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The 2022-23 bowl season will go down as one of the best ever as shocking upsets and incredible performances made this a December and January to remember. The action got started right away with UAB and No. 24 Troy kicking things off with one-score bowl wins, which helped set the table for a fascinating slate of postseason games.
Overall, 22 bowl games were decided by one score and 12 were decided by fewer than three points. Fittingly, the two College Football Playoff games led the way as TCU’s win in the Fiesta Bowl and Georgia’s win in the Peach Bowl were decided by a combined seven points.
Luckily, the fun didn’t stop there. Maryland coach Mike Locksley was dumped with mayonnaise after beating NC State. Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford ended his six-year career with a standing ovation in the Rose Bowl. Tennessee clinched its best season since 2001 after beating Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Perhaps best of all, Mississippi State pulled off one of the most shocking covers of all time as a fitting tribute to former coach Mike Leach, who died on Dec. 12.
The discussion of “too many bowl games” will live on another year, especially as more major bowls and teams are folded into an expanded College Football Playoff. However, let the 2022 bowl season sit as a reminder that when the weather gets its coldest, college football will always be here to warm you up.
We covered all the action and entertainment from a sensational bowl season here. Relive all the biggest highlights and analysis by scrolling through our bowl live blog.
No. 11 Penn State used a strong second half and took advantage of a key Utah injury to power past the eighth-ranked Utes 35-21 to win just the second Rose Bowl in program history and first since 1995. That push was led by Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford, who capped off a lengthy and successful career with one of his best games. The senior went 16 of 22 for 279 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns while firing off accurate throws all evening.
While Clifford was the highlight of the evening, Utah’s quarterback situation also marked a key storyline in the game. Utes quarterback Cameron Rising exited in the third quarter with a left knee injury with his team trailing 21-14. Backup quarterback Bryson Barnes struggled in relief, throwing an interception on his first drive and failing to get Utah on the scoreboard until garbage time. Running backs Ja’Quinden Jackson and Micah Bernard combined for 140 yards and a touchdown, but it was not enough.
After Rising went out, Penn State scored a pair of touchdowns to put the game away, including an 88-yard touchdown pass from Clifford to KeAndre Lambert-Smith. The Penn State ground game was effective, too. Running back Nicholas Singleton broke the game open with an 87-yard touchdown scamper, one of two on the day, as he cleared the 100-yard rushing plateau for the fourth time this season.
87 YARDS TO. THE. HOUSE‼️
The third-longest TD run in Rose Bowl history 🌹 pic.twitter.com/dlg15Lb8C2
No. 16 Tulane stormed back to knock off No. 10 USC in an all-time bowl game performance, overcoming multiple double-digit deficits and scoring in the final seconds for the thrilling 46-45 win in the Cotton Bowl.
Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt, going head-to-head against newly minted Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, hung in to make several key plays in the final minutes of a sequence that saw the Green Wave score the final 16 points of the game in the last four and a half minutes of regulation. Trailing 45-30, Pratt guided the offense down the field in 23 seconds to score a touchdown which cut the lead to eight points. After a miscue on the ensuing kickoff, the Green Wave defense stuffed USC in its own end zone for a safety.
.@GreenWaveFB‘s Tyjae Spears is having A GAME 😤 pic.twitter.com/AmoRyQ33Xi
Pratt then helped lead a game-winning drive that included multiple third and fourth-down conversions before delivering the touchdown strike with just eight seconds remaining.
Tulane’s ability to win stems from the resiliency it showed all afternoon. The Green Wave fell behind 14-0 early, came back to tie and then trailed 28-14 at halftime before bringing it back to 28-24 late in the third quarter. Those efforts foretold the final push, which was powered in part by running back Tyjae Spears. Spears was the best player on the field at times, and he showcased playmaking that rivaled that of Williams with his eight straight games of rushing for at least 100 yards. He totaled 205 yards and four touchdowns on 17 attempts in the win.
The win cements the greatest one-season turnaround in modern college football history. Tulane was 2-10 a year ago, and now finishes 12-2 with an American Athletic Conference championship and Cotton Bowl win against a top-10 USC. This was already the program’s biggest bowl appearance since 1939, and to mount this kind of comeback on this stage solidifies a true storybook moment for coach Willie Fritz and the Green Wave.
The loss was an incredibly disappointing finish to what was otherwise a great showing from the 2022 Heisman winner. Williams threw for 462 yards and five touchdowns on 37-of-52 passing (71%), and flashed all the reasons why Heisman voters were drawn to his electric playmaking ability, often extending plays with his legs while keeping his focus down the field. Though Tulane had one of the better defenses in the AAC this year and often beat blocks to apply pressure to Williams, the one thing the Green Wave struggled to do was bring Williams to the ground. It was also a stellar performance for wide receiver Brenden Rice, who broke out with a career day (six catches, 174 yards, two touchdowns) as the offense was absent of Jordan Addison.
