Dispatches From Bowlvania: God Bless Us, Every One

AP Photo/Eugene Tanner Oregon State celebrates its Hawaii Bowl win

On today’s itinerary: peaks and valleys from a week of corned beef wontons, pineapple-shaped football projectiles, five-minute pizza, and inedible houseplants, plus a tour of the busy weekend bowl slate.

While You Were A-Wassailing

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl: East Carolina 37, Ohio 20. With full knowledge that we’re saying this about a December bowl game sponsored by a restaurant that offers something called “Nachos ‘O’ Brady” on its menu: The Beefing Bard’s Bowl was exceedingly entertaining this year. Tuning in at the onset of the fourth quarter, the casual viewer would have experienced all of the following: a 28-yard field goal in the period’s opening minutes to give the Bobcats their first lead of the game, a too-easy onside kick recovery, a flea-flicker touchdown catch by ECU starting quarterback Shane Carden, interceptions on consecutive possessions from Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton, and two Vintavious Cooper touchdown runs, including this 31-yarder. Cooper finished with a game-record and career-high 198 yards on 25 attempts; Carden and Justin Hardy set ECU single-season records for passing and receiving, respectively.

Not in the fourth quarter, but still worth your time: Ohio’s best highlight play, an 80-yard Derrius Vick–to–Donte Foster touchdown:


East Carolina now leads Ohio 3-0 in all-time meetings, and with this win notches just its second 10-plus-win season in school history, and its first since 1991.

Hawaii Bowl: Oregon State 38, Boise State 23. “It’s been a while since we’ve won,” said Mike Riley in his postgame press conference, and he knows of what he speaks: Oregon State dropped its final five games in the regular season, with its last victory coming at Cal on October 19. As problems go, though, turning a losing streak that lasted nearly half a season into a trip to Hawaii is a nice one to have, and concluding a fraught season with an orchid-festooned victory in Honolulu is not a bad way to wrap 2013.

On-field highlight: Rashaad Reynolds’s two touchdowns off fumble recoveries for the Beavers, the second of which took place underneath some ill-timed narration from future Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin:


Off-field highlight: Remember how Aloha Stadium, like many such venues, doesn’t allow beach balls in the stands, and how funny that is because GET IT HAWAII GET IT? If you missed this game, you missed stadium personnel trying to chase down an extra-point football that fans in the end zone were unwilling to relinquish but were very willing to toss to their neighbors in a merry and widespread game of catch.

Lowlight: Boise State kicking a field goal down 18 points with less than three minutes remaining in the game.

For the record books: Brandin Cooks finally went and broke Marqise Lee’s Pac-12 single-season receiving yards record; Cooks’s 60-yard performance in Honolulu moved his season total to 1,730.

Little Caesars Bowl: Pittsburgh 30, Bowling Green 27. What you missed while trying to make Boxing Day/pizza box puns: two special-teams touchdowns (a 54-yard punt return from Pitt’s Tyler Boyd and a 94-yard kick return from BG’s BooBoo Gates), a monstrous 62-yard pass from backup Panthers quarterback Chad Voytik in a tied fourth quarter, seven sacks from Pitt’s defenders, and Aaron Donald slinging dudes around, to say nothing of Pitt freshman James Conner recording 229 rushing yards.

Poinsettia Bowl: Utah State 21, no. 23 Northern Illinois 14. So passes the collegiate career of Jordan Lynch, smothered in its twilight by the Aggies. NIU’s star QB and Heisman finalist was held below 100 rushing yards for the first time since October 26’s game with Eastern Michigan, which was a 59-20 affair, so “held” probably isn’t the verb we want here. Lynch’s last game as a Huskie saw him record just 39 ground yards on 18 attempts, a season-low average of 2.2 yards per carry. Putting on a better show for pro prospect purposes: NIU safety Jimmie Ward.

Veiled Precursors of Things to Come

Military Bowl: Marshall vs. Maryland. IMPORTANT: How best to distinguish this game from the Armed Forces Bowl? This is the one in which players get hypnotized.

