Best and worst of the non-AQ bowl season

January, 11, 2010
1/11/10
1:00
PM ET
The 2009 bowl season was a historical one with two non-AQ teams making a BCS bowl in the same season for the first time. It’s one of the moments many will point to as a changing of the guard when it comes to college football’s postseason, but it’s not the only memorable non-AQ moment from the bowl season. There were several memorable -- and forgettable -- moments this year. Here’s a look back at the best and worst of the non-AQ bowl season:

Best game: There were a lot of good games this bowl season, but the one everyone was talking about was the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl between Idaho and Bowling Green. The game delivered a lot of offense, very little defense and maybe one of the craziest finishes in quite some time. The two teams combined for 15 points in the final 32 seconds, but Idaho’s decision to go for two and the win with 4 seconds remaining made the game a memorable one.

Best upset: Navy dominated Missouri to win the Texas Bowl and notch the third 10-win season in school history. No one gave the Midshipmen a chance against the Tigers and their quick-strike offense. But the Midshipmen shut down Missouri’s offense and wore down the Tigers' defense with a running game led by quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who finished with three rushing touchdowns.

Worst individual performance: Houston quarterback Case Keenum, who led the nation’s top offense, had the worst game of his career, throwing a bowl-record six interceptions and a season-low 222 yards in a loss to Air Force in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Keenum threw six interceptions through Houston’s 12 regular-season games.

Best defensive game plan: This award goes to two teams that had their opponent figured out and confused during their respective games. Boise State’s defense made TCU’s stellar offense look pretty awful. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw three interceptions, the most since his freshman season, and TCU was held to a season-low 10 points. Also, Air Force held Houston, the nation’s most prolific offense, to its lowest offensive output of the season and forced Keenum into six interceptions.

Best halftime speech: The best part of the Humanitarian Bowl was Idaho coach Robb Akey finishing his halftime interview with ESPN’s Heather Cox and then telling fans, “Watch the second half, you’re gonna love it” as he backed away from the camera. Akey has a very distinctive, raspy voice, and listening to him say that was perhaps the funniest moment of the bowl season, especially since he was right.

Worst luck: For the second consecutive season, Troy saw its bowl victory hopes dashed because of a blocked field goal in overtime. Michael Taylor had his 31-yard attempt blocked in the second overtime, and Central Michigan kicker Andrew Augila hit a 37-yarder to win the GMAC Bowl. Last year, Troy kicker Sam Glusman had a 28-yard attempt blocked by Southern Miss in overtime of the R+L Carriers Bowl.

Best overtime game: The New Mexico Bowl started the bowl season with a double-overtime thriller. Wyoming trailed Fresno State 28-17 in the fourth quarter, but tied the game on a field goal with 20 seconds remaining. In the first overtime, Fresno State failed on fourth down, leaving the door open for Wyoming, but kicker Ian Watts missed the field goal. He got a second chance in the next overtime, made the kick, and then the Wyoming defense stopped Fresno State on downs.

Worst showing: There were a lot of teams that had poor showings, but Ohio’s performance against Marshall in the Little Caesars Bowl was one of the most uninspired performances of the bowl season. Ohio, which won nine games and the Mid-American Conference East, managed just 123 yards of total offense. It had 12 yards rushing and two turnovers. Marshall, which squeaked into a bowl with six wins and was playing with a lame-duck coach, jumped out to a 21-0 lead and Ohio couldn’t overcome it.

Best individual performance: Bowling Green receiver Freddie Barnes came into the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl needing just five catches to become the all-time FBS leader in receptions for a season -- he finished the game with 17. Barnes had 219 yards and three touchdowns, including what appeared to be the game-winning score with 32 seconds remaining before Idaho won the game in the final seconds. Barnes' performance was the best by a receiver during the bowl season.

Best conference showing: TCU couldn’t cap the Mountain West’s stellar bowl season with a win over Boise State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, but the Mountain West still won ESPN’s Bowl Challenge Cup with a 4-1 record. It’s the second time in the past three years the Mountain West has won the award. Two of the conference’s wins came against Pac-10 teams and one against a Houston team that spent most of the season ranked. Wyoming won despite being one of the biggest bowl underdogs against Fresno State. The Mountain West has won the award three times since the award was created in 2002. It’s the only non-AQ conference to win it.

Graham Watson | email

College Football
Watson joined ESPN.com in 2008 after four seasons covering the Missouri Tigers and the Big 12 Conference for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She also covered college football recruiting for the Dallas Morning News.

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