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NCAA College Football Bowl Recap — Dec. 24-30

Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell
Christian Petersen, Getty Images

The second week of bowl season usually features some exciting games, and this year was no exception. Many of the games this week gave us wild plays, last-second finishes, great individual performances and, in the case of the Alamo Bowl, the kind of unstoppable offense that would make Bo Jackson in Super Tecmo Bowl proud. Here are all the highlights from the last week in college football.

SHERATON HAWAII BOWL: #21 Southern Miss 24, Nevada 17

[Saturday, Dec. 24]

Southern Miss got a late touchdown to secure the school’s first 12-win season and send head coach Larry Fedora, who has accepted the head job at North Carolina, out a winner in his final game. Quarterback Austin Davis completed just 18 of his 41 passes (43.9 percent) for 165 yards (just 59 in the first half). But he made his passes count, throwing two touchdowns and leading a seven play, 68-yard drive for the winning score with 5:48 left.

The game was a surprising defensive battle, as both teams came into the game ranked in the top 13 nationally in total offense. This was the lowest scoring Hawaii Bowl ever, and the first in which neither team scored at least 30 points.

ADVOCARE V100 INDEPENDENCE BOWL: Missouri 41, North Carolina 24

[Monday, Dec. 26]

Missouri’s mascot Truman the Tiger dropped and shattered the Independence Bowl trophy in a pregame media event. But the real Tigers on the field made sure they were ready to take the replacement trophy home. Missouri scored on all five of its first half possessions to blow open a 31-7 lead and never look back. Quarterback James Franklin rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns and added another score through the air in the win. The Tigers finished with 513 total yards while holding the Tarheels to 353 (only 36 on the ground).

This is the first time since 1965 that Missouri closed a season on a four-game winning streak. North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner threw three touchdowns in the loss, bringing his total to a school-record 26 on the season.

LITTLE CAESARS BOWL: Purdue 37, Western Michigan 32

[Tuesday, Dec. 27]

The Boilermakers’ special teams and defense proved to be too much for a potent Western Michigan offense to overcome. Purdue recovered two onside kicks, scored on a 99-yard kickoff return, forced seven turnovers and held the Broncos to just 46 rushing yards to secure its first bowl win in four years and to drop Western Michigan to 0-5 all-time in bowl games. Purdue’s back-up running back Akeem Shavers rushed for a career-high 149 yards in the win.

Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder threw for 439 yards and three touchdowns, but was also intercepted four times. Wide receiver Jordan White, who leads the nation in catches and receiving yards, recorded 13 catches for 265 yards and a touchdown in the loss.

BELK BOWL: North Carolina State 31, Louisville 24

[Tuesday, Dec. 27]

North Carolina State Mike Glennon threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns and the Wolfpack scored 24 unanswered points in the second and third quarters to put away Louisville. NC State’s defense came into the game leading the nation in interceptions and added three more in this game. Cornerback David Amerson, already the nation’s leader in interceptions, recorded two picks (raising his total to an ACC-record 13) and returned one 65 yards for a score.

Louisville was down 31-10 late in the third quarter before using a fake punt and a recovered onside kick to pull within seven with 3:55 to go. But Cardinal quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw the last of his three interceptions with 41 seconds to go to secure the Wolfpack win.

MILITARY BOWL-PRESENTED BY NORTHROP GRUMMAN: Toledo 42, Air Force 41

[Wednesday, Dec. 28]

Air Force scored with less than a minute to play, but instead of playing for overtime, the Falcons attempted a fake PAT for the win. Toledo was ready, though, forcing a fumble on the option pitch to secure the Rockets’ victory. The game featured numerous big plays and eight touchdowns of 20+ yards. Toledo wide receiver Bernard Reedy only had four catches, but made the most of them with 126 yards and three touchdowns.

This was Toledo’s first bowl win since 2005.

BRIDGEPOINT EDUCATION HOLIDAY BOWL: #24 Texas 21, California 10

[Wednesday, Dec. 28]

While none of the three quarterbacks Texas used this year have proven to be particularly effective throwing the ball, David Ash proved to be an able receiver, catching a four-yard touchdown pass from receiver Jaxon Shipley in the second quarter. Ash also threw for 142 yards and a touchdown while not turning the ball over. But the story of the game was Texas’ defense, which held the Bears to just seven rushing yards, Cal’s lowest total in over eleven years. Running back Isi Sofele, who had averaged over 142 yards per game the last four games, was held to just 52 yards on 20 carries. The Longhorns also forced five Cal turnovers.

CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL: Florida State 18, Notre Dame 14

[Thursday, Dec. 29]

Notre Dame shut out the Seminoles for the first 35 minutes of the game, but Florida State scored 18 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters to earn the team’s fourth straight bowl win. Seminoles quarterback E.J. Manuel threw for 249 yards and threw two fourth quarter touchdowns to lead his team to the come-from-behind victory.

Notre Dame proved to be its own worst enemy, turning the ball over three times, including two interceptions thrown in the end zone.

VALERO ALAMO BOWL: #12 Baylor 67, Washington 56

[Thursday, Dec. 29]

Forget the BCS national title game; this is the bowl game everyone will still be talking about after bowl season is over. Defense was purely optional as the two teams put up the kind of points of which many college basketball teams can dream. The offensive numbers are hard to fathom: the two teams combined for 123 points and nearly 1,400 yards in total offense. Of the combined 28 possessions in the game, 17 ended with points on the board.

Heisman winner Robert Griffin III didn’t have the greatest game of his career (295 yards and a touchdown passing; 55 yards and another touchdown on the ground). But he didn’t need to, as the Huskies were completely unable to slow down Baylor’s run game. Running back Terrance Ganaway rushed for 200 yards and five touchdowns, while backup Jarred Salubi rushed for 101 yards and two scores to give Baylor its first bowl win since 1992.

Washington quarterback Keith Price almost led the Huskies to the upset, throwing for 438 yards and accounting for seven touchdowns (four passing, three rushing).

BELL HELICOPTER ARMED FORCES BOWL: Brigham Young 24, Tulsa 21

[Friday, Dec. 30]

BYU scored with just 11 seconds left on the clock to secure a come-from-behind win and the Cougar’s fifth 10-win season in the last seven years. Receiver Cody Hoffman caught eight balls for 122 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, including the game-winner. In the Cougars’ 10 wins this season, they trailed at halftime five times.

Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne had a solid day, throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions. But he was hampered by a running game that netted just 37 yards on the ground. BYU’s defense held the Golden Hurricane to 272 total yards, its lowest output of the season. The loss snaps Tulsa’s three-game bowl winning streak.

NEW ERA PINSTRIPE BOWL: Rutgers 27, Iowa State 13

[Friday, Dec. 30]

After spotting Iowa State six points early in the game, Rutgers rolled off 17 unanswered points in the second quarter to take a lead they would never give back. Running back Jawan Jamison rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. Although, Rutgers’ defense was the story of the day, holding the Cyclones to just 311 total yards, forcing three turnovers, blocking a field goal, and holding Iowa State to 2/13 on third-down conversions.

Cyclones freshman quarterback Jared Barnett, who led the epic upset of Oklahoma State last month, was benched in the second quarter after going just 2/7 for 17 yards. On-again/off-again starter Steele Jantz didn’t fare much better, unfortunately, going 15/31 for 197 yards, but throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns.

FRANKLIN AMERICAN MORTGAGE MUSIC CITY BOWL: Mississippi State 23, Wake Forest 17

[Friday, Dec. 30]

Bulldogs running back Vick Ballard rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns as Mississippi State held off a late Wake Forest rally to secure the victory. The Bulldogs overcame three first half turnovers (including an interception in the end zone) to take a 16-7 lead into the locker room and then hold on from there. Quarterback Chris Relf threw for 129 yards and a touchdown, while adding 64 rushing yards for the Bulldogs. This is Mississippi State’s fifth straight bowl win.

The Demon Deacons certainly had their chances in this one: they controlled the time of possession (35:50 to 24:10) and forced four Mississippi State turnovers. But they were just 2/17 on third down conversions, had eight drives of 10 or fewer yards and were unable to get any kind of ground game going (63 rushing yards). The offensive line bears much of the blame — in addition to the anemic rushing totals, quarterback Tanner Price was sacked six times. The loss snaps a three-game bowl winning streak.

INSIGHT BOWL: #14 Oklahoma 31, Iowa 14

[Friday, Dec. 30]

Backup quarterback Blake Bell rushed for three touchdowns as the Sooners ended their disappointing season with a much-needed win. Running out of the “Bell-Dozer” formation, Bell has become a terror for opposing defenses, virtually unstoppable in short yardage and goal line situations (13 touchdowns on 41 carries in the last six games). Starting quarterback Landry Jones had a quiet night (16/25 for 161 yards), but did throw a touchdown in the third quarter, ending his streak of 15 consecutive quarters without a passing touchdown.

Iowa’s chances of pulling off the upset were likely done in earlier in the week when running back Marcus Coker, the Big Ten’s second-leading rusher, was suspended due to a violation of team rules. Iowa’s next most experienced back had just 18 carries for 79 yards, compared with Coker’s 1,384 yards and 15 touchdowns. In his absence, the Hawkeyes managed just 76 rushing yards on 37 attempts against Oklahoma.

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