With the New Year, comes the (sometimes tearful) goodbye to our dear friend, NCAA Football. As we conclude 2009, there seems to be a good send off party, which will be capped with tonight’s BCS National Championship game from Pasadena. But since we last spoke on New Year’s Eve, there have been some historic games, some record games, some boring games, and some great games.
Against West Virginia, Bobby Bowden’s last game as Head Coach of the Florida State Seminoles was played in the Gator Bowl. The ‘Noles showed up for the game in Jacksonville a bit late, but after being down 14-3 in the first quarter Florida State remembered it was Bobby’s last game and his players sent him out with a win, 33-21. I was lucky enough to get tickets to this game as a gift, and it was a memory that will last a lifetime. It sent chills up my spine to watch Coach Bowden throw Chief Osceola’s flaming spear at the 50 yard line, and to participate in the frequent “BOB-BY” cheers coming from both sides of the stadium. Even though I sat in the second-to-last row in the stadium (luckily at the 50), I was grateful to witness history.
In true Tebow-fashion, the Gator QB set records in his final game in orange and blue. There was really no question that Florida would dominate Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl, but no one could have guessed it was going to be like that! With a final score of 51-24, Tim Tebow completed 31 of 35 passes for 482 yards and 3 TDs, added to his 78 yards rushing, he set the all-time BCS record for yards in a game, with 533. Ridiculous.
With Tebow’s great performance, came a boring game. It really wasn’t that exciting to watch UF pile it on top of Cincinnati, but I can’t blame Urban Meyer or Tim Tebow for doing so. Especially with a 30-3 score at halftime, I found it kind of a snoozer and passed out in the third quarter.
The first half of the USF v. Northern Illinois International Bowl was another “Z-catcher.” Marked by a 3-3 score at halftime, the Bulls only managed 19 yards on the ground. But the second half seemed like a completely different game, and it was all-USF, highlighted by an impressive performance by junior Mike Ford, who entered the game with 243 rushing yards for the season, adding 207 yards and 2 touchdowns. You might want to keep him in mind while drafting next year.
Luckily, we have had more exciting bowl games than anything else, this season. Ohio State finally brought a Rose Bowl victory back to the Big-10 since Heisman-winner Ron Dayne and the Wisconsin Badgers defeated Stanford in 2000. Terrell Pryor threw for over 260 yards, ran for over 70, and lead his team with the skills NCAA fans have been waiting to see for a while.
Another Big-10 team that showed up to play was Iowa. In the first major bowl game since the 1959 Rose Bowl and their first BCS game, the Hawkeyes took an early lead over Georgia Tech and never let go. “Experts” said Iowa’s defense wouldn’t match up with the Option offense and the dual rushing threat of QB Josh Nesbitt and RB Jonathan Dwyer - Tech’s first pair of 1,000 yard-rushers – but the Hawkeyes managed to hold Tech to 143 total yards (GT averaged over 300 yds/game in 2009). Instead of Dwyer or Nesbitt, it was freshman Brandon Wegher who had the impressive outing, logging over 100 yards rushing and TD that was the nail in the coffin for the Yellow Jackets. He is another kid to keep an eye on for next year’s fantasy season.
In this year’s Fiesta Bowl, TCU took on the men of the blue field, Boise State. Both are considered to be mid-major powerhouses (is that an oxymoron?), and in what was most thought would be a high-scoring game, turned out to be a battle of the defenses. Despite throwing 39 TD passes on the season Boise State QB Kellen Moore only went 23 for 39 and 211 yards. But that didn’t matter much since the Cowboys defense gave him some padding to work with, after returning an INT 51 yards for the first TD of the game. TCU tried to catch up all night, but Boise State ended their season an unblemished 14-0.
Fighting not only LSU, but also the rain and mud, Penn State gave Joe-Pa his 24th bowl victory (extending his own NCAA record) in a 19-17 win over the Tigers, and continuing the impressive year the Big-10 is having this postseason. Neither offense could really get anything going, shown by a combined 542 yards of offense from both teams (that’s only 9 more than Tim Tebow had himself). But the lack of offense was overshadowed by the last-minute heroics that sports-nuts always love: a last minute field goal to put Penn State up by 2, with :57 remaining on the clock.
The East Carolina v. Arkansas match-up ended in similar fashion. After trailing most of the game, Arkansas evened the score at 17 a piece with a little over 5 minutes to go, and eventually put the Pirates down for good with a FG in overtime. Even though we have seen it a million times, you gotta love these endings!
In what might have been the most exciting game this week, Central Michigan lined up against Troy in the GMAC Bowl. Yes, the GMAC Bowl. All-time record-holder for TDs scored, Dan LeFevour, led the Chippewas to his 8th career 4th-quarter-comeback, and a win off the leg of K Andrew Aguila in the second overtime. LeFevour went 33/55 for 395yds, 1TD, 1INT, 1RuTD, bringing the NCAA record to a nice, round 150. Troy QB Levi Brown put up a very similar numbers in the box score, throwing 31/56 for 386yds and a score. Down 31-19 with 8 minutes remaining, Chips' WR Antonio Brown ran back a kick 95 yards for a TD to make it 31-26. Then with only 1:26 remaining in regulation, LeFrvour threaded the needle between 2 defenders and found Brown for a 30yd connection to put the Chippewas on the Trojans’ 4 yard line. (Brown ended with 178yds receiving). After scoring and a 2-point conversion, Central Michigan took the lead, 34-31. With 31 seconds to go, Troy K Michael Taylor nailed a 47yd FG to send the game to overtime. The excitement continued with a LeFevour rushing TD in OT, which was matched by the Trojans. After CMU blocked a FG attempt by Troy in the second OT, Aguila put one through the uprights for the victory. Dan LeFevour ends his career with 36 wins, 102 TD passes, 15,669 total yds, 12,721 passing yds, and 150 total TDs.
And we all know what is on tonight. I don’t think anyone needs an introduction to Mark Ingram, Rolondo McClain, Colt McCoy or Jordan Shipley. They will line up in Pasadena for the National Championship, which will kickoff at 8:15 on ABC, giving either Mack Brown or Nick Saban the opportunity to become only the 5th active coach with 2 or more FBS National Titles.
The countdown begins; less than 12 hours until we have a new National Champion, and the 2009 season in the books.
***CORRECTION*** This was Iowa's first major bowl win since 1959. Iowa has appeared in 3 Rose Bowls ('82, '86, '91) and 1 Orange Bowl ('03) since 1959.