

The highlight was Jared McGee's 82-yard fumble return for a touchdown, the middle turnover in the nightmarish stretch for Utah.

"Did I think we were going to be able to create that amount of turnovers?" coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "I love San Diego but man I love it when it rains on game day. That was sweet because I think it played a really big factor. It was raining a little bit harder coming out of halftime than it was before the half and I think that played a role in the game."

The Wildcats (9-5) scored 28 points total in the third quarter to win their third straight bowl game under Fitzgerald. The Green Bay Packers reportedly want to interview Fitzgerald for their head coaching job.

Fitzgerald credited the seniors for winning 36 games in four seasons and gushed about the program's future.

"They have set the bar now at a whole new level for our program and we couldn't be more excited about our future," he said.

Asked about his own future, he said: "Hashtag GoCats, man. I'm not going anywhere. This is home forever. Listen, these are my guys. ... I'm a Wildcat for life. I'm so thankful for these guys. ... We're just getting started."

Senior Clayton Thorson became the all-time leading passer for Northwestern, going 21 of 30 for 241 yards for 10,731 career yards. He broke Brett Basanez's school record of 10,580. Thorson threw for two touchdowns and was intercepted once in making his 53rd straight start for the Wildcats, the most by a quarterback in Big Ten history. He is the program's all-time winningest quarterback at 36-17. He was replaced after taking a hard shot midway through the fourth quarter, but came back in.

Utah (9-5) cruised to a 20-3 halftime lead behind redshirt freshman quarterback Jason Shelley before it all fell apart in the third quarter. Shelley had two interceptions and a fumble. Utah had four turnovers in the third quarter and five in the second half.

On the opening drive of the second half, Shelley threw the ball right to Northwestern's Blake Gallagher. Thorson's 52-yard pass to Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman set up his 4-yard scoring toss to Riley Lees.

"We talked at halftime about, get a stop, get a score, seize momentum," Fitzgerald said. "The credit goes to our guys. They were resilient all year. Today was indicative of our team."

The Utes had the ball first-and-goal at the 6 when Shelley rolled right, was hit from behind by Joe Gaziano and fumbled. McGee picked it up on the third bounce and ran down the sideline untouched for an 82-yard return that pulled the Wildcats to 20-17.

"I definitely can't take credit for anything that happened on that play other than running with the ball," McGee said.

The Utes advanced to the 30 and looked like they had enough for a first down on a catch by Jaylen Dixon, but he was stripped by Trae Williams. JR Pace recovered and returned it 34 yards. Two plays later, Northwestern took a 24-20 lead when Thorson threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior offensive lineman Trey Klock, a key player in goal line and short-yardage situations.

Northwestern added another touchdown in the third quarter when Lees scored from 8 yards out for a 31-20 lead.

Pace had a second interception in the third quarter, on a deflected pass.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the second half was a nightmare.

"I've been coaching a long time and I don't think I've ever been a part of third quarter like that," he said. "We had complete control of the game at halftime and we came out in second half and proceded to turn the ball over five times. ... You turn the ball over like that and you win almost never."

Shelley was making his fourth start in place of Tyler Huntley, who broke his collarbone against Arizona State on Nov. 3. Also out were leading rusher Zack Moss, leading receiver Britain Covey and leading tackler Chase Hansen, a senior.

Shelley threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Dixon and a 4-yarder to tight end Jake Jackson, both in the first quarter.

Utah lost for the just the second time in its last 16 bowls dating to 1999. Whittingham's bowl record dropped to 11-2. He was trying to become the first to win the Holiday Bowl as a player and coach. He played in the first four Holiday Bowls with BYU, going 2-2. He was inducted into the Holiday Bowl Hall of Fame in 2009.

THE TAKEAWAY

Northwestern: The Wildcats had minus-6 yards rushing at halftime and didn't get into positive until late in the third quarter.

Utah: Shelley was impressive with his passing and his scrambling until running into trouble in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Northwestern: The Wildcats will have to replace Thorson, who leaves with a legacy as the most productive quarterback in program history. The Wildcats will be back on the West Coast to open the 2019 season at Stanford on Aug. 31.

Utah: After winning their first Pac-12 South title, the Utes will look for more in 2019, if they can stay healthy. They'll get Moss and Covey back, and there could be a spirited QB competition between Huntley and Shelley. The Utes open the 2019 season with their rivalry game against BYU, at Provo on Aug. 29.

