It’s finally over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are National Champions for the second time in three years. The bowl season was once again very exciting with so many close finishes and with two of the five BCS games going into overtime. Alabama head coach Nick Saban beat the school that he was once coached for the BCS National Championship. Who knows? Maybe one day, Urban Meyer and Ohio State will take down Florida for the title, or maybe they’ll just meet in the Gator Bowl again. Anyway, that was just a thought. For the very last time, here are the winners and losers:
Ohio and Louisiana-Lafayette
On the first day of the bowl season, December 17th, the Ohio Bobcats and Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns each came from behind to earn its first ever bowl win. In the Potato Bowl against Utah State, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton scored from one yard with 13 seconds left to give the Bobcats a 24-23 victory. After falling behind late to San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl, UL-Lafayette kicker Brett Baer connected on a 50-yard field goal as time expired to give the Ragin’ Cajuns their first ever bowl win by a final score of 32-30.
In the highest scoring Orange Bowl ever, West Virginia scored 10 touchdowns in a 70-33 win over ACC Champion Clemson. The game went back and forth early, but the Mountaineers were able to take their first lead in the second quarter on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith to Tavon Austin to go up 21-17. Clemson looked as if it were about to respond with a touchdown of its own, but as running back Andre Ellington powered his way toward the end zone, West Virginia’s Darwin Cook ripped the ball from him and race 99 yards the other way for a touchdown. The next five touchdowns would belong to West Virginia as the Mountaineers cruised to victory. Smith finished with 401 yards passing and six touchdowns, with four going to Austin. The BCS victory was West Virginia’s third in seven years and gives the Mountaineers a 10-win-season, as they finish with a 10-3 mark.
Boise State Seniors
Boise State dominated Arizona State 56-24 in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas with touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams. What was also special was what Boise State’s senior class, that includes quarterback Kellen Moore and running back Doug Martin, was able to do. Over the past four years, the Broncos have gone 50-3 with a BCS win in 2009 and victories over Oregon, TCU, Virginia Tech and Georgia. What happens in the years to come remains to be seen, but what this senior class did to put Boise State on the national radar is nothing short of remarkable.
On December 17th in the New Mexico Bowl, the Temple Owls collected their first bowl victory in 32 years with a 37-15 win over Wyoming. Temple got 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Bernard Pierce and forced three Wyoming turnovers in the win. Temple finishes the 2011 season with a record of 9-4.
It wasn’t always pretty, but in Brady Hoke’s first year in Ann Arbor, the Michigan Wolverines will finish with 11-2 record. In the Sugar Bowl on January 3rd, Michigan and Virginia Tech went back-and-forth most of the night. Up 20-17 late, Virginia Tech drove deep into Michigan territory, but the Wolverine defense would not break. Virginia Tech’s Justin Myer knocked home a 25-yard field goal to send the game into overtime tied 20-20. The Hokies got the ball first in overtime and appeared to have taken the lead after Logan Thomas’ pass to Danny Coale was ruled a touchdown, but replay ruled that the football hit the ground and Virginia Tech had to settle for another Myer field goal attempt. This time, Myer’s kick sailed wide right and Michigan took over needing any score to win. The Wolverines ran the ball three times before Brendan Gibbons knocked home a 37-yard field goal to give Michigan the 23-20 victory and its first BCS win since 1999.
N.C. State CB David Amerson
N.C. State’s David Amerson entered the Wolfpack’s Belk Bowl match-up with Louisville leading the country with 11 interceptions. Amerson led the next closest player by four interceptions and added some distance in N.C. State’s 31-24 victory. Amerson intercepted two passes including one that he took 65 yards the other way for a Wolfpack touchdown in the third quarter to give N.C. State a 31-10 lead. Amerson finishes the year with 13 interceptions in as many games while N.C. State finishes the year 8-5 and winners of three straight.
