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Bowl Bonanza When 50 teams play in 25 bowl games, there are plenty of highlights--and lowlights

Jan. 07, 2002
Jan. 07, 2002

Table of Contents
Jan. 7, 2002

Bowl Bonanza When 50 teams play in 25 bowl games, there are plenty of highlights--and lowlights

COTTON

This is an article from the Jan. 7, 2002 issue Original Layout

Please Pass the Defense

To win the door prize at the Cotton Bowl luncheon on New Year's
Eve, all Oklahoma wide receiver Mark Clayton had to do was catch
a pass from Sooners quarterback Nate Hybl (right). Across the
nearly football-field-sized ballroom of the Dallas Hyatt
Regency, Hybl threw a perfect spiral to Clayton, whose name he'd
drawn from a punch bowl moments before. Clayton caught the ball
to claim a cordless phone. Too bad Oklahoma's offense wasn't as
efficient the next day. The 25-yard completion over the chicken
francais and green beans was longer than all but one pass Hybl
threw against Arkansas. With a scant 231 yards of total offense,
the Sooners had to rely on their stellar defense, which produced
nine sacks and held the Razorbacks to an average of less than
one yard per play, to beat Arkansas 10-3.

"Oklahoma has the best defense I've seen in 20 years," said
Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles, who coached the
Razorbacks from 1958 to '76. In fact Sooners linebacker Teddy
Lehman clinched the win when he forced freshman quarterback Matt
Jones to fumble near midfield with 1:42 to go. If the Oklahoma
offense had been as proficient this season, the Sooners might
have repeated as national champions.

--Kristi Berner

NEW ORLEANS

Ya Gotta Love This Guy

Last summer Colorado State third-string running back Chad Dixon
worked two jobs, as a supervisor at a Mexican fast-food joint
and as a waiter at a Holiday Inn, and still fit in workouts with
his teammates. That's the life of a walk-on who's struggling to
pay tuition, a life Dixon endured for three years without
complaint--and without appearing in a game. He was the only
senior who didn't play against Air Force on Senior Night, as the
Rams call their last home game. Coach Sonny Lubick told Dixon he
would try to get him in at New Mexico, the last game of the
season, but when the Lobos rallied from a 14-0 deficit to tie
the game, Dixon never left the sideline.

With the Rams leading North Texas 31-14 and 13:34 remaining in
the New Orleans Bowl, backup running back Henri Childs ran to
the one-yard line and lost his right shoe along the way. "When
Coach Lubick looked around [for a replacement], I was the only
back standing there," Dixon says. "I usually stand around the
offensive coaches. You never let your hopes die." On first down
Dixon's number was called, but he was stuffed for a one-yard
loss. On second down he thought the play was a halfback pass
when, in fact, it was a toss sweep. "I ran the wrong play, but I
was going in the right direction," Dixon says. "I saw my
receiver blocking, so I saw an alley and fought to get into the
end zone."

Dixon was so excited about scoring that he circled the end zone.
"As a walk-on, you don't feel like you're completely part of the
team," he says. "I remember looking over at the sideline and
seeing everybody looking at me. They actually cared that I
scored."

SEATTLE--MUSIC CITY

What Were They Thinking?

POSITIVE THOUGHTS When most opposing defensive coaches looked at
Stanford this season, they saw an offense that could run or pass
with equal skill, a punishing line and a unit that finished in
the top 10 nationally in yards (451.6) and points (37.1) per
game. When Georgia Tech's staff watched tape of the Cardinal in
preparation for the Seattle Bowl, it saw an offense that wasn't
as athletic as the Yellow Jackets' defense. To increase that
advantage, defensive coordinator Ted Roof moved All-ACC end Greg
Gathers to tackle and linebacker Daryl Smith to end, and
installed a variety of line stunts.

The results were immediate. In the first quarter of Georgia
Tech's 24-14 victory, the Yellow Jackets stopped Stanford three
times from their one-yard line, with Smith stuffing tailback
Kerry Carter on fourth down. The Cardinal was not only held to a
season-low 125 rushing yards but also didn't score a rushing
touchdown for the first time this season. "We had four sacks,
and we should have had nine," defensive ends coach Lance
Thompson said. "We kept watching tape of the Stanford offense
and telling our kids, 'You're better players than the ones
they've played.' That was our best defensive game all year."

