College football’s bowl season got underway Saturday with a slate of five games, a full feast for the rabid college football fan. Excitement abounded, and fans were elated as three of the five were decided by a touchdown or less. If Saturday is any indication of what we are in for, this bowl season should be a beauty. Here’s a look at the winners and losers from Saturday.
Appalachian State is just two years into its move from FCS to FBS and because of the Mountaineers success in the Sun Belt Conference this season; they ended up with their first bowl invitation in school history. Trailing Ohio 29-28 with just two seconds remaining in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, kicker Zach Matics lined up for a 23-yard field goal. Matics converted on the game’s final play, and Appalachian State capped its 11-2 season by making history. Running back, Marcus Cox rushed for 162 yards and a touchdown. Ohio ends its season at 8-5.
Arizona wide receiver Cayleb Jones had himself a day in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Jones was on the receiving end of a 78-yard touchdown pass from QB Anu Solomon for the Wildcats first score of the day. He caught three more passes and wound up with four receptions for 182 yards and the touchdown as Arizona held off a late rally and defeated New Mexico, 45-37. Arizona, which started the season 3-0 but lost Solomon and All-American LB Scooby Wright to injuries during the season, finishes 7-6 and on a high note.
In that same Gildan New Mexico Bowl, New Mexico QB Lamar Jordan rushed 21 times for 135 yards and completed 3-of-9 passes for 110 yards. Jordan scored three times on the ground and tossed a 92-yard TD pass to Delane Hart-Johnson. The Lobos, under head coach Bob Davie, rushed for 319 yards in the loss to Arizona. Like Arizona, New Mexico finishes its season at 7-6.
The Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl appeared to be over in the first quarter. The Utah Civil War featuring Utah and BYU left fans scratching their heads as the Utes rushed out to a 35-0 lead after one-quarter. They would not score again. Give BYU credit for launching an amazing comeback that started at the end of the first half. Quarterback Tanner Mangum, who would complete 25-of-56 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns, hit Remington Peck with a 3-yard TD pass with just 36 seconds to play in the opening half. Mangum threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns by Utah. Mangum scored on a 4-yard run with 3:23 to play in the game to pull the Cougars to within seven, but the BYU comeback fell short in a 35-28 loss. Still, it was quite an effort by BYU which also announced the hiring of Kalani Sitake as the school’s new head coach.
In the 2013 Sugar Bowl, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel was intercepted three times and the Gators wound up losing in an upset to Louisville. Driskel proceeded to graduate from Florida and enroll at Louisiana Tech for his final season. Playing in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl in the same building (Mercedes-Benz Superdome) as that Sugar Bowl, Driskel redeemed himself with 458 passing yards and three touchdowns as his Bulldogs beat Arkansas State 47-28.
The Cure Bowl pitted a 6-6 Georgia State team against 5-7 San Jose State. It was the first bowl game in school history for Georgia State, a football program that started in 2010. The Spartans got in at 5-7 because there weren’t enough teams with six wins to fill all 80 bowl slots. The result? A 27-16 yawner that leaves both teams with losing (6-7) records for the season.
After the first quarter of the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, the Utah defense could not stop BYU. The Cougars scored 28 unanswered points and almost pulled off an improbable comeback. Add in the ineptitude of the Utes offense – 197 total yards – and Utah, which finished the season 10-3, was very lucky to walk away with a win.
With its loss in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, Ohio University is now 2-7 all-time in bowl games. Since Frank Solich took over as head coach in 2005, the Bobcats have been bowl eligible nine times, played in six bowls, and are just 2-4. Ohio led in the Camellia Bowl, 29-28, with just two seconds to play but lost on a last-second field goal.