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To football: Maryland may be bound for the greenerish pastures of the Big Ten next season, but for right now, the Terrapins and the Marshall Thundering Herd are headed on opposing trajectories. Marshall finished the regular season with five consecutive double-digit Conference USA wins before losing to Rice in the league title game; Maryland started the season 4-0 but received a 63-0 hammering from Florida State to open the ACC slate and finished 3-5 in league play. Gird your loins for an overabundance of military metaphors: The Herd boast both a strong aerial attack (3,500-yard passer Rakeem Cato) and a punishing ground force (led by 1,000-yard rusher Essray Taliaferro), while Maryland has neither of those things. Unless the Terps can counter with a strong maritime force — they’re playing on Navy’s home field, after all, and turtles are good at water activities — they may just have to content themselves with reveries of all that delicious TV money they’ll be marinating in as B1G members.

The Military Bowl kicks off at 2:30 p.m. ET on December 27, with coverage on ESPN and WatchESPN.

Texas Bowl: Syracuse vs. Minnesota. Up until this season, bowl invites were holiday gifts that Golden Gopher fans would’ve just as soon traded in for store credit. Dating back to 2005, the Gophers have lost five consecutive postseason contests, including three straight in the Insight Bowl, including the 2006 loss that set a new record for the biggest collapse (Minnesota blew a 38-7 second-half lead) in bowl history and led to coach Glen Mason’s ouster. This year, though, the Gophers have not only put together just their second winning regular season since 2005, they’ve done so while operating for a good portion of the season under the direction of an interim coach, D-coordinator Tracy Claeys, following head coach Jerry Kill taking a leave of absence to focus on treating his epilepsy. (For more on Kill and Claeys, check out this account of the 2013 season written by Kill’s wife, Rebecca.)

There’s nothing happening on the field that quite tugs the heartstrings so insistently on the Syracuse side, unless breaking even in Scott Shafer’s first season (and the Orange’s first season of ACC play) qualifies, but if you want to see a hometown blog making good: SB Nation’s Syracuse community raised tens of thousands of dollars to send Houston-area kids to the game for free. Go Internet. Go America.


And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: Yes, this is the game with the Rodeo Bowl.


The Texas Bowl kicks off at 6 p.m. ET on December 27, with coverage on ESPN and WatchESPN.

Fight Hunger Bowl: Brigham Young vs. Washington. If this matchup looks kinda sorta familiar, it’s because the Cougars and Huskies played a home-and-home series in 2008 and 2010, both legs of which BYU won. On paper, Washington has a good chance to avenge those losses, as the Huskies bring both multitalented, terribly durable quarterback Keith Price as well as Bishop Sankey, the nation’s third-leading rusher, to the table. But BYU wields a healthy complement of weapons as well, first among them being Taysom Hill, who exploded onto the national scene by shredding Texas’s run defense to the tune of 259 yards in a sidesplitting September upset. If the Huskies come out flat following USC’s poaching of head coach Steve Sarkisian earlier this month, BYU can earn Bronco Mendenhall his fifth consecutive bowl win (and seventh in nine seasons in Provo). The final Fight Hunger Bowl staged at AT&T Park will also mean the end of confused baseball tweets on the video board, so enjoy those while you’re able.

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The Fight Hunger Bowl kicks off at 9:30 p.m. ET on December 27, with coverage on ESPN and WatchESPN.

Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers vs. Notre Dame. It’s the fledgling Pinstripe Bowl’s dream matchup — Notre Dame, which has a sizable following in the New York area! Versus Rutgers, which plays practically right down the street! — but one could reasonably wish for a better potential football product here.


That’s due in part to Notre Dame’s clown-horn-soundtracked backslide from undefeated national title contender to middling 8-4 team, but owed mostly to Rutgers’s status as an American Athletic Conference also-ran coming off a 2-5 late-season skid. Unless the Scarlet Knights picked up some useful lessons from beating a horrendous South Florida team in their regular-season finale, this looks like a fairly routine Irish victory — one that will not garner nearly as much attention from the local press as the contract the Yankees gave Jacoby Ellsbury to play on the very same field.