NEGATIVE RESULTS For the second time this season coach Mark
Richt cost Georgia a shot at victory by mismanaging the clock
late in a game, illustrating the difficulty a first-year coach
can have in attempting to call the offensive plays and manage
the clock. While trailing Auburn 24-17 on Nov. 10, the Bulldogs
had first-and-goal at the Tigers' one with 16 second to go and
no timeouts. Instead of first trying a pass, Richt called for
tailback Jasper Sanks to run into the line. Sanks was stuffed,
and Georgia didn't get off another play. While trailing Boston
College 20-16 in the Music City Bowl and facing fourth-and-12 at
the Boston College 48 with 1:32 to play and two timeouts, Richt
elected to punt. He believed that Georgia could get the ball
back near midfield with about 40 seconds left. Instead, Boston
College ran three plays and more than a minute off the clock,
and the Bulldogs took over near midfield with only :14
remaining. Georgia ran only two plays before time ran out.

Maybe Richt should follow the lead of Maryland first-year coach
Ralph Friedgen, who, despite having established himself as a
gifted play-caller while offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech,
let an assistant call the plays.

Give 'em A Big Hand

Before the 2001 bowl season, former Michigan State wideout Andre
Rison held the record for receiving yards in a postseason game,
with 252 in the 1989 Gator Bowl. However, by the time Michigan
State and Fresno State finished slinging the ball in the
Spartans' 44-35 victory over the Bulldogs in the Silicon Valley
Classic, Rison had fallen to third on the list behind Fresno
State's Rodney Wright (299 yards) and Michigan State's Charles
Rogers (270). Here's a rundown of the receivers who this season
set records in their respective bowls for receptions, receiving
yards or both.

--David Sabino

Player, School Bowl Receiving Record(s)

Rodney Wright, Fresno State Silicon Valley 13 catches, 299 yards
Josh Reed, LSU Sugar 14 catches, 239 yards
Denero Marriott, Marshall GMAC 15 catches, 234 yards
Taylor Stubblefield, Purdue Sun 196 yards
John Standeford, Purdue Sun 12 catches
Tim Stratton, Purdue Sun 12 catches
Delwyn Daigre,
Louisiana Tech Humanitarian 178 yards
Taylor Jacobs, Florida Orange 170 yards
Daniel Graham, Colorado Fiesta 10 catches
Tye Keith, Cincinnati Motor City 9 catches

Not So Big Ten

Top five reasons that the Big Ten went 2-4 in bowl games and
looked as pitiful as former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes when he
slugged a Clemson player at the 1978 Gator Bowl.

1. In the Year of the Quarterback, the league picked the wrong
season to start young defensive backs.

2. The conference's top two teams, Illinois and Michigan, each
gave up at least 45 points, 400 yards passing and 500 yards of
total offense. (At least Hayes hit somebody!)

3. Why do you think Big Ten teams have embraced pass-first
offenses? Their defenses are neither fast nor quick.

4. What's the surprise? Only Illinois, Michigan and Ohio State
(above) won at least seven games during the regular season.

5. The Big Ten didn't fare well out of conference during the
regular season, going 2-8 against teams that went on to bowl
games.

HOLIDAY--GALLERYFURNITURE.COM

Big Games for Beginners

JUDGMENT DAY Wideout Reggie Williams became the first Washington
receiver since the restoration of freshman eligibility in 1972
to start in his first game as a Husky, and he wound up catching
55 passes for 973 yards and three touchdowns. Still, Williams
hadn't played against an All-America cornerback until he faced
Texas senior Quentin Jammer in the Holiday Bowl. At 6'1", 200
pounds with a bulging upper body, Jammer lives up to his surname
by intimidating receivers with a forearm or two as they come off
the line. He loves press coverage and lined up only one or two
yards from Williams on nearly every snap. However, Jammer gave
up three inches and 15 pounds to Williams, who was often the
aggressor. In the third quarter Williams drove Jammer to the
grass before making a 13-yard reception. Williams's longest
catch--a 22-yarder in the second quarter--came when he slanted
away from Jammer and took off into the hole left by blitzing
safety Dakarai Pearson.