This scramble and grab‼️
Caleb Williams 🤝 Brenden Rice pic.twitter.com/S2jjuYOpYn
It’s also a disappointing conclusion to what was otherwise a successful first season with USC for Lincoln Riley. The Trojans coach led the program to its best season in years, but they finish with two losses, go from being No. 4 in the College Football Rankings to losers in the New Year’s Six. Oh, and now Riley himself is 1-4 in bowl games throughout his career.
With Williams back in the fold, the challenge now is to re-stock the roster — particularly on defense — and take aim at a Pac-12 championship and College Football Playoff appearance in 2023.
No. 17 LSU steamrolled Purdue at Camping World Stadium to finish off a 10-win campaign in coach Brian Kelly’s first season with the Tigers. Returning from an injury he suffered in the SEC Championship Game, Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels had 139 yards passing and a score, 67 yards rushing, and even caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Malik Nabers. Freshman Garrett Nussmeier rotated in with the first-team offense multiple times and threw for 173 yards and two touchdowns of his own — including a 75-yard pop pass to Nabers.
The 56-point win is tied for the largest bowl win in college football history.
MALIK SAID SEC SPEED 💨 pic.twitter.com/QdNS1uxyoV
The game was essentially over from the moment toe met leather. The Tigers scored the first 49 points of the game against a Boilermakers squad that played its first game since the departure of coach Jeff Brohm and quarterback Aiden O’Connell. Purdue added legendary Boilermaker and NFL quarterback Drew Brees as an interim quarterbacks coach during bowl practice leading up the game.
Mississippi State won its first game since the unexpected death of coach Mike Leach, coming back from an early deficit to defeat Illinois 19-10. Mississippi State didn’t take the lead until there were four seconds left in the game as Massimo Biscardi drilled a 27-yard field goal to make it 13-10. The field goal capped a nine-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that saw Simeon Price pick up 28 yards on a third-and-8 carry to set up the game-winning field goal.
Will Rogers threw for 261 yards and a touchdown but also had two interceptions as the Mississippi State offense struggled for most of the day. The Mississippi State defense did not, however. The Bulldogs held Illinois to 215 yards of offense and picked up seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss in the game, never letting the Illini get a drive going.
The game began with Mississippi State lining up in an Air Raid formation as a tribute to Mike Leach and taking a delay of game penalty. Illinois declined the penalty.
Mississippi State lines up in an air raid formation on their first play from scrimmage to honor Mike Leach ♥️🏴☠️pic.twitter.com/69IGMm51aY
No. 1 Georgia stared defeat in the face for much of the 2022 Peach Bowl before rallying late for a stunning 42-41 win over No. 4 Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal. The victory sends the defending champion Bulldogs to the CFP National Championship where they will face No. 3 TCU on Monday, Jan. 9 in Inglewood, California.
Ohio State kicker Noah Ruggles missed a 50-yard field goal attempt with 3 seconds left to seal the outcome.
The Buckeyes led 38-24 early in the fourth quarter and had a chance to retake a two-possession lead with under 4 minutes remaining when the Bulldogs defense came up with a huge stand that forced Ohio State settle for a field goal that made it 41-35 with 2:43 left.
From there, Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV led a drive for the ages to keep the Dawgs unbeaten. Bennett hit Adonai Mitchell for a 10-yard touchdown with 54 seconds remaining to give Georgia its first lead since the second quarter.
Ohio State had two timeouts remaining and enough to time get into field goal range. It did exactly that despite navigating the fourth quarter without leading wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who exited late in the third quarter following a big hit in the end zone.
WIDE LEFT AND GEORGIA IS HEADED BACK TO THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMEpic.twitter.com/uWmGQSr0UZ
The Buckeyes scored more against the Dawgs than any other team this season but ultimately came up just short in their bid for redemption following an embarrassing loss to Michigan to close the regular season.
No. 3 TCU toppled No. 2 Michigan 51-45 for the biggest upset in College Football Playoff history and one of the most exhilarating semifinal games the format has seen since it made its debut in 2014. The Horned Frogs were eight-point underdogs at kickoff of the 2022 Fiesta Bowl, but the same DNA that helped them overcome more than a handful of second-half deficits during the regular season has the Frogs now sitting 6-1 in one-score games after eliminating the previously undefeated Wolverines.
Saturday’s first CFP semifinal was not only the highest-scoring Fiesta Bowl (dating back to 1971), it featured the highest-scoring quarter in CFP history (44 points, third quarter) and stands as the highest-scoring playoff game through regulation.
TCU led by as many as 18 points in the first half and took a 21-6 lead into halftime before that third quarter for the ages. Michigan not only reached the end zone for the first time all game, it tacked on two more touchdowns and a field goal during a 15-minute showing that, in a vacuum, would have suggested the Big Ten champions were making their move at one of the biggest comebacks in playoff history.
But at nearly every turn, TCU had a response.
When Michigan cut its deficit to 21-16, TCU first marched down the field in about 2 minutes to score a lead-extending touchdown. Then it intercepted UM quarterback J.J. McCarthy for its second pick six of the game. McCarthy got off the mat and led led two touchdown drives in the final 3 minutes of the third quarter, but another TCU touchdown came in between.
