Football Frenzy

Who was hot and who wasn't in the busiest postseason ever, along with a sneak peek at who will be on the riseé and on the declineí in 2009
January 12, 2009

BEST AND WORST

Best Farewell: Mountaineers senior Pat White completed 26 of 32 passes for a career-high 332 yards and three touchdowns and directed a 69-yard, game-winning TD drive as West Virginiaí beat North Carolinaé 31--30 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. White became the first quarterback to win four bowls as a starter.

Worst Showing: As if a 1--5 record this bowl season weren't a big enough blow to the Big Ten's already battered postseason reputation, the conference lost the one game it could count on in recent years. Georgiaí knocked off Michigan Stateé 24--12 in the Capital One Bowl, ending the Big Ten's four-game winning streak in the New Year's Day game. Matthew Stafford completed 20 of 31 passes for 250 yards, and in the final 18 minutes he threw for three touchdowns.

Best Performance: Senior running back Gartrell Johnson set an alltime bowl record with 375 yards from scrimmage as Colorado Stateé defeated Fresno Stateé 40--35 in the New Mexico Bowl. Johnson had 285 yards rushing (the second-highest total in all bowl history) and 90 yards receiving.

Worst Debut: The St. Petersburg Bowl hosted its inaugural game, a 41--14 romp by South Floridaé over Memphisé, before an announced crowd of 25,205. The Tigers sold fewer than 2,000 tickets, and the Bulls from nearby Tampa didn't sell out their 10,000-seat allotment, making Tropicana Field look like a Rays game had broken out.

Best Revenge: After losing in a September meeting that was moved to Dallas because of Hurricane Ike, Houstoné beat Air Forceé 34--28 in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Best Discovery: After struggling all season with inconsistent play at quarterback, LSUé may have finally found its man. In the Tigers' 38--3 drubbing of Georgia Tech‚áë in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, freshman Jordan Jefferson connected on his first nine passes and finished with 16 completions in 25 attempts for 142 yards and a touchdown.

FIRST AND LONG

Reviving a practice last used in 1988, Notre Dameé wore jerseys with the players' names on the backs as it spanked Hawaiié 49--21 in the Hawaii Bowl. QB Jimmy Clausen threw for 401 yards as the Irish snapped an NCAA-record nine-game bowl losing streak.

With a 38--14 win over Western Michigané in the Texas Bowl, Riceí earned its first postseason victory since beating Alabama in the 1954 Cotton Bowl.

Vanderbilté edged Boston Collegeí 16--14 in the Music City Bowl, 53 years to the day after the Commodores' last bowl victory.

Arizonaé won its first bowl game since 1998 as senior QB Willie Tuitama completed 24 of 35 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns and added a six-yard TD scamper to lead the Wildcats to a 31--21 victory over BYUí in the Las Vegas Bowl.

ONE-TWO PUNCHES

Behind dual-threat quarterback Jeremiah Masoli (106 yards and three TDs rushing, 258 yards and one TD passing), Oregoní stormed past Oklahoma Stateé 42--31 in the Holiday Bowl. Ducks tailback Jeremiah Johnson added 119 yards as Oregon pounded out 307 rushing yards.

Wideout Jeremy Maclin, who earlier had scored on a 75-yard punt return, hauled in the last pass of Chase Daniel's career for a TD, then watched his roommate, linebacker Sean Witherspoon (17 tackles), get in on a key sack as Missourií beat Northwesterní 30--23 in overtime in the Alamo Bowl.

Returning to his home state, Jevan Snead threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns, and Dexter McCluster had 180 yards from scrimmage as Mississippié upset Texas Techí 47--34 in the Cotton Bowl.

Wake Foresté quarterback Riley Skinner, who completed all 11 of his passes for 166 yards and a touchdown, was the MVP of the Demon Deacons' 29--19 victory over Navyí in the EagleBank Bowl, but he got a lot of help from Kevin Harris. With the Deacs' top two tailbacks hampered by injuries, Harris (who had carried the ball nine times all season) rumbled for 136 yards on 24 rushes.

ON THE DEFENSIVE

TCUé limited Boise Stateí to 28 rushing yards and 250 total yards en route to a 17--16 victory in the Poinsettia Bowl, prompting Boise wideout Vinny Perretta to say, "Those guys are freaks."