Oklahoma State: 2018 Liberty Bowl Champions



MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- In a story Monday about the Liberty Bowl, The Associated Press reported erroneously that Oklahoma State set a Liberty Bowl record by gaining 637 total yards. Missouri gained 637 total yards to set the record.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Oklahoma State edges No. 24 Missouri 38-33 in Liberty Bowl

Oklahoma State hangs on to beat No. 24 Missouri 38-33 in Liberty Bowl

By STEVE MEGARGEE

AP Sports Writer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Oklahoma State hung on for dear life to win a Big 12-style Liberty Bowl against its former conference rival.

Taylor Cornelius tied a Liberty Bowl record with four touchdown passes and Kolby Peel made a critical fourth-down stop with 1:01 left as the Cowboys upset No. 24 Missouri 38-33 on Monday.

The teams combined for 1,139 total yards in the type of game that the Big 12's high-powered offenses produce on most autumn Saturdays. Missouri left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference in 2012.

"(It was) like a lot of games that we play in our conference," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "As I said on the press conference a few days ago, Missouri would fit right in. It ended up being somewhat of a shootout, and the defense made a play at the end."

Missouri (8-5) faced fourth-and-1 from Oklahoma State's 9-yard line when quarterback Drew Lock attempted a keeper around the right end. Peel, a freshman, made a diving ankle tackle that stopped Lock short of the first-down marker.

"It's a game of inches, we all talk about it and know it," Missouri coach Barry Odom said. "I wouldn't want the ball in anybody else's hand besides No. 3 for the Mizzou Tigers (Lock)."

That allowed Oklahoma State (7-6) to survive a game it had led 35-19 heading into the fourth quarter. The Cowboys snapped Missouri's four-game winning streak and avoided their first losing season since 2005, the first year of Gundy's tenure.

Cornelius, a fifth-year senior and former walk-on, went 26 of 44. His four touchdown passes tied a record set four previous times in the Liberty Bowl's 60-year history.

"It's a great feeling to just go out on top," Cornelius said. "As long as we get the win, that's all that matters to me. I don't care about the record."

Cornelius also threw two interceptions to Cam Hilton that sparked Missouri's comeback try. Both interceptions led to Missouri touchdowns -- an 86-yard completion from Lock to Memphis resident Johnathon Johnson and a 55-yard run by Larry Rountree III.

Rountree ran for 204 yards and Johnson caught nine passes for 185 yards. Lock was 23 of 38 for 373 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Chuba Hubbard rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown for Oklahoma State. Tyron Johnson had seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

Missouri wasted two chances to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma State was clinging to a 35-33 lead when Mike Scott blocked Tucker McCann's 42-yard field goal attempt with 9:22 left.

Matt Ammendola kicked a 27-yard field goal that extended Oklahoma State's lead to 38-33 before Peel's tackle sealed the win.

BIG PICTURE

Missouri: This marks the second straight year that Missouri has lost a bowl game after a late-season surge. Last year, Missouri won its final six regular-season games but followed that up with a 33-16 loss Texas Bowl loss to Texas.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys entered the game ranked 99th in total defense and tied for 96th in scoring defense, but that beleaguered unit delivered when it mattered most. Oklahoma State is 6-1 in its last seven games against teams in the Top 25, and Gundy owns a 9-4 bowl record.

PUZZLING MOVES

Oklahoma State was clinging to a 35-33 lead when the Cowboys made an unsuccessful fake punt attempt on fourth-and-8 from their own 27. Oklahoma State stayed ahead only after blocking a field-goal attempt.

Earlier in the fourth quarter, Missouri made a curious move of its own by calling a timeout after scoring a touchdown to cut Oklahoma State's lead to 35-25. After burning the timeout, Missouri chose to kick an extra point to make it 35-26 rather than attempting a two-point conversion.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Missouri's hopes of ending a season ranked for the first time since 2014 are likely dashed.

RECORD PERFORMANCES

The four previous Liberty Bowl players to four touchdown passes were Purdue's Mark Herrmann (also against Missouri) in 1980, Illinois' Johnny Johnson in 1994, South Carolina's Blake Mitchell in 2006 and Texas A&M's Kyle Allen in 2014.

Missouri's 637 total yards also set a Liberty Bowl record.

SHORT-HANDED

Oklahoma State's offense was missing leading rusher Justice Hill and guard Larry Williams, who sat out the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft. Its defense lost cornerbacks Rodarius Williams and Kemah Siverand to targeting penalties -- Williams in the first quarter and Siverand early in the fourth period -- and safety Malcolm Rodriguez to a second-quarter injury.

Missouri played without injured running back Damarea Crockett and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. The Tigers also lost receiver Emanuel Hall to an injury after he caught two passes for 72 yards.