Michigan even cut its deficit to 41-38 — the closest it would come all game — early in the fourth quarter before the Horned Frogs came right back with 10 unanswered points to pad their lead further. The first of those two scores, a 76-yard touchdown pass from Duggan to Quentin Johnston, gave TCU a 48-38 lead that appeared to be the nail in the coffin.
BACK AND FORTH WE GO! 😮💨
TCU just scored ANOTHER touchdown #CFBPlayoff pic.twitter.com/EglT5KCAFT
Of course, it was not the final twist in the game. Michigan used field position from a key defensive stop to set up McCarthy and the offense for a 56-yard touchdown drive, cutting TCU’s lead to 51-45 with 3:18 to play. However, TCU was able to pick a first down and bleed enough clock to limit Michigan’s chances at stealing the win in the final minute.
The Music City Bowl had the lowest total in bowl game history (at least, in this century), and it lived up to the billing. Iowa won the game 21-0 despite going 0 for 13 on third and fourth downs. The Hawkeyes finished with only 206 yards of offense, managed only 10 first downs, and went three-and-out on eight of their 11 possessions that didn’t come at the end of a half.
How’d they do it? They scored one touchdown on offense thanks to a 15-yard touchdown pass to Luke Lachey in the second quarter, and the Hawkeyes’ defense had two pick sixes. Both teams were missing key players on offense due to injuries, opt-outs and transfers, so the overall performance went about as well as anybody can expect. Still, a bowl game with 21 points and 18 punts is a hard sell. Let’s not pair these teams for the third straight season next year.
🚨ANOTHER IOWA PICK SIX!!!🚨 21-0 Hawkeyes #MusicCityBowl pic.twitter.com/yG2Oj42Qlf
No. 6 Tennessee controlled the Orange Bowl from the moment toe met leather in a 31-14 win over No. 7 Clemson Friday night. Volunteers quarterback Joe Milton III, making his second start following the season-ending injury to first-team All-SEC quarterback Hendon Hooker, tossed a 46-yard touchdown to Ramel Keyton with 8:34 to play to give the Volunteers a 14-point lead that iced the game.
Milton completed 19 of 28 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns on the night, including a 14-yard pass score to Squirrel White with five seconds to go in the third quarter to keep momentum on the Vols sideline as the teams switched sides for the final frame.
Pinpoint accuracy from Joe Milton 🎯 pic.twitter.com/74cH7rfanT
Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik made his first career start after earning MVP honors in the ACC Championship Game coming off the bench for an ineffective DJ Uiagalelei. Klubnik had his ups and downs against the Vols, completing 30 of 54 passes for 320 yards and two interceptions. He had a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game, but was otherwise pressured all night and threw both of his interceptions under duress.
The Tennessee defense was relentless from the moment the game started and ended the night with seven tackles for loss and four sacks while holding Clemson to 4.8 yards per play. More importantly, though, were the empty possessions they forced. All six of Clemson’s first-half possessions ended in Tennessee territory, but the Tigers only got three points out of them; kicker B.T. Potter missed three field goals and the Tigers turned the ball over on downs two more times. Clemson ran 101 plays in all, an Orange Bowl record, but the the Volunteers defense refused to break no matter how much it bent.
The Volunteers improved to 11-2 on the season, their first 11-win effort since 2001. Clemson fell to 11-3 on the year and lost two of their final three outings.
Ohio beat Wyoming 30-27 in the Arizona Bowl when CJ Harris hit Tyler Foster for a 10-yard touchdown strike in overtime. The catch was Foster’s first of the game, and it couldn’t have come at a bigger time as the Bobcats faced a third-and-8 after Wyoming kicked a field goal to begin the overtime period.
The win caps Ohio’s season with a 10-4 record, marking the program’s first 10-win campaign since 2011 and just its third of all time. The achievement was all the more impressive for the Bobcats since it came with star quarterback Kurtis Rourke injured. Rourke, the MAC Player of the Year, was lost for the season with a knee injury on Nov. 15.
Harris filled in admirably against the Cowboys by completing 20 of 33 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 52 yards on 10 carries. This marked the third time in seven iterations of the Arizona Bowl that the game has gone to overtime after both the 2017 and 2018 editions of the game required extra time.
Can you believe it! OHIO! Tyler Foster wins the first ever Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl!!!!! #BarstoolAZBowl pic.twitter.com/vzN80JV6ST
Ohio kicker Nathanial Vakos drilled a 45-yard field goal with four seconds left to send the game to overtime. That score followed Wyoming’s go-ahead 5-yard touchdown run from Jordon Vaughn with 2:08 remaining. The Cowboys’ season ends at 7-6.
No. 21 Notre Dame used a late touchdown catch from tight end Mitchell Evans to complete a double-digit comeback against No. 19 South Carolina. The Fighting Irish went down 21-7 at the end of the first quarter but clawed back behind five total touchdowns from quarterback Tyler Buchner, including the 16-yard game-winning pass on the leak concept.