Williams finished with five catches for 62 yards and a verbal
bouquet from Jammer. "He was probably the best receiver I faced
this year," Jammer said. "When I tried to be a little more
physical, he got physical with me. He's light years ahead of a
regular freshman. He said that he's only going to be in college
for three years [before going to the NFL]. I believe him."

WHAT JITTERS? Whether it was nerves because he was making his
first college start, playing near his hometown just outside
Houston or suffering the effects of an upset stomach, Texas A&M
freshman cornerback Byron Jones (left) didn't look ready as the
Aggies prepared to take on Texas Christian in the
Galleryfurniture.com Bowl. Once the game began, though, Jones
played as if he had started all season, intercepting three
passes and helping to keep the Horned Frogs' offense from
getting on track in A&M's 28-9 win. Jones, who played sparingly
in the regular season, moved into the starting lineup after
sophomore Sean Weston hurt his knee in practice. "From Day One
we knew that Jones would help us," Aggies coach R.C. Slocum said
after the victory.

That statement annunciated a significant shift in coaching
philosophy. Over the previous three seasons Slocum had played
only 12 true freshmen, but this year he softened his stance
after watching three freshman receivers make significant
contributions for Texas in 2000. Slocum started five freshmen
against TCU, and one other came off the bench. But none played a
more significant role than Jones, who returned his interceptions
for a total of 77 yards, including one he ran back 15 yards to
the Horned Frogs' one-yard line, and was named the bowl's MVP.

--Mark Bechtel

HOLIDAY--INSIGHT.COM--GATOR--NO--LAS VEGAS--SUGAR

Turning thumbs Up or Down

WINNERS 1. MAJOR APPLEWHITE, TEXAS A lesser quarterback might
have been shaken after throwing three interceptions in the
opening half of his first start in 14 months, but Applewhite
(right), who was subbing for the slumping Chris Simms, has never
rattled easily. Washington led Texas 23-14 at halftime of the
Holiday Bowl because it converted those three interceptions into
13 points. The Huskies increased their lead to 36-17 late in the
third quarter. That's when Applewhite began to click. He
completed nine of his last 10 passes and drove the Longhorns to
three touchdowns. When tailback Ivan Williams scored on a
three-yard run with :38 to play, Texas clinched a 47-43 victory
and its first Top 10 finish since 1983.

2. PAUL PASQUALONI, SYRACUSE After the Orangemen started 0-2,
the calls for the firing of Pasqualoni, who had won only eight
of his last 17 games, got loud. With a dominating 26-3 victory
over Kansas State in the Insight.com Bowl, Syracuse won 10 games
for only the sixth time in school history. Three of those
seasons have come under Pasqualoni--and the fans are happy again.

3. CHRIS RIX, FLORIDA STATE After he called an audible and threw
the 23-yard touchdown pass to Javon Walker with 2:14 remaining
that sealed the Seminoles' 30-17 Gator Bowl victory over
Virginia Tech, Rix proved he had learned his lessons well during
a trying freshman season. Although he completed only 12 of 25
passes against the Hokies, Rix withstood a heavy rush to find
Walker for a 77-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter that
gave Florida State the lead for good.

LOSERS 1. NEW ORLEANS BOWL Fans watching this inaugural NO Bowl
couldn't help but wonder, How did 5-6 North Texas get here? The
answer was simple: The Mean Green won the Sun Belt Conference.
That led to another question: Why would a bowl grant a berth to
a league so bad that a 5-6 team could win it, a league so bad
that its members were a combined 5-31 against nonconference
foes? Quite simply, the Sun Belt commissioner and the president
of the bowl are the same man, Wright Waters. Last winter Waters
rented the Superdome and then got the Mountain West Conference
to agree to send its third-place team. The two leagues ponied up
$600,000 each to go toward the $1.5 million guarantee, with the
state of Louisiana kicking in the rest. In essence the two
conferences paid themselves to play. About 27,000 tickets were
sold, but 11,000 of them went unused, and the Sun Belt
Conference just broke even. Oh, North Texas got drilled by
Colorado State 45-20.