NEXT UP

Missouri has Clemson graduate transfer Kelly Bryant ready to take over for Lock, the Tigers' starting quarterback the last four seasons. The Tigers open the 2019 season Aug. 31 at Wyoming.

Oklahoma State also will break in a new starting quarterback. The Cowboys begin the 2019 season Aug. 30 at Oregon State.

Oregon: 2018 Redbox Bowl Champions



SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Justin Herbert did just enough to keep his streak intact for consecutive games with a touchdown pass. Make it an impressive 28 and counting for Oregon's quarterback, the longest active streak in the nation among FBS schools.

That it turned out to be the Ducks lone score in their 7-6 win over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl only emphasized why coach Mario Cristobal was smiling after Herbert's decision earlier this month to bypass the NFL draft.

Herbert shook off a sluggish day and threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Dillon Mitchell in the fourth quarter, and Oregon held on after Michigan State botched a field goal attempt for a 7-6 victory in the Redbox Bowl on Monday.

"We felt like it was going to be that kind of game just watching them on defense," Cristobal said. "We kept battling and battling. You take a victory whether it be one point, two points or 50 points. These guys found a way to get it done."

Herbert passed for 166 yards and extended his streak on a day when the Ducks' offense mostly sputtered.

"We kind of just shot ourselves in the foot the first few drives, and guys kind of settled down and making plays," Herbert said.

Oregon (9-4) crossed midfield only three times and couldn't get into the end zone until Herbert found Mitchell in the right front of the end zone for the deciding score. The Ducks' defense held up from there but got some help from Michigan State's special teams.

The Spartans were lined up for a 50-yard field goal attempt when quarterback Brian Lewerke, who doubles as the holder, bobbled the snap, then attempted to run before hurriedly throwing an incompletion near the sideline.

"It's one that I have to come up with," Lewerke said. "The ball kind of hit my hand on top of the ball. I tried to make something happen. That's what happens."

After Michigan State's defense forced a three-and-out on the following possession, the Spartans took over at their own 42, but Lewerke's long pass on 4th-and-12 was knocked down by Oregon cornerback Thomas Graham.

Lewerke completed 22 of 40 passes for 172 yards with one interception. It's the third time in four games that Michigan State (7-6) has failed to score a touchdown.

Running back LJ Scott ran for 84 yards on 24 carries, ending his injury-riddled season with the Spartans on a high note after being limited to five games. The senior running back declined to redshirt this year and declared for the NFL draft in early December.

Matt Goghlin kicked a pair of 34-yard field goals but he also missed one from 50.

"We never got that bust-out play," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "You're not going to win many games scoring six points."

It was Oregon's first bowl victory since beating Florida State in the 2015 Rose Bowl.

THE TAKEAWAY

Michigan State: The Spartans had more than enough on defense but as has been the case all season, the offense simply couldn't hold up its end of the bargain. Lewerke tried to get the passing game going and took several deep shots, but it was his scrambling that was most effective. The memory of the mistake on the field goal try in the fourth quarter will linger, but the Spartans' inability to get a sustained attack on offense was what ultimately did in Dantonio's team.

Oregon: Getting Cristobal a bowl win in his first season was big and should be a nice lift for the Ducks program. That they won when their offense was held to 25 points below its scoring average is also big. The victory is Oregon's third straight, which should build some momentum heading into the offseason.

DON'T GO HOME WITHOUT IT

Cristobal was forced to stop celebrating his team's win over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl when he noticed that his left hand was bare.

That started a frantic search that ultimately was unsuccessful -- almost.

"This is embarrassing," Cristobal said with a smile. "I thought I lost my wedding ring. It was in the locker room the whole time."

MITCHELL'S RECORD

Mitchell got off to a slow start before breaking out in the second half and finished with six catches for 70 yards. That was enough to set Oregon single-season record with 1,184 receiving yards. Josh Huff set the previous record of 1,140 yards in 2013.

"It was a goal of mine once it was brought to my attention," Mitchell said. "But I don't really think about it like that. I enjoyed the win more than anything."

WILLEKES BREAKS LEG

Michigan State played most of the second half without defensive end Kenny Willekes, who suffered a broken left fibula in the third quarter. Willekes led the Spartans with 8 1/2 sacks this season.

UP NEXT

Michigan State: The Spartans will have to find someone to take over for Scott, who went into the day 10th in school history for rushing yards. The good news is that a majority of the starters on both sides are returning, including Lewerke. Michigan State begins 2019 with a home game against Tulsa on Aug. 31.