Nebraskaé held Clemsoní to four yards rushing and turned back the Tigers at the 10 in the final minute for a 26--21 victory in the Gator Bowl.

Defensive tackle Ventrell Jenkins returned a fumble 56 yards for a TD with 3:02 left to give Kentuckyí a 25--19 victory over East Carolinaí in the Liberty Bowl. "Two moves in one: a stiff-arm and a high step," said Jenkins. "Next thing I know, I'm in the end zone with my teammates on top of me."

Returning to his hometown of Shreveport, La., for the Independence Bowl, Louisiana Teché cornerback Weldon Brown earned defensive MVP honors with a career-high 14 tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception in a 17--10 win over Northern Illinois‚áì.

SHOW THEM THE MONEY

Donald Brown, the nation's leading rusher, ran for a career-high 261 yards as Connecticut‚áì beat Buffalo‚áì 38--20 in the International Bowl. Afterward the Huskies' first All-America selection announced he would declare for the NFL draft.

Last fall Shonn Greene was making $8 an hour working in a furniture warehouse while attending community college to improve his grades. After rushing for 121 yards and three touchdowns to lead Iowa‚áì to a 31--10 victory over South Carolina‚áë in the Outback Bowl, the Doak Walker Award winner said he will enter the draft.

Throughout the buildup to its PapaJohns.com Bowl matchup with Rutgers‚áì, defenders from North Carolina State‚áë emphasized the importance of keeping wideout Kenny Britt in check. Midway through the fourth quarter the 6'4", 215-pound junior scored the winning touchdown on a 42-yard slant route. Five days after the Scarlet Knights' 29--23 victory, Britt declared for the NFL draft.

RUNNING WILD

Caught on camera during pregame preparations at the Emerald Bowl, Cal‚áë linebacker Zack Follett urged tailback Jahvid Best to "run all over [Miami‚áë] on national TV." That's exactly what Best did, rushing for an Emerald Bowl--record 186 yards and two TDs in a 24--17 victory.

One of seven Terrapins benched for the start of the Humanitarian Bowl for violating curfew, Da'Rel Scott ran for 174 yards and two touchdowns in the final 20 minutes as Maryland‚áë beat Nevada‚áë 42--35.

SOMETHING SPECIAL

In the New Orleans Bowl, Southern Miss‚áë beat Troy‚áì in overtime 30--27 as the delightfully named Britt Barefoot booted a 39-yard field goal off the left upright for the winner. The senior, who had made six of 12 attempts all season and none longer than 29 yards, also converted from 38 and 46 yards. (For the record, Barefoot kicks with a shoe.)

Graham Gano starred in a 42--13 Florida State‚áë victory over Wisconsin‚áì in the Champs Sports Bowl by pinning the Badgers at their three-, one- and one-yard line on consecutive punts in the first quarter. The Lou Groza Award winner averaged 48.2 yards on five punts and was named the game's MVP.

BY THE NUMBERS

$1 | Reported cost of an upper-deck seat at some outlets in the days leading up to the Orange Bowl. Virginia Tech‚áë beat Cincinnati‚áì 20--7 before a crowd of 57,851 in 76,500-seat Dolphin Stadium.

3 | Points scored in the Sun Bowl, as Oregon State‚áì beat Pittsburgh‚áë 3--0. It was the lowest-scoring bowl game since Air Force and TCU played to a scoreless tie in the 1959 Cotton Bowl.

6--0 | Career postseason record for Howard Schnellenberger, who, 25 years after leading Miami to an upset win in the Orange Bowl, directed Florida Atlantic‚áë to a 24--21 victory over Central Michigan‚áì in the Motor City Bowl.

11 | Seconds that Kansas‚áë took to get on the scoreboard in a 42--21 victory over Minnesota‚áë at the Insight Bowl. Todd Reesing threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to wideout Dezmon Briscoe, who finished with 14 catches for 201 yards and three TDs.

PHOTOANDREW DEMATTOS/ICON SMI (JOHNSON)GAME-BREAKERS Ole Miss's McCluster (22) ran Tech ragged, Colorado State's Johnson (5) had a record day, and Oregon's Masoli picked apart Oklahoma State. PHOTOGREG NELSON (MCCLUSTER)[See caption above] PHOTOJOHN GREEN/CAL SPORT MEDIA (MASOLI)[See caption above]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)