Heart of Dallas Bowl: Louisiana Tech 35, Illinois 18
If you are one of the few who still thought that Illinois could have nice things, perhaps this game changed your mind. Despite winning the total yards battle by 90, the Illini still managed to lose to Louisiana Tech. The game at least was closer than that score indicates, though. With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter and Illinois trailing by just three, LaKeith Walls sacked Bulldog quarterback Cody Sokol, who had the ball fly out of his hand at impact. Jihad Ward of the Illini picked up the ball and looked to make a return into field goal range, but he coughed the ball up before he could make it to the ground. Tech fell on it and ended up driving for a touchdown to make the score 28-18.
Reilly O'Toole had a nice game here, but he also threw a brutal pick six that probably should have been negated by a holding penalty.
Quick Lane Bowl: Rutgers 40, North Carolina 21
Coming into the game, most prognosticators predicted a tight game between evenly matched opponents. North Carolina -- fat off of an easy-as-Tobacco-Pie ACC schedule -- rolled into the game with an "explosive" offense and a "defense." Most national media, every NC writer, and even a few Rutgers beat writers had Rutgers losing in a close shootout.
However, there was one "writer" with two thumbs and a cash-money prediction.
This guy! (if you can't tell, I'm pointing at myself with my thumbs).
This game was a complete and total tour of victory for the B1G Boys from Jersey. The offense was clicking on all cylinders, SuperNova was stellar, R Block party was bumpin', and the run game was dominant, led by OTE award winning FB Michael Burton. The defense gave up yards in chunks but made big plays when they were needed. The game was in hand midway through the third quarter with RU up 40-7. The combination of prevent defense and two extremely skillful (and lucky) onsides kicks were the only factors that made the score even approach respectability. An awesome game and a fantastic conclusion to a great first year in the B1G.
- Ray Ransom
Pinstripe Bowl: Penn State 31, Boston College 30 (OT)
If you had told me beforehand that Boston College would rack up 285 yards of rushing in this game, I would have told you that Penn State had no chance to win. I would have been wrong. The Lions did a good job limited quarterback Tyler Murphy in the passing game, but it didn't seem to matter when he was teaming up with tailback Jon Hillman in the to gash the Penn State defense for big chunks of yardage on the ground.
The explosive tandem led to Boston College taking a 21-7 lead in the third quarter, but some good defense and some good Christian Hackenberg led to a Penn State comeback. I've been one of Hackenberg's biggest critics this season, but he played a fine game, even if it wasn't as fine as his four touchdowns and zero interceptions would indicate. There were still a handful of head-scratching throws, but one of those led to a touchdown for the Lions, so I shouldn't complain too much.
With Penn State facing a third down from the Boston College seven-yard line late in the third quarter, Hackenberg found Geno Lewis open on a slant in the end zone. Unfortunately, the ball wasn't thrown to Lewis, but rather the defensive back draped on the receiver's back. A lucky deflection bounced the ball right into Lewis's hands and Penn State was back in the game, 21-14.
Hackenberg's next touchdown, however, was something brilliant. After a personal foul penalty turned 1st-and-goal from the one into 2nd-and-goal from the 16, he threaded the needle on a throw to DaeSean Hamilton to tie the score at 21-21.
The Eagles would kick a field goal to take the lead again, but a gorgeous Hackenberg throw to Chris Godwin set up the Sam Ficken equalizer. In overtime, good fortune struck again when Boston College kicker Mike Knoll shanked an extra point attempt. On the ensuing Penn State possession, Hackenberg found Kyle Carter on a lob to the end zone to clinch the first Penn State bowl victory in five years.
Is Hackenberg's solid game a sign of things to come? Where was Kyle Carter hiding all season? We'll have to wait until this summer to find out.
Holiday Bowl: Southern California 45, Nebraska 42
Everyone thought this game would be a USC blowout, and to be perfectly honest, there was ample evidence that that would happen. The Trojans came in sporting a stellar offense, scary talent in the trenches, and a coach with a plan. Nebraska, on the other hand, came in with a limping offense, a defense that had been embarrassed far too many times to count in the back half of the season, and a fourth string center. To say that you should have bet the house on USC (-7) was something of an understatement.
Then the game started, and interim coach Barney Cotton did interim coach things, including a Fat Guy TD that didn't count because officials are lame, and before you knew it, this game was 45-42 USC with Nebraska in control of their chance to tie. The tie never came, and Nebraska officially ended all that was the Bo Pelini era. Seniors Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell showed off everything they brought to this program during the bowl game, and they will be remembered for quite a bit of contribution to Nebraska lore -- not to mention some significant record book rewrites -- but they will probably be overshadowed by the craziness of the past few years.
New coach Mike Riley sat in the stands, probably just thinking about the next steps. At least it will be a fun ride for us Nebraska fans... or something like that.