South Carolina had big moments and held a lead for much of the game. The defense nabbed a pair of pick sixes off Buchner, including a 100-yard return with 7:42 remaining in the fourth quarter to tie the game. Punter Kai Kroeger added a 23-yard touchdown pass on a fake special teams play. However, the offense was unable to do their part, finishing with nearly 200 yards fewer of total offense than Notre Dame.
Buchner to Evans
Back up 7️⃣#GoIrish pic.twitter.com/59Slvz5F9K
Buchner threw for 274 yards, ran for 61 yards and had five touchdowns with three interceptions in the victory, his first appearance since suffering a major shoulder injury in Week 2. Running backs Audric Estime and Logan Diggs combined for 184 yards rushing and a touchdown. South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns, but the Gamecocks mustered just 76 yards rushing on 21 carries. Buchner was named MVP after the game.
The win sends Notre Dame to 9-4 in Marcus Freeman’s first season. After losing their first two games, the Fighting Irish won nine of their last 11 games, including wins over Syracuse and top-10 Clemson. All three losses came by a combined 18 points, including a tough battle with No. 4 Ohio State.
Despite missing its starting quarterback, running back and top defender, Pittsburgh kicked a 47-yard field goal with three seconds remaining to shock No. 18 UCLA 37-35 in the Sun Bowl. With Week 1 starter Kedon Slovis in the transfer portal, backup Nick Patti threw for 224 yards and engineered a 46-yard drive in 30 seconds to win just its second bowl game since 2013.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had to be helped to the locker room with an unidentified injury after scoring three touchdowns with three interceptions in a disappointing final game. Backup Ethan Garbers came into the game and led a miraculous touchdown drive with 34 seconds remaining. However, his effort fell just short.
PITT CALLED SAULS @bsauls22 #H2P » @TonyTheTigerSB pic.twitter.com/Cv3COuED5c
Pitt running back Rodney Hammond Jr. posted 94 yards and two touchdowns in his first start. Receiver Bub Means posted 84 yards and the lone Pitt receiving touchdown of the game. Running back TJ Harden accumulated 111 yards and a touchdown for UCLA, while receiver Kam Brown had 115 yards receiving.
Pitt has 20 wins over the past two seasons, the best run for the program since 1981 and Jackie Sherrill. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi moved to 62-41 with the victory. With a loss, UCLA narrowly missed on winning 10 games for the first time since 2014.
Weeks ago, both NC State coach Dave Doeren and Maryland coach Mike Locksley agreed to have a cooler of mayonnaise dumped over their heads if they won the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. This is important context because anybody who watched this game in its entirety may have fallen under the impression that both coaches were actively trying to avoid that mayo bath.
In the end, Doeren outmaneuvered Locksley. NC State settled for 19 and 26-yard field goals on fourth-and-shorts to ensure the Wolfpack would finish a few points shy of victory. Maryland’s turnovers alone just weren’t enough.
THEY DIDN’T HURT HIM! pic.twitter.com/l5fYIOE8G2
The win gives the Terps their first eight-win season since finishing 9-4 in 2010. The Wolfpack finish 8-5.
No. 12 Washington cruised past No. 20 Texas 27-20 in the Alamo Bowl to reach 11 wins for the first time since 2016, the year the Huskies played in the College Football Playoff. Quarterback Michael Penix threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns in the victory as the Huskies will now have a chance to finish top 10 in the final AP Top 25 rankings in Kalen DeBoer’s first magical season.
The Huskies took over in the second half, limiting the period to just seven total possessions. All three of Washington’s drives cleared 13 plays and five minutes of game time as Penix calmly and methodically took the Huskies down the field. Two of the drives ended in touchdowns, while the other was a turnover on downs that burned the clock down to within five minutes of the fourth quarter remaining.
Jalen McMillan what a grab 😱 pic.twitter.com/BSkmeqUwPa
Texas had opportunities to get back in the game, especially in the middle of the third quarter. Quarterback Quinn Ewers launched a pair of perfect passes to top receiver Xavier Worthy, including what would have been an easy walk-in touchdown. However, Worthy dropped both passes. Washington converted the next possession into a 14-play touchdown drive to go up three scores entering the fourth quarter. The Longhorns also pulled the game within one score thanks to a strong drive from Ewers and got the ball back with 31 seconds remaining. However, the Longhorns allowed a sack to effectively end the game.
Washington running back Wayne Taulapapa rushed for 103 yards including a 45-yard breakaway touchdown in the victory. Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan each posted 50 yards receiving. Ewers threw for 320 yards and a touchdown without any turnovers. Penix will be back with the Huskies in 2023, and should be a popular preseason Heisman Trophy pick after his breakout campaign.
No. 13 Florida State stormed back from multiple deficits to avoid an upset and continue building on what has been a fantastic finish to the 2022 calendar year for Seminoles football. The 35-32 win against Oklahoma in the Cheez-It Bowl sent Mike Norvell and his program into the offseason with a six-game winning streak in their back pocket and showcased some of the reasons why Jordan Travis is going to be one of college football’s stars heading into 2023.