The Pinstripe Bowl kicks off at noon ET on December 28, with coverage on ESPN and WatchESPN.

Belk Bowl: Cincinnati vs. North Carolina. We will watch. Football Jesus preserve us, we will watch, because there’s nothing to snap a body out of post-holiday blues like replacing any word in a given sentence with “Belk.” Is this really the matchup America’s proud and storied belk-mining industry would have chosen for its day in the sun?

Cincinnati had an outside shot at the American Athletic Conference title as late as the last week in the regular season, while North Carolina came into the second season of the Larry Fedora era harboring hopes of Coastal Division contention that were blown to pieces by a 1-5 start. UNC appears to have turned its season around, at least, and behind a backup QB, no less: Marquise Williams has thrown for 990 yards, eight touchdowns, and only three picks in four games, three of them victories, since starting QB Bryn Renner’s college career ended prematurely thanks to a dislocated shoulder against NC State. Then again, Cincy does have these sexy Corvette-red helmets all shined up for the occasion. If fashion sense somehow trumps pocket awareness Saturday — and is this not, after all, a mall party? — the Bearcats will hoist the storied Belking Cup, which is overflowing with pairs of sensibly pleated, reasonably priced slacks.

The Belk Bowl kicks off at 3:20 p.m. ET on December 28, with coverage on ESPN and WatchESPN.

Russell Athletic Bowl: Miami vs. no. 18 Louisville. If you’d dialed up a Louisville-Miami bowl projection on, say, Thursday, October 17, this would’ve looked for all of God’s green Internet like an Orange Bowl matchup. But then Louisville had to go and blow a lead to UCF the very next night, while Miami kicked off a three-game losing streak just a short time afterward, and now here we are, bear-watching outside the Citrus Bowl offices to pass the time and taking smartphone self-portraits on comically undersize trains.


This game has to be particularly galling for Miami fans, who will likely have to watch hometown product Teddy Bridgewater add to a stat sheet (3,523 yards, 28 touchdowns, four picks) that has him pegged as an early first-rounder by interested draftniks. Bridgewater has been coy about whether he’ll stay at Louisville for his senior season or declare for said draft, but if he decided to make this game his college swan (cardinal) (bird joke) song, shelling Miami’s leaky secondary would be an enjoyable way to go out.

The Russell Athletic Bowl kicks off at 6:45 p.m. ET on December 28, with coverage on ESPN and WatchESPN.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan vs. Kansas State. Oh, how we wanted this to be a K-State/Nebraska tilt between windbreaker-clad wizard Bill Snyder and longtime feelingsball enthusiast Bo Pelini. Having a tiger do our picks for us has been working out swimmingly, however:


Since Michigan’s Week 2 win over then–no. 14 Notre Dame, the Wolverines have turned in rather a mixed bag, combining close wins over scrub opponents (needing a goal-line stand to defeat Akron? Really?) with conference losses that have maize loyalists pulling their hair out and demanding the vital organs of offensive coordinator Al Borges. Kansas State was more or less left for dead after losing to North Dakota State on opening weekend, but now that NDSU has blazed a dictating path to the FCS title game, K-State’s season can, in review, be safely upgraded from “SEE ME” to “ADEQUATE.” The Wildcats would go on to turn in an eerily precise conference schedule, losing to all four teams that finished nos. 1-4 in the Big 12 standings and beating teams nos. 6-10, and they now head to Arizona looking for their first bowl victory since 2002. One late-breaking factor sure to swing the game plan: Shifty Michigan QB Devin Gardner has been ruled out of the festivities with a broken foot. Will Hadiah’s prediction pay off or prove to be a case of big-cat bias? Stay tuned.

The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl kicks off at 10:15 p.m. ET on December 28, with coverage on ESPN and WatchESPN.

Filed Under: College Football

Holly Anderson is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ HollyAnderson