Oregon: In addition to Herbert, nearly the entire defense is coming back next season as well, so the foundation is set for the Ducks, who open next season at Auburn on Aug. 31.

Stanford: 2018 Sun Bowl Champions



EL PASO, Texas -- With all of the struggles it had on offense, it was a wonder that Stanford was able to hold off Pitt for a 14-13 victory in the Sun Bowl.

Pitt had an advantage in nearly every statistical category Monday. The Panthers had more yards (344-208), first downs (18-12), rushes and yards (42-208, 34-103), passing yards (136-105) and third-down conversions (5-1). And Stanford was playing without five starters -- star tailback Bryce Love, receiver Trent Irwin, tight end Kaden Smith, left tackle Walker Little and right guard Nate Herbig.

Finally, Pitt's defense was stingy. Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello saw a streak of 16 games with a TD pass end, and the Cardinal was 1 of 10 on third downs.

"Pitt's a very physical football team with two outstanding runners," Stanford head coach David Shaw said. "As indicative of our entire season, we had more guys get banged up and guys stepped up and played. Thankfully, guys didn't stay out very long. Guys were able to come back in and make plays and keep fighting. Can't say enough about the heart of some of our older guys."

Even the game-winning score was ugly -- the Panthers had stopped Costello on a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line and forced a fumble, which tailback Cameron Scarlett recovered in the end zone.

Scarlett carried 22 times for 94 yards, including another score on a 1-yard run, to earn game MVP honors while filling in for Love.

Love decided to skip it to rehab an ankle injury ahead of the NFL draft, becoming the second Stanford back to do that in the past three Sun Bowls. In 2016, Christian McCaffrey skipped the game, was drafted eighth overall by Carolina and just finished sixth in the NFL in rushing in his second season.

And just as Love kick-started his career with that opportunity, Scarlett gave himself a similar boost.

Of the game-winning score, Scarlett joked, "Just like we drew it up. I was fortunate enough to carry out the fake and look back and the ball was in my hands."

Pitt drove into position for a 55-yard field goal try on the ensuing possession, but Alex Kessman's try was no good.

The Panthers still weren't sure how to explain it all afterward.

"It doesn't add up how that score's 14-13," Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. "Offensively, defensively we outplayed them. We just didn't win on the scoreboard."

The Cardinal (9-4) finished on a four-game winning streak, much the same way they did two years ago when Stanford won the Sun Bowl for a season-ending six-game streak.

"Our defense gave up some yards, but we didn't give up a bunch of TDs," Shaw said. "We made them kick a couple of field goals, and that's the difference in the ball game.

"It's not a beauty contest. It's a football game, and I'm thankful we were able to win it."

The Panthers (7-7) lost their fourth straight bowl game and sixth in the past seven after falling to playoff championship finalist Clemson in the ACC title game. The past three losses have been in four years in under coach Pat Narduzzi.

Pitt, which had a 10-7 halftime lead and was up 13-7 early in the fourth quarter, was led by tailback Darrin Hall, who had 16 carries for 123 yards and a score.

Pitt finished the season on a three-game losing skid, in which the offense never scored more than 13 points. That carried over into Monday's game. Pitt got inside Stanford's 10-yard line twice, and each time settled for field goals. "We get inside the 10 twice and we don't score," quarterback Kenny Pickett said. "We've got to finish drives."

Stanford's offense, which had struggled all day, finally got going in the fourth quarter.

The Cardinal were 0 for 8 on third downs before Costello hit JJ Arcega-Whiteside for a 12-yard completion. A 49-yard pass to Arcega-Whiteside followed, and Scarlett recovered Costello's fumble for the go-ahead score on the next play with 11:28 left.

"They got lucky," Pitt defensive lineman Rashad Weaver said of the fumble, on which Costello was stopped for a loss before fumbling. "They caught a ball that was a fumble."

THE TAKEAWAY

Stanford: Arcega-Whiteside entered the game needing one touchdown catch to break the school season record of 14 he shared with Hall of Famer James Lofton. But the senior was limited to three catches without a TD. He can play one more year and Stanford, and even though the team said no players declared for the draft Monday, Costello said after the game, "We're losing three of the best receivers in the Pac-12, including Kaden Smith." The Cardinal won for the first time this season without forcing a turnover. Stanford had been 0-4 in such games.

Pittsburgh: The game was the final one for the 1-2 rushing punch of Qadree Ollison and Hall, the first duo in program history with at least 1,000 yards apiece in a season. Ollison, who was injured in the first half and didn't return, had 1,213 yards. Hall finished with 1,144 yards. "It's hard (to see Qadree get hurt)," Hall said. "We feed off each other throughout the game. We're upset. We wanted this one bad."