2. USC'S OFFENSE In the second game of the season the Trojans
got only a touchdown in a 10-6 loss to Kansas State. In the Las
Vegas Bowl they scored a touchdown and rushed for a net one yard
in a 10-6 loss to Utah. The problem was twofold: An offensive
line with four sophomore starters was learning on the job, and
junior quarterback Carson Palmer, who's 6'5", 230 pounds and
looks like an NFL prospect, is thought capable of doing things
he cannot. Not even USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who
groomed many a quarterback in his 27 years at Brigham Young, has
been able to help Palmer make quicker, smarter decisions.

3. SEC WEST Aside from LSU, which picked apart Illinois in a
47-34 Sugar Bowl win, the representatives of the SEC West set
offensive football back decades. Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn
combined to score 27 points, throw for 277 yards and rush for
218. Two days after the Tigers' 16-10 loss to North Carolina in
the Peach Bowl, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville accepted the
resignation of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who saw it
coming. He'd begun sending out his resume two weeks earlier.

There's no honor in making the All-Reprimand Team

A bunch of bowl participants were charged with breaking team
rules--or, in some cases, the law. Of the 19 players in the
lineup below, 13 were starters, including Rex Grossman (left),
who broke curfew but came off the bench in the second quarter
and led Florida to scores on six straight possessions.

POS. PLAYER TEAM STARTER MISDEED PUNISHMENT
/RESERVE

QB Rex Grossman Florida Starter Broke Benched
curfew for start
of Orange

QB Aaron Leak North Reserve Charged Left
Carolina with car at home
theft

TB Joe Burns Georgia Starter Poor Ineligible
Tech grades

RB Travis Clemson Starter Drug- Kicked off
Zachery related team
arrest

WR Bosley Allen North Starter Broke Sent home
Carolina team from Atlanta
rules

WR A.C. Carter Alabama Starter Poor Ineligible
grades

WR Nakoa Washington Starter Dissed Benched for
McElrath St. coaches start of Sun
to media

WR Ethenic Sands Miami Reserve Broke Left at
team home
rules

T Akil Smith Clemson Starter Drug Kicked off
-related team
arrest

T Doug Kaufusi Utah Starter Misdemeanor Wasn't
assault allowed
charge to suit up

TE Daniel Graham Colorado Starter Broke curfew Benched
for start
of Fiesta

DE Matt McChesney Colorado Reserve Underage Left at home
drinking

DE Fred Shavies Washington Starter Unbecoming Benched for
St. behavior start of Sun

DT Patrick Kabongo Nebraska Reserve Broke team Left at home
rules

NG Ma'ake Kemoeatu Utah Starter NCAA One-game
violation suspension

DB Travaris Robinson Auburn Reserve Ejected Suspended
from LSU first half
game of Peach

DB Ronnie Bryant North Reserve Charged Left at home
Carolina with car
theft

K Jeremy Flores Colorado Starter Late for Benched
team meeting for first
kick attempt

Holder Blain Bech LSU Starter Poor grades Ineligible

OUTBACK--INDEPENDENCE--ALAMO--MOTOR CITY

This Close To Victory

South Carolina pulled out a 31-28 victory over Ohio State in the
Outback Bowl when Daniel Weaver's 42-yard field goal practically
scraped the paint off the back of the crossbar as time expired.
Other would-be last-second heroes came up short.

--With his team trailing Alabama 14-13, Iowa State kicker Tony
Yelk, who had made two field goals and kept putting the Crimson
Tide in bad field position with his booming kickoffs, missed a
47-yarder with 51 seconds remaining in the Independence Bowl.
The field goal attempt, which had plenty of distance and
appeared in TV replays to pass directly over the right upright,
left Alabama fans relieved and Cyclones fans arguing that the
boot was good.

--After Iowa went ahead 19-16 on Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl,
the Red Raiders took over at their own 10-yard line with 39
seconds remaining. Texas Tech junior quarterback Kliff
Kingsbury, who threw for 309 yards but was intercepted three
times in the game, moved the Red Raiders to their 49, but
Hawkeyes safety Bob Sanders intercepted his last-second Hail
Mary pass attempt in the end zone.

