Posted on: January 9, 2012 1:07 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON. Things looked to be going Arkansas State's way early after the Red Wolves jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, but it was all Northern Illinois from that point on. The Huskies scored 31 consecutive points after that and cruised to victory in the GoDaddy.com Bowl to finish the season 11-3.
Chandler Harnish finished a strong career with the Huskies by throwing for 280 yards and 2 touchdowns, and receiver Martel Moore was easily his favorite target on the night. Moore finished the game with 8 receptions for 225 yards and a touchdown. For Arkansas State, quarterback Ryan Aplin had a tough night, throwing for 352 yards, but also throwing 3 interceptions.
WHY NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON. Simply put, after falling down 13-0 in the first quarter, the Northern Illinois defense just put the Arkansas State offense on lockdown. The Huskies outscored the Red Wolves 38-7 from then on. Mix in 3 interceptions by Ryan Aplin and 5 turnovers from Arkansas State, and you get a relatively easy victory for Northern Illinois
WHEN NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON. Arkansas State showed signs of life in the fourth quarter with a touchdown to cut NIU's lead to 31-20, but with 8:19 to play Aplin threw his third interception of the game and Dechane Durante took it 36 yards to the house to make it 38-20. Everything from that point on was just cosmetic.
WHAT NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON. The Huskies put a nice cap on a season that saw the school win its first MAC title, and also a nice end to a great career from quarterback Chandler Harnish. The Huskies also showed that they didn't lose a step under Dave Doeren took over for Jerry Kill following last season, and Northern Illinois looks like a school that will be a force in the MAC for the next few seasons.
WHAT ARKANSAS STATE LOST. This was a very good season for Arkansas State, going 8-0 in the Sun Belt to win the conference, but this wasn't the way the Red Wolves wanted the season to end. Still, with Gus Malzahn coming from Auburn to take over for Hugh Freeze -- and possibly bringing Michael Dyer with him -- the future still looks bright for the Red Wolves.
THAT WAS CRAZY. Giving your right arm for Gus Malzahn.
BOWL GRADE: C. I had high hopes for this one, as two fast-paced, high-scoring offenses were going to battle in Mobile, but there was never much doubt in the outcome. After Northern Illinois erased a 13-0 deficit with 31 straight points, even when Arkansas State got back into it in the fourth quarter, you never really got the sense that the Red Wolves would climb all the way back. So because of that lack of drama, it's hard to justify giving this one anything higher than a "C."
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune
Posted on: January 7, 2012 4:45 pm
Edited on: January 7, 2012 4:45 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
SMU WON. Which wasn't surprising considering the circumstances Pitt was playing under, only having four full-time coaches left on the staff. SMU jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and essentially put it in cruise control from there on. SMU's offense had 315 yards of offense on the day, with J.J. McDermott throwing for 240 yards and a touchdown and Darius Johnson on the receiving end of 7 passes for 121 yards and a score.
Though it wasn't just SMU's offense getting the job done, as the Mustangs defense held Pitt to only 210 yards of total offense and sacked Tino Sunseri 7 times.
WHY SMU WON. The Mustangs just came out of the gate much stronger in this contest, and after building a 21-0 lead in the first quarter they just made sure not to make any mistakes and hold the lead. The defense had a very strong day and the offense did more than enough. Combine that with a Pitt team that seemed to be lacking in motivation, and there wasn't much suspense in this contest.
WHEN SMU WON. When Rishaad Wimbley scored his first of 2 touchdowns on the day late in the first quarter following a Pitt turnover to make the score 21-0, it was rather evident that the Panthers weren't going to provide much resistance in this one.
WHAT SMU WON. SMU finishes its season at 8-5 and picks up a nice win over a school from the conference that it will be joining in 2013. It wasn't a great season for SMU, but its hard to be too upset with an 8-win season as it's not like the expectations were sky-high for the Mustangs this year.
WHAT PITT LOST. It's head coach, a lot of assistants and any desire to play football in 2011. The Panthers finish the year with a losing record at 6-7 but I think most people involved with the program are just happy to finally be able to close the book on the season and move ahead with Paul Chryst in the future. Whether that future is in the Big East or ACC.
THAT WAS CRAZY. Not really crazy, but it was funny to watch this game just for the fact that Pitt was a team that had been abandoned by its head coach for the Arizona State job (Todd Graham) but only because SMU's coach (June Jones) was all set to take the Arizona State job before things fell apart at the last minute.