Conference USA and the MAC
Schools from Conference USA and the MAC each went an impressive 4-1 during the bowl season. Conference USA champion Southern Mississippi had a fight on its hands, but managed to beat Nevada 24-17 in the Hawaii Bowl. Houston, SMU and Marshall also won bowl games. The lone loss for the conference came from Tulsa who lost in the waning moments to BYU in the Armed Forces Bowl 24-21. The MAC Champions, the Northern Illinois Huskies defeated Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl 38-20. Ohio, Toledo and Temple also won bowls while Western Michigan’s loss to Purdue in the Little Caesars Bowl was the sole blemish for the Mid-American Conference.
In an Alamo Bowl that saw 133 points and just shy of 1,400 yards of total offense, the Baylor Bears outlasted Washington 67-56 for their first 10-win season since 1980. Baylor trailed 35-24 at halftime, but scored 43 second half points to rally for victory. Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III passed for 295 yards and a score, but Baylor got 200 yards rushing and five touchdowns from Terrance Ganaway; the Bears also got 100 yards and two touchdowns rushing from Jarred Salubi and a 100-yard effort on the ground from wide receiver Tevin Reese. Baylor finishes 2011 with a 10-3 record.
Many felt that Oklahoma State should have played LSU in the BCS National Championship, but that didn’t stop the Cowboy offense from bringing their A-game to the Fiesta Bowl against #4 Stanford. Oklahoma State fell behind 14-0 and never led in the contest, but found a way to win in overtime 41-38. Brandon Weeden threw two touchdown passes to Justin Blackmon in the second quarter and rushed for another as the score was tied 21-21 at the half. Stanford led 38-31 late, but Joseph Randle’s 4-yard touchdown with 2:35 to play evened the game at 38. Andrew Luck drove Stanford into field goal range, but kicker Jordan Williamson missed from 35 yards away. After not gaining a yard in overtime, Williamson missed again, this time from 43 yards away and Oklahoma State took over. The Cowboys reached the one-yard-line on the second play of their possession and would win on Quinn Sharp’s 22-yard field goal two plays later to collect their first ever BCS victory and finish the season 12-1.
BYU WR Cody Hoffman
In BYU’s 24-21 win over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl, sophomore receiver Cody Hoffman caught eight passes for 122 yards and scored all three BYU touchdowns. The Cougars trailed late, but Hoffman’s two-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Riley Nelson with 11 seconds to play gave BYU the lead and the eventual victory.
The SEC and Big XII
Texas A&M and Missouri will be switching from the Big XII to the SEC shortly, but each won bowl games which will be the final game for each as a Big XII school. In fact, the Big XII and SEC each had very good bowl seasons. The conferences combined to go 11-5 with two BCS wins and with the national champion coming out of the SEC. The only matchup between the two conferences went to the SEC with Arkansas beating Kansas State 29-16 in the Cotton Bowl.
Houston QB Case Keenum
In his final game as a collegiate, legendary Houston quarterback Case Keenum passed for 532 yards and three touchdowns as the Cougars cruised past Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl 30-14. All three touchdown tosses came in the first half with two going to star receiver Patrick Edwards. Houston finishes the season 13-1 and Keenum finishes his career as the NCAA’s all-time leading passer.
In each of the previous two seasons, the Oregon Ducks had lost BCS games. In the Rose Bowl on January 2nd against Wisconsin, Oregon righted the ship with a 45-38 victory. Oregon trailed for the most of the game and 38-35 after three quarters. Darron Thomas’ 11-yard touchdown pass to Lavasier Tuinei with 14:35 to play put Oregon ahead for good. Alejandro Maldonado added a field goal with just under seven minutes to play to give the Ducks a touchdown lead. Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson connected with Jared Abbrederis on a big pass play on the ensuing drive, but Abbrederis was stripped by Oregon’s Terrance Mitchell near the sideline and Michael Clay recovered to secure the Oregon victory, its first BCS win since 2001. Oregon rushed for 345 yards in the win with 159 yards and a touchdown coming from LaMichael James and 155 and two touchdowns coming from De’Anthony Thomas on his only two carries.
After a 6-2 start that included wins over Missouri and USC, Arizona State looked like a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-12. But after four straight losses, the Sun Devils needed to beat Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas just to have a winning season. Boise State ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown and never looked back as Arizona State fell 56-24. The Sun Devils went just 3-for-13 converting third downs and 0-for-3 on fourth down while committing 92 yards in penalties and finishing with -11 yards rushing.