--Cincinnati running back Ray Jackson couldn't hold on to Gino
Guidugli's fourth down pass from the Toledo five with 56 seconds
left in the Motor City Bowl. Jackson had the ball in his hands
in the end zone, but Rockets safety Andy Boyd knocked it loose.
"My senior year. My last game. Maybe my last play," said a
dejected Jackson. "I should have made the play." Toledo, which
outrushed Cincinnati 322-13, held on to win 23-16.

--M.B.

GMAC

Working Overtime

At a practice before the GMAC Bowl, Marshall quarterback Byron
Leftwich (left) put on the number 45 jersey of tight end Gregg
Kellett, went onto the field and began to mimic his teammate, a
weight-room junkie who's constantly stretching. Given that
Leftwich is 6'6" and 240 pounds and Kellett is 6'3", 260, the
quarterback looks more like a tight end than Kellett does. "When
I got to Marshall, I was 6'4", 190," Leftwich says. "Hopefully
I'll stop growing. If I don't, I'm going to work on my drop
step."

Basketball will have to wait. After a junior season in which
Leftwich accounted for 38 passing touchdowns, 4,132 yards
through the air, seven interceptions and no Heisman buzz, he
used the bowl against East Carolina in Mobile to qualify for a
middle lane in next year's Heisman race. He threw for 576
yards--the highest total of any quarterback in this year's
postseason--and four touchdowns and brought the Thundering Herd
back from a 38-8 halftime deficit to win 64-61 in two overtimes.
Let the buzz begin.

Leftwich, who completed 41 of 70 passes, says he has no interest
in leaving early for the NFL. Given this year's
quarterback-heavy draft, that makes sense. Still, scouts know
who he is. Leftwich, a Washington, D.C., native, certainly
passes their eyeball test. He has the size to see over the blitz
and the durability to withstand hits. His arm is every bit as
strong as it looks. On the day before the GMAC, Marshall coach
Bob Pruett watched Leftwich stand at the goal line in
Ladd-Peebles Stadium, take two steps and heave the ball to a
teammate at the far 30-yard line. "Seventy yards," Pruett said,
the grin of a lottery winner on his face. "He's just floating
it. I had him throwing the ball into a trash can 50 yards away;
it hit the rim and went in."

Size and a terrific arm aren't Leftwich's only assets. His
analytical mind shows up in the major he chose, management
information systems, as well as in his ability to read defenses.
"A lot of guys can do it on the blackboard, but how many can do
it in five seconds, standing behind the center?" Marshall
offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher says.

Against East Carolina, Leftwich led a comeback that appeared
would end triumphantly with seven seconds to play in regulation.
That's when he threw an 11-yard fade to Darius Watts to tie the
game, but Curtis Head missed the ensuing extra-point attempt,
sending the game into overtime at 51-51.

The late heroics and two overtime scoring drives came after a
fourth-quarter hit by a Pirates defender had deposited Leftwich
hard on his backside. Following the victory he sat gingerly on a
bench in the locker room and began to undress. "Seventy
attempts!" a manager gushed. "You want ice for that elbow?"

"The elbow ain't hurting," Leftwich said. "It's the butt. Man,
I'm tired."

PEACH

The Amazing Flying Tiger

North Carolina quarterback Darian Durant was trying to complete
a pass on the sideline, but Auburn linebacker Karlos Dansby
(left) had other ideas. In the third quarter of the Tar Heels'
16-10 win in the Peach Bowl, Dansby leaped across the sideline,
caught the ball and, before he landed out-of-bounds, tossed it
inbounds to fellow linebacker Dontarrious Thomas. The play was
so unusual that the Big 12 officiating crew huddled before
deciding that Dansby had made the interception, but penalized
the Tigers five yards for an illegal forward pass. Although
Dansby, a 6'3", 215-pound sophomore, led Auburn with five
interceptions during the regular season, he hadn't made such an
acrobatic play since his days as an all-state basketball player
at Woodlawn High in Birmingham. "My basketball experience
carried over," Dansby said. "I knew I was going to be
out-of-bounds. I saw DT coming and caught him by surprise. On
the sideline he asked me, 'What were you thinking?'"

