A Bowl Season to Remember

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With a record 32 games played over 19 days and broadcast on six networks, the bowl season was anything but easy to navigate. Here's what you might have missed from games involving the 62 schools that did not play for the national championship.

Best Audition: Given the interim job after coach Rich Rodriguez bolted for Michigan, longtime assistant Bill Stewart led West Virginia to a 48-28 win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Pat White ran for 150 yards and threw for two touchdowns. Early the next morning Stewart was rewarded with a five-year contract. Other interim coaches were 0-4 in bowl games.

Worst Stunt: In a joint pep rally two nights before the Alamo Bowl, a yell leader Texas A&M proclaimed, "Joe Paterno's on his death bed. And someone needs to find him a casket." The 81-year-old Paterno, coaching in his 500th game, chuckled at the comment -- and Penn State had the last laugh, rallying for a 24-17 victory.

Best Drill Sergeant: Disappointed by his team's play in a loss to rival Texas A&M in the regular-season finale, Mack Brown of Texas instituted boot-camp measures in preparation for the Holiday Bowl. The Longhorns responded with 21 first-quarter points en route to a 52-34 victory over Arizona State.

Best Sendoff: Playing its last game under Lloyd Carr, inspired Michigan upset Florida 41-35 in the Capital One Bowl. Winless in their three previous bowl trips, quarterback Chad Henne and running back Mike Hart led a Wolverines attack that amassed 524 yards of total offense. Gators quarterback Tim Tebow became the sixth Heisman winner in the past eight seasons to lose his bowl game.

Worst Sendoff:Oklahoma State junior quarterback Bobby Reid, whose honor coach Mike Gundy vociferously defended in a September press conference, didn't take a snap as Zac Robinson torched Indiana with five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) in a 49-33 Insight Bowl win. Four days later, amid a report that Reid was leaving school, Gundy acknowledged that Reid's career at Oklahoma State is probably over.

Best Comeback, Part II: A year after rallying from a 31-point second-half deficit to beat Minnesota in the Insight Bowl, Texas Tech scored 17 points in the final 3:31 to edge Virginia 31-28 in the Gator Bowl.

• Paul Smith set an NCAA record with his 14th consecutive 300-yard passing game and threw for five touchdowns as Tulsa routed Bowling Green 63-7 in the GMAC Bowl. The 56-point margin was the largest in NCAA bowl history.

• Playing in his hometown of Charlotte, Kenneth Moore set the ACC single-season record for receptions, getting 11 for 112 yards as Wake Forest beat Connecticut 24-10 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Moore finished with 98 receptions this year.

• Ben Mauk of Cincinnati was named MVP of the Papajohns.com Bowl after throwing for 334 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-21 win over Southern Miss.

• Tony Temple broke Dicky Maegle's 54-year-old Cotton Bowl rushing record, gaining 281 yards on 24 carries as Missouri routed Arkansas 38-7. During a postgame news conference Temple, who also ran for a record four touchdowns, turned to coach Gary Pinkel and asked, "Who's Dicky Maegle?"

• Ray Rice became the 14th player in Division I-A history to run for more than 2,000 yards in a season, after he carried 35 times for an International Bowl-record 280 yards and four TDs as Rutgers whipped Ball State 52-30. Rice, a junior, finished with 2,012 yards.

• Jonathan Stewart rushed for a Sun Bowl-record 253 yards on 23 attempts in leading Oregon to a 56-21 win over South Florida.

• In a 41-38 win over Boise State in theHawaii Bowl, Chris Johnson of East Carolina set the NCAA record for all-purpose yards in a bowl, with 408. Johnson ran for 223 yards and a TD, had 32 receiving yards and a score, and returned six kickoffs for 153 yards.

• Though its defense was much maligned during the season, Tennessee held Wisconsin to a field goal in the second half of a 21-17 victory in the Outback Bowl. Subbing for academic casualty Ricardo Kemp, safety Antonio Wardlow sealed the win with a last-minute interception.

Oregon State and its second-ranked rushing defense held Maryland to two yards on the ground through three quarters, and 19 overall, in a 21-14 Emerald Bowl win.

• Hawaii entered its Sugar Bowl matchup with Georgia as the only undefeated team in the country, but the Warriors showed they weren't ready for the big time. Pressuring quarterback Colt Brennan repeatedly, Georgia had eight sacks and forced six turnovers in a 41-10 victory.

• Rose Bowl officials wanted their traditional matchup between the Big Ten and the Pac-10, so three-loss Illinois made its first trip to Pasadena since 1984. The Illini were 49-17 losers to USC, which finished with a record 633 yards of total offense and matched the Rose Bowl high for points. The defense, led by linebackers Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga, had five sacks, forced six fumbles and intercepted two passes. It was the game's most lopsided finish since the Illini were pounded 45-9 by UCLA -- in 1984.

• All-America cornerback Aqib Talib returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown as Kansas, making its first Orange Bowl appearance since 1969, held off Virginia Tech 24-21. It was the eighth consecutive loss for an ACC team in a BCS game.

• Fresno State piled up 571 yards against the nation's 11th-ranked defense in a 40-28 victory over Georgia Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl. The Bulldogs improved to 3-0 in bowls against ACC teams.

New Mexico blanked Nevada 23-0 in the New Mexico Bowl, winning its first postseason game since the 1961 Aviation Bowl and shutting out the Wolfpack for the first time in 329 games, dating to 1980.

• Winning a bowl in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1951 and '52, Kentucky held off Florida State 35-28 in the Music City Bowl. It was Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden's first loss in nine December bowls.

• By virtue of its 24-21 victory over Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl, Boston College won 11 games for the first time since 1940. The Eagles also extended the nation's longest active bowl winning streak to eight.

• With its 44-27 triumph over Memphis in the New Orleans Bowl, Florida Atlantic, a seventh-year program making its first postseason appearance, was the only one of five Florida schools to win its bowl.

TCU beat Houston 20-13 in the Texas Bowl, winning its third consecutive bowl game for the first time since the late 1930s.

• Playing for the first time since Oct. 13, when his clock-management mistake against Oregon State cost Cal a shot at the No. 1 ranking, Kevin Riley was 16 of 19 for 269 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a score as the Bears rallied over Air Force 42-36 in the Armed Forces Bowl.

• Making an early bid for the 2008 starting quarterback job, Kodi Burns scored on a seven-yard run in overtime as Auburn defeated Clemson 23-20 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Alternating with senior Brandon Cox, Burns carried 13 times for 69 yards.

• Defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt on the final play to preserve a 17-16 victory for BYU over UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl.

7 Consecutive postseason wins for Utah, which knocked off Navy 35-32 in the Poinsettia Bowl.

31 NCAA-record bowl victories for Alabama, the latest a 30-24 win over Colorado in the Independence Bowl. With the victory the Crimson Tide avoided consecutive losing seasons for the first time in 50 years.

62 Yards that Kevin Smith of Central Florida fell short in his attempt to break the Division I-A single-season rushing record (2,628, by Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State in 1988). Smith ran for 119 yards in the Knights' 10-3Liberty Bowl loss to Mississippi State.

546 Passing yards for Curtis Painter of Purdue in a 51-48 victory over Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl, the fourth-highest total in NCAA bowl history.