The Western Athletic Conference was this only conference this bowl season not to have a team win a bowl game going 0-3. The three losses came from Utah State, Louisiana Tech and Nevada and were all decided by one score and a total of 15 points. Utah State lost to Ohio 24-23 in the Potato Bowl; Louisiana Tech led late, but fell to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl, while Nevada fell to Southern Mississippi in the Hawaii Bowl.
Air Force’s Two-Point Try
In the Military Bowl, Air Force and Toledo went back-and-forth all day; trailing 42-35, Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson found Zack Kauth for a 33-yard touchdown to cut the lead to one at 42-41 with 52 seconds to play. Air Force elected to go for two, but rather than leaving the offense on the field, the Falcons tried to run a fake field goal with punter David Baska running the option with kicker Parker Herrington. Baska never reached the goal line and was stripped around the two. Toledo recovered the ensuing onside kick and held on for the 42-41 victory.
After winning the ACC for the first time in 20 years, the Clemson Tigers found themselves in an Orange Bowl match-up with Big East Champion West Virginia. The Tigers were a slight favorite and led early. West Virginia took their first lead in the second quarter 21-17 and Clemson looked to be on the verge on regaining in as running back Andre Ellington rumbled his way inside the one-yard-line and toward the end zone. Ellington was stripped of the ball by Darwin Cook who proceeded to return it 99 yards for a touchdown the other way. From there on out, it was all West Virginia as the Mountaineers outscored Clemson 42-16 for the remainder of the game in a 70-33 triumph. Clemson allowed West Virginia to rack up nearly 600 yards of offense while the Tigers turned the ball over four times. The 70 points was the most ever given up by a team in the Orange Bowl. Clemson will finish 2011 with a 10-4 record after an 8-0 start.
In a season surrounded by turmoil and controversy, Penn State had a chance to snap a three-game-losing-streak and finish with a 10-win season as it met Houston in the TicketCity Bowl. That however, was not to be as Penn State allowed Houston to tally 600 yards of total offense in a 30-14 loss. Quarterback Robert Bolden completed just 7 of his 26 pass attempts for 137 yards and three interceptions. Penn State fell behind 17-0 and never got closer than 10. After a 9-1 start, the Nittany Lions will finish 2011 with a 9-4 overall record.
Stanford looked as though it had a second straight win in a BCS game as Andrew Luck drove the Cardinal deep into Oklahoma State territory in the waning moments of the Fiesta Bowl. On the final play of regulation, Jordan Williamson hooked a 35-yard field goal and the game went into overtime tied 38-38. Stanford got the ball first in overtime, but failed to gain a yard; Williamson once again came on for the go-ahead field goal, but once again, Williamson’s kick went wide. On the second play of Oklahoma State’s possession, quarterback Brandon Weeden hit Colton Chelf for what looked to be the game-winning touchdown. Replay ruled that Chelf was down short of the end zone. After getting the ball in the middle of the field, Quinn Sharp nailed a 22-yard field goal to give Oklahoma State the 41-38 victory and hand Stanford just its second loss of the season.
The Atlantic Coast Conference had two teams selected to play in BCS games and eight total teams in bowls. The ACC finished the bowl season a dismal 2-6 after wins in two of its first three bowls. N.C. State and Florida State were the only two ACC schools to win bowl games while Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech lost games in overtime.
After winning a second straight Big Ten title, Wisconsin had hopes of avenging last year’s 21-19 loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl this year against #5 Oregon. The Badgers led for most of the contest and took a 38-35 lead into the fourth quarter. 10 straight points by the Oregon Ducks put Wisconsin behind 45-38 with just under seven minutes to play. The Badgers hit a big pass play on the ensuing drive when Russell Wilson found Jared Abbrederis for a 30-yard gain, but Abbrederis was stripped of the football and Oregon recovered. Wisconsin would eventually get the ball back with 16 seconds to play and would make the most of those 16 seconds. Wilson completed two passes totaling 62 yards to get down to Oregon’s 25-yard-line with two seconds to play, but Wilson’s attempt to stop the clock did not come quick enough as time expired and the Badgers fell in the Rose Bowl for a second straight year. The loss snaps a five-game-winning-streak as Wisconsin finishes the year 11-3.