BOWL GRADE: F. This game was not entertaining. Maybe it's the placement of the game, but it's hard to get up for a bowl game between Pitt and SMU after you've been watching BCS games and the Cotton Bowl and have the title game looming around the corner. Combine that with a total lack of drama and having to see a few too many replays of SMU running back Jared Williams' devastating leg injury (he broke his left femur in the fourth quarter) and there wasn't much about this one you want to remember.
Posted on: January 7, 2012 12:32 am
Edited on: January 7, 2012 12:33 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
ARKANSAS WON. It wasn't the prettiest of games by any means, and the long layoff for both teams since the regular season ended no doubt had something to do with it. Arkansas was able to shake off the rust first, thanks to a field goal and yet another punt return touchdown by the amazing Joe Adams. The 10-0 lead quickly grew to 19-0 before Kansas State blocked an extra point and returned the kick for a safety and the Wildcats scored two more touchdowns to cut the lead to 19-16. Unfortunately for Kansas State, that was the end of any success on offense.
It wasn't his best performance of the season, but Tyler Wilson finished the night with 216 yards passing and 2 touchdowns, with Jarius Wright making 3 receptions for 88 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Collin Klein had a tough night for the Wildcats, finishing with only 41 yards rushing on 24 carries, though he did throw for 173 yards and accounted for both of Kansas State's touchdowns.
WHY ARKANSAS WON. The reason Arkansas won this game came from an area where you'd least expect it to: its run defense. Arkansas finished 9th in the SEC in run defense this season but somehow managed to stop a Kansas State rushing attack that finished the regular season 25th in the country averaging 193.7 yards per game. The Wildcats ran the ball 40 times on Friday night for a grand total of 86 yards, or 2.15 yards per carry. By making Kansas State's offense one-dimensional and forcing Collin Klein to throw a lot more than Kansas State wanted him to, Arkansas ensured its eleventh win of the season.
WHEN ARKANSAS WON. Kansas State had a chance in the final minutes of this one, but when kicker Anthony Cantele missed a 43-yard field goal with 6:43 left and the Wildcats trailing 26-16 it was pretty clear that there would be no late rally.
WHAT ARKANSAS WON. This was the finishing touch on what was a great season for Arkansas. The Razorbacks finish their season with an 11-2 record, with both of those losses coming against LSU and Alabama. The Razorbacks will also likely finish the season ranked in the top five setting them up for a possible title run in 2012.
WHAT KANSAS STATE LOST. This would have been a nice bookend to what was a spectacular and unexpected season for Kansas State, but it's hard to be disappointed in the year the Wildcats had. Kansas State finishes the season with a 10-3 mark and those three losses came against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Arkansas. Some very good teams.
THAT WAS CRAZY. I don't get why teams are willing to punt the ball to Joe Adams, but he burned the Wildcats once with a touchdown in the seocnd quarter. What was crazy, however, was that Kansas State continued to punt the ball to him. No, he never took another one to the house, but still, it's Joe Adams. If you play Russian roulette and survive you don't just keep pulling the trigger.
FINAL GRADE: B-. I was leaning towards more of a C here because I thought this game would be a lot better and more entertaining than it was, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations. That being said, both defenses put in some solid performances on the night, and in a bowl season where we haven't seen much of that, I have to give them some credit. Particularly Arkansas, who despite losing its defensive coordinator, still managed to have its best defensive performance of the season. Only Texas had proven capable of slowing down Collin Klein before tonight.
Posted on: January 4, 2012 12:27 am
Edited on: January 4, 2012 12:27 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
MICHIGAN WON. I'm not sure how they did it even though I saw it with my own eyes, but the Michigan Wolverines won the Sugar Bowl 23-20 over Virginia Tech in overtime on Tuesday night. The Wolverines seemed lifeless for the first 29 minutes of the game, but the Hokies were only able to put 6 points on the board in that time despite outgaining the Wolverines 181 yards to 81 yards until that point. But then Denard Robinson unleashed a pass down the right sideline that seemed destined for the hands of a Hokie, yet Junior Hemingway pulled it in for a 45-yard touchdown pass -- one of Hemingway's two touchdown catches on the evening.
Then the silly began. Virginia Tech fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, and a few plays later Michigan tried one of the worst fake field goals that ever worked in the history of organized football, as holder Drew Dileo's pass was deflected before landing in the arms of offensive lineman Jareth Glanda for a first down. After that the Wolverines tacked on a field goal to take a 10-6 lead into the locker room even though they'd been completely out played for 29 minutes and 11 seconds.
Virginia Tech would continue to outplay Michigan in the second half, battling back to tie the game in the closing seconds on a Justin Myer field goal -- Myer being the Hokies third-string kicker -- to send the game into overtime. Unfortunately for the Hokies, after making his first four kicks of the night, Myer would miss on his fifth attempt in overtime.