Travis completed 27-of-38 passes for 418 yards and two touchdowns, adding 50 rushing yards as well on seven attempts as he continued to deliver scoring drives when Florida State fell behind in the game. The Seminoles trailed by 11 points in the second quarter, by six points at halftime, took the lead in the early third quarter then lost it again in the fourth quarter. Travis remained calm, cool and collected throughout, going 5-for-5 passing on a drive to give Florida State a 32-25 lead midway through the fourth quarter and then delivering an absolute dime on the 58-yard pass to Johnny Wilson that set up the game-winning field goal.
How did he catch that 😱 pic.twitter.com/AvuTun1YpR
Ultimately Oklahoma can be encouraged by the way this team fought against a top-15 opponent after a season that started with Big 12 title aspirations and ended with a 6-7 record. But moral victories don’t sit as well when this is the first losing season for Oklahoma football since 1998, the year before Bob Stoops took over as coach. Brent Venables and his staff did a great job of preparing for this challenge with multiple starters opting out of the game, but the losing record sets up expectations for a thunderous response in 2023.
As for Florida State, the hype train for 2023 had already left the station with the winning streak to close the season (now at six games) and the announcement that Travis would return to Tallahassee. Not meeting the expectations of a double-digit win against an off-schedule Oklahoma team might create pause for some, but an outright win will keep the momentum moving in the right direction within the program.
Minnesota knocked off Syracuse 28-20 in one of the most Minnesota ways possible. The Golden Gophers were outgained on the day by 261 yards, averaged only 4.5 yards per play, and yet never found themselves in danger of losing. The Gophers rode running back Mohamed Ibrahim to a 14-0 lead in the first half the same way they’ve done all season long, and then they allowed their defense and special teams to do the rest.
The third quarter saw Coleman Bryson pick off a Garret Schrader pass and take it back 70 yards for a pick six, and then Quentin Redding’s 72-yard kick return following a Syracuse field goal set the Gophers up with great field position to tack on another touchdown and put the game out of reach.
Ibrahim finished with 71 yards rushing and the touchdown, which was enough to set the new single-season rushing record at 1,665 yards and single-season rushing touchdown record at 20. It also made him Minnesota’s all-time career leading rusher at 4,668 yards.
On the last drive, @_MoIbrahim became the #Gophers all time rushing leader.
A late charge from the Rebels created some more interest to what was a game dominated by Texas Tech through the evening. Texas Tech established a three-score lead early in the fourth quarter thanks, in part, to a lead that was helped by some early Ole Miss turnovers. Red Raiders quarterback Tyler Shough had three total touchdowns (one passing, two rushing), and Ole Miss’ Jaxson Dart threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in the first half of the loss.
There was a late push from the Rebels, but it was quickly squashed by giving up a touchdown on an onside kick attempt.
Texas Tech returned the onside kick for a TD 😮 pic.twitter.com/EWAmwCuyvD
For Ole Miss, the defeat adds to a string of disappointing finishes, with coach Lane Kiffin and the Rebels losing their final four games of the 2022 season after an 8-1 start. The win for Texas Tech, on the other hand, adds to a string of impressive performances against the toughest foes on the Red Raiders’ schedule alongside the wins against Texas and Oklahoma.
The battle between Oregon and North Carolina was billed as a duel between two potential 2023 Heisman Trophy candidates, and it was Bo Nix who got the best of Drake Maye in Wednesday’s game. Nix led the Ducks on an eight-play, 79-yard drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Chase Cota with 19 seconds to tie it up. Camden Lewis clanged the extra point off the left upright to give the Ducks the lead and the win in what was a wild Holiday Bowl that returned this year after a two-year hiatus.
THE DUCKS SCORE 🦆@oregonfootball pic.twitter.com/YENGnpB5X0
The Ducks entered the fourth quarter down 10 points, but midway through the fourth quarter Nix found Troy Franklin for a 10-yard touchdown in which Franklin had to reach behind his body to haul it in.
Maye shined in his bowl debut as well. The redshirt freshman completed 18 of 35 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns. All three of his touchdown passes came in the first hal, as the Tar Heels entered the break up seven points.
With the win, Oregon finishes the season 10-3. The Tar Heels dropped to 9-5 on the season, but did claim the ACC Coastal championship for the first time since 2015.
On the first play of Texas Tech’s first offensive possession, the Red Raiders aligned in one of the base formations of the Air Raid offense. The offensive line had wide splits, the wide receivers were stretched the length of the field and two receivers were stacked to the boundary as the team held their position without any intention of snapping the ball. The Air Raid delay of game was meant as a tribute to former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach, who died earlier this month at the age of 61. Leach was one of the major contributors to establishing the Air Raid and its principles as a part of the modern game, and his tenure from 2000-09 forever changed the trajectory and expectations for Texas Tech football.