Ohio State needed to beat Florida in the Gator Bowl to avoid its first losing season since 1988. The Buckeyes held Florida to 263 yards of offense and only one offensive touchdown, but gave up a 99-yard kick return for a score to Andre Debose and a blocked punt that was returned for a score by Graham Stewart. Jordan Hall’s 11-yard touchdown reception with 57 seconds to play gave Ohio State life, but the ensuing onside kick was recovered by Florida as the Gators held on for the 24-17 victory. The Buckeyes finish 6-7 and will be ineligible for postseason play next year as new head coach Urban Meyer takes over the reigns.
The Hokies were in control for most of the first half of Virginia Tech’s Sugar Bowl match-up with Michigan, but managed only two field goals to lead 6-0. Virginia Tech had Michigan stopped again with under five minutes to play in the first half, but a roughing the kicker call gave Michigan a first down. The Wolverines would score a touchdown on the same drive to take a 7-6 lead. The Hokies fumbled the ensuing kickoff which led to a Michigan field goal as the Wolverines took a 10-6 lead into the locker room. Virginia Tech fell behind 17-6 in the second half, but got a field goal from Justin Myer and a touchdown from Logan Thomas to close to within two at 17-15; Thomas found Marcus Davis on the two-point-try to tie the game at 17. Michigan re-gained the lead on a Brendan Gibbons field goal after a failed fake punt by Virginia Tech. Down 20-17 with four minutes to play, the Hokies mounted a drive that stalled inside Michigan’s 10-yard-line. Myer knocked home a 25-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. After a 20-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Danny Coale on the first possession of overtime was overturned by replay, Myer, who was 4-for-4 on the night, lined up for a 37-yard field goal attempt. His kicked stayed wide and Michigan took over. Gibbons’ 37-yard field goal on Michigan’s possession was good giving Michigan a 23-20 victory and handing Virginia Tech a second straight loss in a BCS game.
The Final Biggest Winner
The Alabama Crimson Tide got something that few college football teams ever do, a second chance. Alabama lost to #1 LSU in Tuscaloosa on November 5th in overtime. But by winning out and getting some help along the way, Alabama earned a rematch with LSU for the BCS National Championship. Like the first meeting, defense ruled the day, but Alabama got three field goals in the first half from Jeremy Shelley to take a 9-0 halftime lead. Shelley kicked two more in the third quarter to make it 15-0 and in the final quarter, All-American running back Trent Richardson broke a 34-yard run for a touchdown as Alabama pitched the first ever shutout in a BCS game, beating LSU 21-0 to claim its second national title in three years. Alabama outgained the Tigers 384-92 and allowed just five total first downs. The Crimson Tide also committed just one penalty and allowed LSU to cross midfield just once. Quarterback A.J. McCarron, who struggled when the teams met earlier this season, was stellar, passing for 234 yards on 23-of-34 passing. Alabama with the win becomes the first team ever to win a BCS National Championship without winning its conference. The Crimson Tide also become the sixth straight national champion to come out of the SEC.
The Final Biggest Loser
Top-ranked LSU entered the BCS National Championship against #2 Alabama with a 13-0 record and an earlier victory over the Crimson Tide. LSU, who has been notorious for starting slow this season, fell behind early again. But on this occasion, the Tigers never could make the play that turned the game around as they fell 21-0. The Tigers gained just 92 yards on the night and for the first time this season, did not force a turnover. LSU went just 2-for-12 on third down and could not keep quarterback Jordan Jefferson upright. Jefferson finished with just 53 yards passing with an interception and with just 15 yards rushing on 14 carries which included a fumble. Alabama kicked five field goals before Trent Richardson finally put the game away for the Tide with a long touchdown run. LSU crossed midfield just once in the contest and that did not come until its next-to-last possession. LSU became the first team ever to be shut out in a BCS bowl of any sort. Despite winning the SEC, it was Alabama that took home the crystal trophy. LSU finishes the year 13-1 and becomes the first ever SEC champion to lose in the BCS National Championship and the first SEC champion to lose a BCS game since Georgia lost to West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl following the 2005 season.