A few plays later Brendan Gibbons' 37-yard field goal went through the uprights to give Michigan the win.
HOW MICHIGAN WON. This is not an easy question to answer. The Wolverines were outgained by the Hokies 377 to 184. Denard Robinson completed only 9 of 21 passes for 117 yards and rushed for 13 yards on 13 carries, the lowest rushing output of his career. But if there was a reason for Michigan to win this game, it was because Virginia Tech didn't take full advantage of its early chances.
Yes, the Hokies dominated the first half, but even then Tech could only manage 2 field goals and a 6-0 lead. Then there was the ill-advised fake punt out of a timeout in the fourth quarter that set Michigan up with great field position for a field goal that gave them a 20-17 lead at the time.
There were also 3 Virginia Tech turnovers. Perhaps none bigger than the fumble following Michigan's first score of the game, as it seemed to completely shift the momentum to Michigan's sideline.
WHEN MICHIGAN WON. Not until Gibbons' 37-yard field goal split the uprights in the overtime.
WHAT MICHIGAN WON. A BCS bowl game, which, given the direction Michigan fans had seen this program going in the last few years under Rich Rodriguez, has to feel like somewhat of a minor miracle. The turnaround in this team, particularly on defense, was quicker than any reasonable expectation, and the Wolverines have their first BCS win since the 2000 Orange Bowl. Brady Hoke, Al Borges and Greg Mattison deserve a lot of credit in Ann Arbor.
WHAT VIRGINIA TECH LOST. There were plenty of people who said that Virginia Tech didn't deserve to play in this game ahead of some programs like Kansas State or Boise State. It's certainly reasonable to agree with that assessment, but not because of the way the Hokies played on Tuesday night. Virginia Tech outplayed the Wolverines everywhere but on the scoreboard. That said, it's the Hokies fifth consecutive loss in a BCS bowl game, not picking up a victory since winning the Sugar Bowl in 1995.
THAT WAS CRAZY. The fake field goal that shouldn't have worked yet worked to set up the Michigan field goal at the end of the first half was just hard to explain. So much went wrong on that play for it to work out so well for the Wolverines, but anytime an offensive lineman can get a big reception, I'm all for it.
GRADE: C+. Much like the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl, the Sugar Bowl was a close game that came down to the last few moments. Unlike those other two bowl games, it wasn't because two teams were playing to the best of their abilities and matching up well with one another. This game was only close because neither team was capable of taking control of it, despite numerous opportunities to do so. So while it may have been close it wasn't great.
Posted on: December 31, 2011 11:14 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
AUBURN WON: A Tiger offense that had been in second gear since September and was missing leading rusher Michael Dyer suddenly roared to life in Gus Malzahn's final game at the helm, scoring 43 points and racking up 454 yards, both season highs allowed (or are they lows?) for the Cavalier defense. But the story of the game was Auburn's dominance on special teams, where the Tigers blocked not one but two Virginia punts (leading to nine points), foiled a fake Cavalier field goal, successfully executed a surprise onsides kick and set up a field goal with a 62-yard Quan Bray kick return. The Tiger offense was the best it had been since Week 2 vs. Mississippi State, if not all season--but it also had the benefit of a lot of help.
WHY AUBURN WON: Those special teams played the largest role, but if the same Tiger offense that had shown up over the last half of the season had shown up in Atlanta, those special teams wouldn't have mattered for much. The difference was an unusual source for a spark: demoted backup quarterback Barrett Trotter, benched at midseason for Clint Moseley and not even considered a part of the team's bowl preparations with freshman Kiehl Frazier being groomed for a larger role. But Moseley left the game after just one series with an ankle injury, and Trotter stepped into hit 11 of his 17 passes for 175 yards and 1 touchdown.
Sure, the total yardage number isn't all that eye-popping. But Trotter only needed to make a couple of throws downfield -- the prettiest a 50-yard in-stride bomb to Emory Blake to set up a second-quarter touchdown -- to open up the Auburn screen and running games that had been bottled up since the early stages of the season, thanks to the lack of deep accuracy from the Tiger QBs (Trotter included). With everything in the playbook at his arsenal (including the read options Cam Newton used to great effect last season, thanks to Frazier's repeated successful cameos), Malzahn was unable to unleash the kind of offensive barrage that's made his name as a coach.
Virginia's offense had its moments -- the Cavaliers had 435 yards of their own -- but with the Tigers clicking the way they were and the UVa special teams providing less than no help, they missed far too many opportunities to keep up.