Air Raid formation 🏴☠️
🤝 @OleMissFB pic.twitter.com/OgPhweXLC4
Clearly this intention was communicated to Ole Miss before the game as Lane Kiffin elected to decline the penalty. The Rebels have their own tribute to Leach for the game, offering a nod to Mississippi State’s iconic cowbell with a “MIKE” helmet decal.
#SwingYourSword 🏴☠️ pic.twitter.com/9vXR3VLJcp
Arkansas survived a ferocious comeback attempt by Kansas to escape the Liberty Bowl with a 55-53 triple-overtime victory that nearly became bowl season’s biggest come-from-behind victory. Instead, it edged an upstart opponent in the highest-scoring Liberty Bowl in history. The Razorbacks quickly built a 24-7 first-quarter lead on the backs of three straight Kansas turnovers and held a 38-13 advantage late in the third quarter behind a dynamic performance from quarterback KJ Jefferson.
Though the game appeared over for some time, Kansas kept fighting back by scoring 10 points to make it a two-possession game by the fourth quarter. The game truly turned, however, when the Jayhawks recovered a Razorbacks fumble inside of three minutes remaining. Kansas’ Cobee Bryant returned the ball 37 yards to midfield, and the Jayhawks made it a one-score game seven plays later with just over a minute remaining.
Double reversed it back to the other team 🔁 pic.twitter.com/19QEXk0WjC
The Jayhawks then converted a successful onside kick attempt after the Razorbacks failed to go after the ball. Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels capped off a quick four-play, 50-yard drive in just under 30 seconds with a 21-yard touchdown pass and finished with a 2-point conversion to force overtime.
Who else but @Kennylogan23!!! pic.twitter.com/KUAsnKfrmk
With both teams scoring in the first period, the Razorbacks ended a run of 32 unanswered points for the Jayhawks dating back to the 3:15 mark of the third quarter. However, it was the second overtime period that caused the biggest controversy of the night. The Razorbacks appeared to stop Daniels on the goal line of a 2-point conversion to end the game. However, the Razorbacks were called for targeting and Kansas got one more attempt to send the game to triple-overtime — which it converted. The dream comeback ended in that third period, however, when a pass from Jason Bean flew out of the back of the end zone on a 2-point conversion.
The Blue Devils used defense to dominate the Knights on Wednesday afternoon in a 30-13 win, securing the program’s first nine-win season since 2014. The victory capped off a remarkable turnaround for first-year coach Mike Elko, who succeeded longtime coach David Cutcliffe.
Wide receiver Jordan Moore got the scoring started midway through the first quarter with a 14-yard touchdown run to give give the Blue Devils a lead that they never relinquished. The defense also stopped the Knights behind the line of scrimmage eight times, including a Military Bowl record six sacks, to stymie the high-octane Knights offense led by dual-threat quarterback John Rhys Plumlee.
Duke quarterback Riley Leonard capped off a tremendous season with 173 yards passing, 63 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the ground. The sophomore proved why he should be considered one of the top signal-callers in the ACC headed into a promising Year 2 for Elko.
TOUCHDOWN BLUE DEVILS STRIKE FIRST😈 @Jaquez_02 pic.twitter.com/KDW0CISlnt
Wisconsin survived a late charge from Oklahoma State to win the Guaranteed Rate Bowl and capture an eighth bowl victory in their last nine postseason games. Running back Braelon Allen posted 99 yards and a touchdown to lead the Badgers, who move to 7-6 in the final game under interim coach Jim Leonhard.
With starting quarterback Graham Mertz in the transfer portal, redshirt senior Chase Wolf stepped in and threw for 116 yards and a touchdown in his lone start of the season. The Badgers defense feasted against an opposing freshman quarterback and held the Cowboys to just 2.0 yards per carry as Wisconsin held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game.
Oklahoma State made a late run in the fourth quarter to make things interesting. Freshman quarterback Garret Rangel threw a miraculous touchdown on fourth down to Ollie Gordon on the goal line and the Cowboys got the ball back with a chance to tie the game with nearly four minutes remaining. However, Rangel threw a costly interception that effectively ended the game.
WHAT A PLAY ON 4TH AND GOAL 😱 pic.twitter.com/Pj9HrbWAIg
East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers recorded six total touchdowns and led the way in a 53-29 rout of Coastal Carolina that provided the first bowl win of the Mike Houston era and the Pirates’ first bowl win since 2013. Houston and ECU were selected for a bowl game in 2021, but the game was canceled because of COVID with their opponent heading into the game. After a second-straight 7-5 record in the regular season, ECU was finally able to capitalize on what has been a surge for its football program after a long postseason drought.
Ahlers already claimed the career school and American Athletic Conference records for most passing yards, most total yards, completions and attempts heading into the game. He sat just one touchdown behind former Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder in touchdowns responsible for, a record he first tied in the first quarter with a 27-yard toss to Isaiah Winstead.
Isaiah Winstead showing off what he can do🔥🔥#AmericanFB x @ECUPiratesFB pic.twitter.com/uiG32bIuxk
Ahlers went on to break Ridder’s record for touchdown responsible for with another touchdown pass to Winstead.