UP NEXT

Stanford: The Cardinal have been able to reload each year under head coach David Shaw, who is 82-26 overall (55-17 Pac-12). Shaw has never won less than eight games in a season, and his Cardinal have played in four Pac-12 title games (3-1). Stanford opens at home against Northwestern on Aug. 31.

Pittsburgh: The Panthers are coming off their first ACC Coastal Division title under Narduzzi, who with 28 wins is second in program history to Jackie Sherrill (39).

Cincinnati: 2018 Military Bowl Champions



ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Racing back and forth on a drenched field, Cincinnati and Virginia Tech put up some lofty numbers as the rain came down in the Military Bowl.

Michael Warren found his footing when it mattered most, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 1:29 left for the Bearcats, whose 35-31 victory Monday ended Virginia Tech's run of 25 consecutive winning seasons.

Warren ran for a career-high 166 yards, including an 8-yard burst up the middle to cap a frantic five-play, 64-yard drive in which he had 54 yards rushing.

That was enough to decide a tight game that featured 905 yards in offense and seven lead changes.

"The O-line did a great job of getting the push, especially at the end," said Warren, voted the game's MVP. "When you keep running the ball and wearing the other team down, they're not going to want to see any more of that."

The Bearcats' offense got a big assist from backup quarterback Hayden Moore, a senior who made 12 starts last year. After throwing only 26 passes in 2018, Moore entered in the first quarter and completed 11 of 25 throws for 120 yards in addition to running for a 19-yard score.

The victory gave Cincinnati (11-2) its third 11-win season in the 131-year history of the program following two straight 4-8 finishes.

"We learned a lot from the failures from last year and even from the failures we had throughout January, February and March," second-year coach Luke Fickell said.

Playing in a bowl game for the 26th successive year -- the longest current run in the nation -- Virginia Tech needed a victory to avoid its first losing season since 1992. Ryan Willis threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, but it wasn't enough to put an upbeat finish on an unsatisfying season for the Hokies (6-7).

"It stings. It's disappointing," said Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, a member of the coaching staff since 1987. "I'm proud of the consistency and how we have played over the years. We've got a young group of men, and some of them need to realize what it takes to perform and play at this level."

A touchdown run by Moore put the Bearcats up 28-24 with 12:44 left, and two minutes later Willis ran it in from the 5 to give Virginia Tech its last lead. The Hokies had a chance to extend the margin with just under nine minutes left but failed on a fourth-and-1 at the Cincinnati 3.

"We had an opportunity to go up by two scores but we didn't," Foster said. "And then we didn't respond defensively. That's kind of how we've been this year, kind of up and down that way."

Ridder hurt his right leg after being tripped up out of the pocket during the Bearcats' second series. The American Athletic Conference rookie of the year went 4 for 7 for 86 yards and a touchdown before leaving.

Moore picked up the slack.

"I knew this opportunity was coming sometime in the year," Moore said. "I didn't blink an eye. I just went and grabbed my helmet."

After a back-and-forth first half that ended 14-all, Virginia Tech moved 69 yards to open the third quarter before Brian Johnson kicked a field goal for a 17-14 lead. After Warren put the Bearcats in front with a 40-yard touchdown run, Willis threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Chris Cunningham to make it 24-21 heading into the fourth quarter.

WET BALL

The Bearcats fumbled three times and recovered all of them, including a touchdown by Kahlil Lewis on a ball Warren lost at the Virginia Tech 1.

"It wasn't the cleanest (win) obviously," Fickell said. "Look at the weather."

THE TAKEAWAY

Cincinnati: The Bearcats are on the rise under Fickell, who can expect to accompany Cincinnati to more bowls in the years ahead.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies were way too inconsistent in a season that ended on a very disappointing note. Virginia Tech was 13th in the country in September and now must rebound from its first losing season in more than a quarter of a century.

Still, coach Justin Fuente had no complaints about his team's effort in this one.

"They laid it on the line today," Fuente said. "We had guys that wanted to finish this thing off the right way."

UP NEXT

Cincinnati: The Bearcats have 81 underclassmen but must replace 13 seniors, including Lewis, a three-year starter.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies lose rushing leader Steven Peoples and second-team All-ACC DT Ricky Walker, who led the team with 10 1/2 tackles for a loss during the regular season.

2019 Tournament of Roses Parade Gallery

2019 Tournament of Roses Parade