As was the case during the 2017 postseason, many of this year’s 38 bowl games (remember, one game was canceled) this time around have lacked any sizzle or drama, with blowout after blowout and two serious contenders for the title of worst bowl game ever played. (Here’s looking at you, Cheez-It and Redbox Bowls). Still, there has been no shortage of dramatic individual efforts, gaudy stat lines and highlight-reel plays.
With one game left until the long offseason begins, here is a look back at the most outstanding performances from this bowl season.
QB: Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (Orange Bowl)
Tagovailoa, the only returnee from last year’s All-Bowl Team, was outstanding against Oklahoma’s vulnerable defense, setting an Orange Bowl completion record with a 24-of-27 day for 318 yards and four touchdowns.
RB: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt (Texas Bowl)
Vaughn did all he could with his limited workload, ripping off 243 yards on only 13 carries in a 45–38 loss to Baylor. Vaughn had touchdown runs of 68 and 69 yards in the first half for the Commodores.
RB: Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M (Gator Bowl)
Williams ran for 236 yards and three touchdowns (while setting a single-season school rushing record) against a usually stout Wolfpack defense that was a little shorthanded due to draft declarations. Williams capped his night by breaking off a 93-yard score early in the fourth quarter to seal a 52–13 win that left Texas A&M heading into the offseason on a four-game winning streak.
WR: T.J. Rahming, Duke (Independence Bowl)
Rahming roasted the Temple defense all day, catching 12 passes for a bowl-record 240 yards and hauling in two of Daniel Jones’ five touchdown passes. Rahming also had 17 yards rushing and 29 punt return yards in his spectacular performance.
WR: Hakeem Butler, Iowa State (Alamo Bowl)
Butler showed why he gave opponents fits this season with 192 yards on nine catches in the loss to Washington State, including an outstanding one-handed catch. If he declares for the draft this year, his dominant night in San Antonio is certainly going to raise his stock.
TE: Pat Freiermuth, Penn State (Citrus Bowl)
Freiermuth was the only tight end during the entire bowl season to catch a touchdown pass, hauling in an 18-yard strike from Trace McSorley in the fourth quarter. Penn State’s late rally from a 20-point deficit ultimately fell short against Kentucky, but the Nittany Lions have a promising underclassmen who should be a top target for 2019 starting quarterback Tommy Stevens.
Offensive line: Army (Armed Forces Bowl)
Anytime a team scores 70 points and makes it looks so good they get the opposing coach fired, they deserve a spot on this team. The Black Knights ran for 507 yards (on 8.7 yards a carry) in capping off the program’s first 11-win campaign. Also, when they decided to throw the ball, that went well too, completing all four pass attempts for 85 yards.
DL: Austin Bryant, Clemson (Cotton Bowl)
Notre Dame only ran for 88 yards on 35 attempts against Clemson. One of the reasons why was the Tigers’ defensive front, led by Bryant, who was consistently was in the Irish backfield and finished with six tackles and two sacks.
DL: Rashard Lawrence, LSU (Fiesta Bowl)
Lawrence had five tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss as LSU’s defense held the Knights to 250 total yards and helped snap the nation’s longest winning streak.
DL: Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State (Outback Bowl)
NFL scouts in attendance at the Outback Bowl had to be drooling at the play of Simmons, who had four tackles (2.5 for loss) with one sack and applied pressure to the Iowa line all day. The Hawkeyes won despite totaling minus-15 yards on 20 carries against Mississippi State’s loaded line.
LB: Zachery Harris, Tulane (Cure Bowl)
Harris had two of the team’s 6.5 sacks and three tackles for loss setting the tone for the Green Wave defense, who held Louisiana-Lafayette to a season-low 258 yards of offense as Tulane won a bowl game for the first time since 2002.
LB: Sione Takitaki, BYU (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl)
Takitaki had his name called all day against Western Michigan, totaling 19 tackles. His play helped shut down the Broncos, holding them to 121 yards and eight points in the second half as the Cougars pulled away.
LB: Josh Allen, Kentucky (Citrus Bowl)
Allen backed up his All-America season against Penn State, recording three sacks and blocking a field goal attempt in helping Kentucky secure its first 10-win season since 1977.
DB: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida (Peach Bowl)
Gardner-Johnson was all over the field in the Gators’ rout of Michigan with two second-half interceptions, one of which he returned 30 yards for a score with less than five minutes left to secure Florida’s first win against the Wolverines.
DB: Jaylinn Hawkins, Cal (Cheez-It Bowl)
If Hawkins had been on TCU’s roster, he would have led the team in catches with as many times as Horned Frogs quarterback Grayson Muehlstein targeted him. Hawkins should have also played on Cal’s offense, who couldn’t take advantage of his three interceptions because its quarterbacks were busy throwing five themselves.
DB: Brandon Moore, UCF (Fiesta Bowl)
Moore made one impactful play all day, and it gave the Knights a huge boost early: a 93-yard interception return off LSU’s Joe Burrow. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there for the Knights, as Burrow tossed four touchdowns to lead the Tigers to victory.
DB: Jake Gervase, Iowa (Outback Bowl)
Gervase made a couple of key plays in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State. His interception of Nick Fitzgerald in the end zone helped keep the Hawkeyes clinging to a five-point lead, and then he battled down the Bulldogs’ last-gasp pass on fourth down with less than a minute to go to seal the win.
K: Cole Tracy, LSU (Fiesta Bowl)
Tracy made all eight of his kicks (4‐for‐4 on field goals, 4‐for‐4 on PATs) and set the NCAA record for career field goals (he transferred from Division II Assumption College) to cap a banner season in Baton Rouge.
All-Purpose/Special teams: Tony Pollard, Memphis (Birmingham Bowl)
Pollard put Memphis in great field position all day, averaging 35 yards on his six kick returns. His 97-yard return for a touchdown in the second quarter gave the Tigers an 18-point lead they would eventually squander.
P: William Przystup, Michigan State; Blake Maimone, Tom Snee, Oregon (Redbox Bowl)
This trifecta had a lot of work to do during the almost unwatchable Redbox Bowl. The 7–6 Oregon win included a whopping 18 punts—11 by the Ducks’ duo, a Redbox Bowl record. And they can thank their kick coverage teams as the game featured only 26 yards on five returns.