Eight of the 34 bowl game losers-or approximately 25 percent-lost by 20 or more points, none worse than Nevada’s 45-10 drubbing at the hands of the rising Southern Methodist University Mustangs in the Hawaii Bowl. For SMU coach June Jones, it was homecoming all over again.
Jones coached the Hawaii Warriors for 9 years prior to becoming SMU’s coach. At Hawaii, Jones inherited a team that had lost 18 straight games. He left Hawaii with a 76-41 season record, took the Warriors to 6 Bowl games and won 4, had three 9-win seasons, and one each 10-win, 11-win and 12-win season while competing in the WAC (Western Athletic Conference).
Jones inherited a dismal SMU program that was so bad that even this year 91% of football fans picked them to lose the Hawaii Bowl. Despite the fact that June Jones suffered through a tough 1-11 first season, his Mustangs finished this year at 8-5 and in a tie with Houston for 1st place in Conference USA’s West Division title race.
Southern Methodist was so dominate in the Hawaii Bowl that the Mustangs led 31-0 at the half. SMU’s freshman quarterback Kyle Padron racked up a school-record 460 yards, going 32-for-41 with 2 touchdowns. Mustang Emmanuel Sanders had 7 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown, and Aldrick Robinson caught another 9 passes for 176 yards. Padron won the Hawaii Bowl’s Most Valuable Player Award.
SMU’s Shawnbrey McNeal gained 63 yards on 12 carries (5.25 yards per carry) and scored 3 times on the ground. Both teams ended the season with 8-5 records.
Jones was used to competing in bowl games while coaching at Hawaii, and his leadership took SMU to its first bowl game in 25 years. The Mustangs, a 12-point underdog going into the Hawaii Bowl, will not likely be rated so low next time around, and knowing June Jones, there will be a next time for SMU and the Mustangs.
No. 20-ranked Nebraska not only beat 22nd-ranked Arizona, but shutout the Wildcats 33-0 to record the first shutout in the 32-history of the Holiday Bowl. Coach Bo Pelini’s Cornhuskers made history of their own as the shutout was the first for Nebraska in 46 bowl appearances.
Bo knows defense, and his defense has been led all season by tackle Ndamukong Suh, the AP College Football Player of the Year and a Heisman finalist. Nebraska was so dominate on defense that Arizona did not get into the Cornhuskers’ side of the field until the 3rd quarter. Nebraska held the Wildcats to 6 first downs, 109 total yards of offense and 51 plays, forcing Arizona to punt 9 times.
No one should be surprised by Nebraska’s superb defensive effort in this bowl game. The Cornhuskers ranked 7th in the nation in total defense (among 120 teams) and first in scoring defense, allowing only 10 points per game. Nebraska ended the year at 10-4, notching its first 10-win season since 2003. Arizona was 8-5.
Unlike Alabama a year ago, Florida knew how to overcome a devastating loss. A year ago, the Crimson Tide lost to Florida in the SEC Championship game, and Florida went on to win the BCS National Championship game against Oklahoma, 24-14. Alabama then played Utah in the Sugar Bowl and got their butts kicked, 31-17.
This year Alabama beat Florida in the SEC Championship game, 32-13, and then went on to win the BCS National Championship game against Texas, 37-21. Florida met unbeaten Cincinnati (12-0) in the Sugar Bowl and upset the Bearcats, 51-24. There was no letdown for the Gators.
Tim Tebow, Florida’s all around superstar and the best-known college football player in the nation, had arguably the best game of his career. Tebow passed for a career-high 482 yards and rushed for another 51 to compile 533 total yards of offense, breaking Vince Young’s BCS record of 467 yards set against Southern California in the 2005 Rose Bowl. The awesome Florida offense finished the day with 659 yards of offense.
The Bearcats had forced Tebow to win the game by passing as they stacked the line of scrimmage-a tactic that Alabama had used to beat Florida in the SEC title game, but Cincinnati did not have the same caliber of defensive players as Alabama and the Bearcats failed miserably.
Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner, completed 31 of 35 passes and threw touchdown passes to Aaron Hernandez, Deonte Thompson and Riley Cooper. He also ran for a touchdown. Florida’s senior class players officially became the most successful senior class in SEC history, winning 2 national championships in 2006 and 2008, and compiling a 48-6 record during 4 seasons for a 89% winning percentage.
The win was the 13th of the year for Florida (13-1), making it the first major college team in history to win 13 games in consecutive seasons. The loss was the second straight for Cincinnati in BCS bowl game competition; the Bearcats lost to Virginia Tech 20-7 in last year’s Orange Bow.
In fairness to the Cincinnati players, their coach Brian Kelly quit the team in early December to take the coaching job at Norte Dame. Kelly had called plays all season for the Bearcat offense and his absence was noted. Interim coach Jeff Quinn was left to prepare the team for its biggest game ever, and the loss meant Cincinnati’s unbeaten season came to a screeching halt.
Houston blew into the Armed Forces Bowl with its quarterback Case Keenum, the nation’s leading signal-caller with 5,671 passing yards, 44 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions.