WHEN AUBURN WON: Tiger placekicker Cody Parkey had a nice night, depositing five of his eight kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks, perfectly executing the onsides, and hitting 3-of-4 field goals. The last of those put Auburn up 43-24 with just over 8 minutes to play, and effectively ended the game.
WHAT AUBURN WON: Their fifth straight bowl game -- good for a share of the nation's longest bowl streak, tying Rutgers and Mississippi State -- and an eighth game for third time in Gene Chizik's three-year tenure. Given Auburn's schedule and the massive roster attrition following last year's run the national title, the Tigers can't feel disappointed about their 2011 effort.
WHAT VIRGINIA LOST: A chance at a first bowl victory since 2005, but given where the program was when Mike London arrived, the Cavs will happily take 8-5 and a Chick-Fil-A bowl appearance, we think.
FINAL GRADE: Though the outcome left the realm of doubt sometime during the third quarter, the ample offensive fireworks, aggressive coaching from both sidelines, and big plays made the game a breezy, enjoyable watch all the same. It wasn't the Alamo Bowl, but what is? B.
Posted on: December 31, 2011 7:13 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 7:13 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
ILLINOIS WON. There was not a lot of offense in this game, nor were there a lot of spectacular plays, but Illinois rode the strength of an outstanding defense to put an end to its six-game losing streak. With running back Jason Ford missing the game for Illinois, the Illini put the ball in Nathan Scheelhaase's hands and relied on him to do all the work on the offensive side of the ball.
Scheelhaase finished the day with 249 yards of total offense and hit A.J. Jenkins for a 60-yard score in the fourth quarter to ice it. Still, the true star of the day was the Illinois defense, particularly defensive end Whitney Mercilus. Mercilus lived up to his name, terrorizing Kevin Prince and the UCLA offense all day as the Bruins only managed 220 yards of offense in the game, with 38 of those yards coming on a touchdown pass in the final minute of the game after this one was essentially over.
WHY ILLINOIS WON. Defense, defense, defense, a little more defense, and then some defense. Illinois' offense only managed one touchdown and two field goals in the game, as cornerback Terry Hawthorne provided the other 7 Illini points with a pick-six in the third quarter that turned the tide of this game.
WHEN ILLINOIS WON. When Scheelhaase hit Jenkins for the 60-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter with 5:36 left on the clock to make it 20-7, there wasn't much reason to believe UCLA could overcome a two-score deficit given how this game was going.
WHAT ILLINOIS WON. For the first time in school history, Illinois won consecutive bowl games in back-to-back seasons. Which is about as much as the Illini could hope for considering how the season started and the firing of head coach Ron Zook.
WHAT UCLA LOST. UCLA lost a game, but it also won the end of a 2011 season that did not feature a lot of highlights and saw Rick Neuheisel get fired. The Bruins can now move forward to what they hope will be a much brighter 2012.
BOWL GRADE: F. I'm sorry, I went into this game with the absolute lowest of expectations. Both teams were under interim coaching staffs that won't be returning next season, and neither team had a winning record coming in. Illinois had lost six straight and UCLA was just as big of a mess. You would think those low expectations would only leave me pleasantly surprised by what took place in this game, but I wasn't. It was exactly what I expected it to be, and it was incredibly boring. It may as well have been called the Fight Narcolepsy Bowl. That said, I have to give the players credit. They may not have played well, but they showed up and played. Nobody was just going through the motions, but that being said, this was still a very boring game.
Posted on: December 31, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 3:40 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
TEXAS A&M WON. There were two factors at play in this game. There was Texas A&M's ability to blow a double-digit lead, and then there was Northwestern's tendency to come back late in bowl games only to come up just short. So, in a sense, Northwestern won this game?
No, Texas A&M finished its season with a victory, but not before making things a lot more interesting than they had to be.
The Aggies went into the fourth quarter with a 30-7 lead, so of course this one came down to the final seconds as Northwestern mounted a comeback. Still, the Aggies made some key plays when they had to in the fourth quarter, and Ryan Tannehilll threw for 392 yards and a touchdown. Jeff Fuller and Ryan Swope were his favorite targets, as Fuller finished the day with 7 grabs for 119 yards -- including a huge grab on A&M's final drive for a pivotal first down -- and Swope had 8 catches for 105 yards.
WHY TEXAS A&M WON. The Aggies built a lead that not even they could blow. Well, that and the fact that for the first 45 minutes of this game the Texas A&M defense just proved to be too much for Northwestern's offense. The Wildcats only managed 278 yards of offense on the day, and 147 of those yards came in the final quarter.