All-Bowl Team

POS. NAME SCHOOL CLASS SKINNY

OFFENSE

WR Taylor Jacobs Florida Jr. Set Orange Bowl record
with 170 receiving yards,
147 in the first half, in
blowout of Maryland

WR Josh Reed LSU Jr. Nation's best receiver
unstoppable against
Illinois: 14 catches, 239
yards, two TDs in Sugar rout

WR Charles Rogers Michigan So. Caught TD passes of 72, 69
St. yards in first half; ended
with 10 catches for 270
yards in Silicon Valley
Bowl

TE Jerramy Stevens Washington Jr. Breakout game in Holiday
Bowl--nine catches, 109
yards, TD--after missing
six games with broken left
foot

LT Reggie Coleman Tennessee Sr. Protected back of Casey
Clausen, who threw for 393
yards, three TDs in Citrus
Bowl romp over Michigan

LG Ed Wilkins Miami Jr. Key man as Hurricanes piled
up 472 yards and allowed no
sacks in Rose Bowl drubbing
of Nebraska

C Kyle Young Clemson Sr. 18 knockdown blocks for
Tigers, who had 548 total
yards in Humanitarian Bowl
pasting of Louisiana Tech

RG Montrae Holland Florida Jr. Made key blocks on Greg
St. Jones's 22- and 23-yard runs
in Gator Bowl-clinching
drive

RT Mike Williams Texas Sr. Big reason that Major
Applewhite threw for 473
yards, four TDs and was
knocked down only once in
Holiday

QB Byron Leftwich Marshall Jr. Threw for 576 yards in
bringing Thundering Herd
back from 38-8 halftime
deficit to win GMAC Bowl

TB Chester Taylor Toledo Sr. Carried 31 times for
190 yards, the last 24
on winning TD dash against
Cincinnati in Motor City
Bowl

K Nate Kaeding Iowa So. Fourth field goal, a
47-yarder with :44
to play, gave Hawkeyes win
over Texas Tech in Alamo
Bowl

DEFENSE

DE Daryl Smith Georgia So. Moved from LB for Seattle
Tech Bowl, made fourth-down,
goal line tackle to prevent
Stanford touchdown

DT Ryan Sims North Sr. Spent most of game in Auburn
Carolina backfield, helping to hold
Tigers to 31 rushing yards
in Peach Bowl

DT Igor Olshansky Oregon Fr. At 19 already 6'6", 287
pounds and bench presses
455; had three tackles in
Fiesta Bowl

DE John Henderson Tennessee Sr. Forced one fumble, recovered
another--on the same play;
also had six tackles in
Citrus Bowl

LB Josh Ott Boston So. Eagles converted his
College interception and recovered
fumble into 10 points in
Music City triumph

LB Clifton Smith Syracuse Jr. Made 12 tackles, two for
loss, to help Orangemen hold
Kansas State to 33 rushing
yards in Insight.com Bowl

LB Jonathan Vilma Miami So. Hurricanes' defensive star
with eight tackles including
bone-crushing hit on Ben
Zajicek that forced fumble

CB Byron Jones Texas A&M Fr. Made three interceptions and
brought them back for 77
yards in
Galleryfurniture.com Bowl

CB Sheldon Brown South Sr. Set up game-winning field
Carolina goal by returning
interception 37 yards in
Outback Bowl

FS Lamont Thompson Washington Sr. Against Purdue, Sun Bowl
St. MVP had two interceptions;
Pac-10's career leader with
22 picks

SS Roy Williams Oklahoma Jr. Had two of Sooners' nine
sacks and three tackles for
loss against Arkansas in
Cotton Bowl

P Mike Shafer Syracuse Jr. Averaged 44.8 yards on 11
kicks and dropped four
inside Kansas State 20-yard
line

Coach Mac McWhorter Georgia Tech Interim coach beats
Stanford, loses job; losing
Cardinal coach Tyrone
Willingham wins Notre Dame
job. Go figure

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY GARY LOCKECOLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN (OHIO STATE)COLOR PHOTO: DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP (JONES)COLOR PHOTO: ELIOT SCHECTER/GETTY IMAGES (GROSSMAN)COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN DUNN/GETTY IMAGES (APPLEWHITE)COLOR PHOTO: G.M. ANDREWS/MOBILE REGISTER/AP (LEFTWICH)COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY GARY LOCKE