Houston had earned a right to swagger-the Cougars’ led the nation in offensive production, averaging 563 yards a game, and also were tied with Boise State for the nation’s top scoring offense, averaging 42 points a game.
Unfortunately, Houston was playing Air Force. Do you how quickly a fighter jet can destroy an offense on the ground? The Air Force Academy Falcons came into the game with the nation’s 5th best passing defense.
And the result? Air Force dissected Houston, 47-20. The Air Force secondary held Houston and Keenum to 222 yards passing and intercepted 6 passes. Defensive back Chris Thomas ended up with a busted-up nose, but he also had two picks and 12 tackles. Teammate Anthony Wright had 3 picks. Keenum had only 6 picks in the first 12 games this year.
The Air Force running game was led by Jared Tew with 173 yards on 26 carries (6.65 ypc), and Asher Clark with 129 yards on 17 carries (7.59 ypc). Both Tew and Asher scored twice.
I was the least surprised guy on the face of the Earth that Houston took a beating. The Cougars are ranked 111th among 120 teams in total defense, and only 95th in scoring defense. A quote by Keenum after the defeat was hilarious: “We’re going to take this into the off-season and we’re going to use it as motivation.”
Here is a better idea, Case. Tell your coach, Kevin Sumlin, to recruit some high school kids that can play defense.
Houston football is going nowhere at 1,000 miles an hour. Unless Kevin Sumlin figures out that he needs to play defense to win big time, he may win some games but his Cougars will not be a serious contender for anything worth talking about. Houston ended the season at 10-4; Sagarin had them ranked at 53rd in the country. Even Mississippi State with a 5-7 record was ranked higher at 45th.
Oregon State had its own problems. The Beavers never recovered from their Civil War showdown against Oregon, losing to the Ducks 37-33, and losing the right to play in the BCS Rose Bowl. They had to settle for the Las Vegas Bowl and getting clubbed by Brigham Young, 44-20.
This was a huge surprise, not the loss, but the loss by 24 points. The Beavers are one of the dirtiest teams in the country, and have been known to be downright vicious on the field. BYU’s Max Hall had his way with them, going 19-of-30 for 192 yards and 3 TDs. BYU ended the year at 11-2; Oregon State was 8-5-I would not want to be the team that plays them in their opener next year.
South Florida’s Mike Ford ran for 207 yards (10.4 ypc) and a touchdown, and freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels went 14-of-22 for 217 yards and 2 TD passes as the Bulldogs tore through Northern Illinois, 27-3, in the International Bowl at Toronto, Ontario, Canada’s largest city.
The bowl win was the second straight for the Bulls, who beat Memphis 41-14 in last season’s St. Petersburg Bowl. This year’s game was tied 3-all at the half, but South Florida won the 2nd half, 24-0.
Freshman running back Ryan Williams ran for 117 yards and 2 touchdowns to lead 12th-ranked Virginia Tech past Tennessee, 37-14, in the Chick-fil A Bowl, boosting the Hokies to 10-3 and giving them their 6th straight 10-win season. Virginia Tech outrushed Tennessee (7-6) in the game, 229 to 5.
Williams became the Hokies’ single-season record-holder with 1,655 yards, and also set Atlantic Coast Conference records with his 21 rushing TDs and 22 total TDs. Virginia Tech won the Orange Bowl last season, and now has back-to-back bowl victories for the first time in school history.
Tennessee was out to lunch in this game, and its first-year coach-Lane “Here Again, Gone Again” Kiffin-promptly dumped Tennessee for a better gig at Southern California. Peter Carroll left USC to take the coaching job with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL. There is nothing like loyalty to build a little trust and confidence, or so they say in Tennessee.
Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers’ freshman multi-threat receiver, scored twice from a wildcat formation and caught a touchdown pass to lead the Scarlet Knights over the University of Central Florida (UCF), 45-24, in the St. Petersburg Bowl. Tom Savage, another freshman, threw for a career-best 294 yards and 2 TDs.
Their coach, Greg Schiano, was effusive in the victory, “That’s 4 straight bowl wins, 5 straight bowls,” said Schiano, who has brought Rutgers from nothing back to contention during the last 9 years.
Sanu is the first Rutgers player in 17 years to run for a TD, pass for a TD and catch a pass for a TD in the same season. When you can run, pass and catch for touchdowns, you are a legitimate triple threat.
UCF coach George O’Leary said after the game that the Rutgers defense was better than his offense. The Scarlet Knights held Central Florida to 35 yards rushing and allowed only 4-of-15 third-down conversions, forcing Central Florida to punt 8 times.
Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley
Read more of my 2009 college football coverage, including:
Fourteen consecutive weeks of NCAA Division I wrap-ups covering the top teams and key upsets.
Fourteen consecutive weeks of Ed Bagley’s Top 25 Poll (heck, I figure I am as good at picking them as the writers and coaches who pick the AP Top 25 and the Coaches’ Top 25 Polls, plus, I add some humor to lighten the load).
Coverage of the Washington Husky and Michigan State Spartan football programs, including Washington’s stunning 16-13 upset of Southern California early in the season.