WHEN TEXAS A&M WON. The Aggies finally had the drive they needed so many times during the regular season to put an opponent away late in this one. After getting the ball back with 5:22 left and an 8-point lead, the Aggies put together a 12-play 68-yard drive that ended with a 31-yard field goal to make it a two-score game with 30 seconds left to play.
WHAT TEXAS A&M WON. After a season that was full of mostly disappointment for the Aggies, this one had to feel good. The Aggies were able to pick up a seventh victory and finish the year with a winning record before moving on to the SEC under Kevin Sumlin.
WHAT NORTHWESTERN LOST. Northwestern came into 2011 with higher hopes than a 6-7 season, but that's exactly what the Wildcats got with this loss. Making matters worse, this bowl loss marks the school's ninth consecutive bowl loss, tying the mark previously set by Notre Dame. Pat Fitzgerald has done a great job in Evanston, but this team just can't get over the postseason hump.
THAT WAS CRAZY. Texas A&M had a double-digit lead at halftime and didn't lose the game!
GRADE: B-. This was not a great game. In fact, for the first three quarters, it was pretty damn boring. The Wildcats couldn't do anything on offense, and A&M looked like it was going to blow them out. Thankfully the fourth quarter happened, allowing all of us to wonder if the Aggies could do it one more time. So since it was interesting in the final frame, I'm giving this game a B, but the minus is there to remind us how average the rest of it was.
Posted on: December 30, 2011 1:26 am
Edited on: December 30, 2011 1:27 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
BAYLOR WON. Well, Baylor did win the game, but in reality anybody who watched the Alamo Bowl on Thursday night won. Except for defensive coordinators around the country who no doubt found themselves curled up in the fetal position mumbling something about open-field tackling while drooling on themselves by the time this one was over. This is not an easy game to recap because so much happened. It's kind of like the night you went out to celebrate your 21st birthday. You know you had a good time doing it, but you don't remember most of it.
Still, I shall try.
There were 17 touchdowns scored in this game. That's one touchdown for every 3 minutes and 31 seconds of game time. Baylor and Washington combined for 123 points (2.05 points per minute) and 1,397 yards of total offense. Robert Griffin had 350 total yards and 2 touchdowns and he wasn't even the best quarterback in San Antonio as Washington's Keith Price went for 477 total yards and 7 touchdowns. And his team lost! Then there was Baylor's Terrance Ganaway, who rushed for 200 yards and 5 touchdowns (as a team Baylor rushed for 482 yards). Of the 17 touchdown drives in this game, 11 took less than 3 minutes off of the clock.
I'm not sure who the leading tackler was, but if he had more than 3 tackles I'll be shocked because I'm not sure there were 3 tackles in this entire game. It was insane, it was never-ending, and it was one of the greatest things that ever happened.
WHY BAYLOR WON. There's really no one thing that happened in this game that you can pinpoint as the reason that Baylor won, but if you had to give one of the "defenses" credit, I'd guess it would have to be Baylors. Not only did they hold Washington under 60, but the Bears outscored the Huskies 43-21 in the second half.
WHEN BAYLOR WON. The game came to an end when Washington faced a 4th and 8 in the final minutes while down 60-56 and couldn't convert. Though when Ganaway broke loose for a 43-yard touchdown a few plays later to make the score 67-56 with 2:28 left in the game, you legitimately wondered if Baylor had left too much time on the clock.
WHAT BAYLOR WON. Baylor won it's tenth game of the season, which is a huge milestone for the program. It also helped showcase just how insanely good a year Heisman winner Robert Griffin had. I mean, Griffin played on a Baylor team that allowed 35.7 points per game coming into this game, and gave up 56 points on the night, and the Bears still won 10 games. Wrap your head around that one.
WHAT WASHINGTON LOST. Well, each player on Washington probably lost about 15 pounds in this game from running up and down the field for 60 minutes. Other than that, I'm not sure you can say the Huskies lost all that much. We saw the same Huskies tonight that we've seen all season: a team that is very capable of putting 50 points on the board but just as capable of allowing 60. Much like the team they played. Yes, this is a loss that stings as all losses do, but it won't be long before everyone on this Washington team looks back on this game and can do nothing but laugh at the insanity of it all.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Have you read this recap? This entire game was crazy.
FINAL GRADE: A++++++++. I'd give it more pluses but you probably get the point. No, this game was not the type of game that defensive-minded football fans would enjoy, but it was 60 minutes of pure entertainment. There is not a single doubt in my mind that anybody who watched will forever remember this Alamo Bowl.