Isaiah Winstead is FEELING IT today!
This time with a toe tap for the TD🔥#AmericanFB x @ECUPiratesFB pic.twitter.com/zbe46hEeCA
Ahlers final stat line was impressive: 26 of 28 passing for 300 yards with five passing touchdowns and another 48 yards and a score on the ground. But his personal and the program successes for the Pirates were occurring alongside a period of transition for Coastal Carolina.
The Chanticleers trailed 10-0 in the first quarter until Grayson McCall led a pair of second-quarter touchdown drives. The go-ahead score with 8:52 to play in the half came from a McCall quarterback run where he appeared to land on his head in the end zone. He was taken to the locker room, officially ruled as “questionable” to return but ultimately never saw the field again. ECU outscored Coastal Carolina 43-15 after McCall’s injury, and that setback also comes with the context of the Chanticleers’ quarterback currently having his name in the transfer portal.
McCall could return to play for Tim Beck, who was hired after Jamey Chadwell’s departure for Liberty, but he could also just have played his final game for Coastal Carolina and finished his career as a Chanticleer on that touchdown run. As the first player in Sun Belt history to be named conference Player of the Year three times in a row, McCall’s time in the teal has been transformative. So while ECU gets to celebrate its first bowl win in nearly a decade, Coastal Carolina will wait on McCall’s decision as it considers the next era for a program that just rolled off 31 wins in the last three seasons.
Memphis capped its season with an emphatic win over Utah State in the First Responder as the Tigers took a 38-10 victory to close the season with a 7-6 record. With the win, Memphis has now finished .500 or better in nine consecutive seasons spanning the tenures of three coaches.
The Tigers scored on four straight possessions to close the first half, taking a 24-3 lead into the break behind an offense that got numerous playmakers involved. Six different players toted the rock for Memphis. Sophomore quarterback Seth Henigan distributed the football to nine different receivers with Eddie Lewis leading the way with five catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Henigan totaled 284 yards passing and three touchdowns without an interception as Memphis outgained Utah State 430-261
Utah State made things interesting early in the fourth quarter when it drew within 24-10 on a 44-yard pass from Bishop Davenport to Brian Cobbs. But the Tigers answered the bell with consecutive touchdown drives to end the Aggies’ hopes. Sophomore running back Jevyon Ducker put the final touches on the win for Memphis with a 48-yard touchdown rush with 3:16 remaining.
.@MemphisFB offense is heating up🔥
Seth Henigan finds Eddie Lewis for the first TD of the game!#AmericanFB pic.twitter.com/SUX9TRqb9i
Davenport, a freshman, showed promise for Utah State while playing in relief of injured starter Cooper Legas. However, the Aggies did not have enough firepower to keep up with Memphis and were hampered by eight penalties and three turnovers. Utah State finishes the season 6-7.
Buffalo picked up its third bowl win of the past four seasons on Tuesday as the Bulls edged Georgia Southern 23-21 in the Camelia Bowl to finish the season 7-6. Running back Tajay Ahmed sealed the win for Buffalo with a 4-yard gain on a critical third-and-3 play with just under two minutes remaining. Ahmed finished with 98 yards on the ground and a touchdown on 27 carries after entering the game with just one rushing attempt for the season.
The Bulls fell behind 3-0 in the second quarter but never trailed again after Justin Marshall came down with 32-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Cole Snyder on the ensuing possession. Marshall finished with 127 yards receiving on 11 receptions while Quian Williams added 100 yards receiving while serving as Snyder’s primary targets. Snyder finished 21-of-38 passing for 265 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Powell jumps the passing lane for the INT!@CoachMoLinguist loves it😤@UBFootball | #MACtion pic.twitter.com/38VbrKIdNt
Georgia Southern quarterback Kyle Vantrease passed for 352 yards as he took on his old squad, but the former three-year starter for the Bulls couldn’t propel the Eagles to a win in the first-ever meeting between the programs. The loss caps Georgia Southern’s first season under coach Clay Helton with a final mark of 6-7.
New Mexico State survived a late charge from Bowling Green to stay perfect in bowl games in program history and pick up just its second bowl win since 1960. Quarterback Diego Pavia put together a gutsy performance with 167 yards passing, 65 yards rushing and two touchdowns to lead New Mexico State to just the 19th winning record in program history.
Bowling Green lost starting quarterback Matt McDonald to an early upper body injury and fell down big in the second quarter. However, they managed to swing the game with a handful of special teams plays. Ta’Ron Keith took a squibbed kick back 75 yards and a safety helped set up another touchdown. However, Pavia pulled out the heroics and converted multiple third downs with his legs to set up a NMSU win.
The bowl victory was the first ever for Jerry Kill, who was 0-5 in bowl games at Minnesota and Northern Illinois as a head coach. New Mexico State needed a late waiver just to reach bowl eligibility due to a canceled game. Now, just one year into the Kill era, the program heads from independence into Conference USA as reigning bowl game victors.
New Mexico State leads Bowling Green 14-0 early 👀
Diego Pavia with 2 TD passes 🔥pic.twitter.com/3hzO0FxJPw
The Hawaii Bowl turned into a battle of kickers and Middle Tennessee was the last team standing as the Blue Raiders escaped with a 25-23 win over San Diego State on Saturday. Sophomore kicker Zeke Rankin made 4 of 5 field-goal attempts, including a go-ahead kick from 37 yards away with 2:05 remaining that put MTSU ahead 25-23.
From there, the Blue Raiders came up with a defensive stop in the final minutes to seal the outcome. With the win, Middle Tennessee caps the season at 8-5 while San Diego State heads into the offseason at 7-6.
The Aztecs jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter as the Blue Raiders began the game with four consecutive punts. But despite finishing the game with just 170 total yards, Middle Tennessee was able to climb back into the game with its defense. MTSU won the turnover battle 5-1 as San Diego State quarterback Jalen Mayden threw three interceptions.
Middle Tennessee takes a 16-14 lead on Zeke Rankin’s 26-yard field goal, 6:59 3Q.
Score was set up by this interception by Teldrick Ross.pic.twitter.com/NnFzcJGn4p
Both of Middle Tennessee’s touchdown drives in the game were 25 yards or less due to San Diego State turnovers.
Sam Hartman ended his Wake Forest career in style. Already the program’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns coming into the game, Hartman remained tied with former Clemson QB Tajh Boyd for most touchdown passes in ACC history with 108. He didn’t need long to break Boyd’s record, throwing his 109th touchdown just over five minutes into the game.
Sam Hartman’s 108th career TD pass. The most in ACC history.pic.twitter.com/uGjb6AVSHI
Hartman would throw two more on the night, leading the Demon Deacons to a 27-17 win over Missouri. Hartman said before the game this would be his final appearance with Wake Forest, though he has not said whether he intends to enter the NFL Draft or transfer. Whatever the case, he ends his time as a Demon Deacon with a win. He finished with 280 yards passing and three touchdowns. His primary target, AT Perry, caught 11 passes for 116 yards.
The Wake defense deserves a lot of credit as well, holding the Missouri offense in check all night and picking up 10 tackles for loss and four sacks while holding the Tigers to only 4.1 yards per play.
Houston star receiver Nathaniel Dell capped his college career in style with a game-winning touchdown reception with 20 seconds left as the Cougars knocked off Louisiana 23-16 in the Independence Bowl on Friday. Dell also caught a touchdown pass in the third quarter as Houston rallied from a 13-0 deficit to finish the season with an 8-5 record.
Dell is a junior who is declaring for the NFL Draft, but he opted to play in the bowl game and only added to an impressive season with his performance. With his six catches for 44 yards and two scores, he finishes the season with 109 receptions for 1,398 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Cougars’ defense gave Dell and the offense plenty of help in the second half by forcing turnovers on three of Louisiana’s five possessions after halftime. The Ragin Cajuns’ other two possessions ended in punts as the momentum Louisiana enjoyed in the first half screeched to a halt.
Name a more dynamic duo than @ClaytonTune7 and @Tankdell4, we’ll wait…#GoCoogs pic.twitter.com/oiXFwBHdrp
After a 12-2 season in 2021, the 2022 season brought a letdown for the Cougars. But with the bowl win, they will head to the Big 12 with momentum as they enter a new conference for the 2023 season following a decade in the AAC.
Former Mississippi State coach Mike Leach will be on the minds of Houston coaches during Friday’s Independence Bowl against Louisiana. Cougars coach Dana Holgorsen was an assistant under Leach at Texas Tech, and the two go all the way back to Holgorsen’s playing days at Iowa Wesleyan. Leach died on Dec. 12 due to complications from a heart condition. His impact can be felt all throughout college football, but Houston’s staff has a particularly close tie to him.
Houston coach Dana Holgorsen, offensive line coach/run game coordinator Brandon Jones and quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Shannon Dawson will wear black hoodie sweaters with “STATE” on front as a tribute to Mike Leach @HailStateFB pic.twitter.com/Tzd80wmFxk
Defending an option offense is never fun. You spend around three hours having blockers diving into your legs, and you’re responsible for figuring out a way to avoid those blocks, and get to the ball carrier at the same time. That’s assuming you know who the ball carrier is, because there’s so much motion coming at you, and pitches to different players, it’s easy to lose track.
Now imagine doing that in freezing temperatures with a wind chill below zero. Well, that’s what Baylor had to deal with Thursday night in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Bears didn’t enjoy it.
But Air Force did.
The Falcons rushed for 276 yards and three touchdowns to pick up a win over Baylor and finish 10-3.
It’s the third straight 10-win season for Air Force (excluding the six-game COVID-shortened 2020 season), which is the first time the program has accomplished the feat. Baylor finishes the season 6-7, ending what was a disappointing follow-up to 2021’s Big 12 title.
AIR FORCE! Haaziq Daniels to Caleb Rillos for the 15 yard TD! pic.twitter.com/CuNZJHw6sB
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