NCF Nation: AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl

Best and worst of the Big 12's bowl games

January, 11, 2010
Here a look back at some of the highs and lows of the Big 12's bowl games.

Best game: In the grand scheme of things, Iowa State’s 14-13 triumph over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl was a matchup of two 6-6 teams. But the Cyclones’ pulsating victory still provided much excitement for the Cyclones. Alexander Robinson rushed for 137 yards in the victory that was settled by a late fumble recovery by ISU cornerback Ter’ran Benton, who was playing in his first game since breaking his leg on Oct. 24. Benton pounced on the turnover by Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray and the ISU did the rest with a clock-killing drive that provided an unexpected bowl victory for coach Paul Rhoads. Yes, that’s the same team that was expected to struggle to stay out of the North Division cellar before the season.

Best relief performance: Texas Tech starting quarterback Taylor Potts had a strong game in the Valero Alamo Bowl, but the Red Raiders needed a spark as they trailed Michigan State 31-27 early in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Steven Sheffield responded by completing his first six passes after relieving Potts, driving for two touchdowns to claim the victory. Potts earned the game’s most valuable player honors, but Sheffield finished by completing 9-for-11 passes for 88 yards as he directed the comeback.

Best use of bowl practice: Nebraska’s maligned offense showed some unexpected punch against Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson took advantage of bowl preparations to rebuild quarterback Zac Lee’s confidence and incorporate freshman Rex Burkhead into the Wildcat formation. The result was a 33-0 victory over the Wildcats with 223 yards of rushing -- most for the Cornhuskers since the first game of the season.

Best bow to youth: Injuries forced Oklahoma to employ freshmen defenders including defensive linemen David King, defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland and cornerback Demontre Hurst against Stanford in the Brut Sun Bowl. The trio came up big throughout the game to spark the Sooners’ 31-27 victory over the Cardinal. “The future’s bright,” Oklahoma defensive ends coach Chris Wilson understated to the Oklahoman after the game.

Most significant injury: Texas moved the ball smartly against Alabama, gaining 26 yards on five plays with Colt McCoy in charge. But McCoy went down with nerve damage to his right shoulder, the Longhorns’ offense unraveled during the rest of the half with backup Garrett Gilbert at quarterback. Alabama took advantage to charge a 24-6 halftime and take control of the Citi BCS National Championship Game.

Worst reaction to a defensive formation: Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green dared Missouri to run the ball by using an alignment with two down linemen. Even with Derrick Washington in the backfield, the Tigers could produce only 65 yards rushing as they repeatedly passed and sputtered in a 35-13 loss to the Midshipmen.

Worst finish: Mississippi’s defense took over down the stretch, forcing turnovers on the Cowboys’ final six turnovers. Zac Robinson’s offense contributed four interceptions and his team lost two fumbles as the Rebels claimed a 21-7 victory over Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

Worst play call: Texas could have gone to halftime trailing by only 11 points. But Texas coach Mack Brown elected to have Garrett Gilbert attempt a seemingly safe shovel pass to D.J. Monroe. The ball was batted around and finally ended up in the arms of Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, who then stiff-armed Gilbert to the ground and pirouetted around Kyle Hix en route to a 28-yard touchdown return.

Worst officiating call: With about nine minutes remaining in a tie game, Oklahoma State had the ball on the Ole Miss 19-yard line and appeared poised to claim the lead. Ole Miss defensive tackle Jerrell Powe looked to have obviously jumped offsides on a snap as he charged past center Andrew Lewis before the snap was completed. Feeling that he had a free play, Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson threw to the end zone, where he was intercepted by Ole Miss free safety Kendrick Lewis in the end zone. Robinson begged to have the call overturned, but the officials didn’t do it. The Cowboys unraveled from that point in the game.

Worst special teams: Texas A&M’s struggles on special teams were the biggest reason the Aggies dropped a 44-20 loss to Georgia in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl. The Bulldogs blocked a field-goal attempt, returned a kick for a touchdown and blocked a punt in the first half. The Aggies capped the debacle by snapping the ball over A&M punter Ryan Epperson's head in the third quarter, leading to another Georgia touchdown. The special-teams meltdown was the major reason the Aggies dropped their 11th game in their last 13 bowl games.

Georgia beats Texas A&M in Independence Bowl

December, 28, 2009
Georgia made it look easy in the second half as the Bulldogs raced to a 44-20 victory over Texas A&M in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.

Here’s a look at how the Bulldogs made it happen, giving the Southeastern Conference a victory in the first of three bowl games against the Big 12:

How the game was won: Georgia blew the game open by scoring on five of its first drives in the second half. The first four of those came on possessions of 40, 24, 35 and 28 yards as the Bulldogs took advantage of good field position after a multitude of A&M mistakes in the third quarter.

Turning point: After A&M was stopped on fourth down, trailing 17-14 early in the third quarter, a high center snap over the head of A&M punter Ryan Epperson went for a loss of 24 yards. Georgia scored three plays later on a 24-yard pass from Joe Cox to Aron White and the rout was on.

Stat of the game: A&M special teams errors directly led to 24 points for Georgia in the game. It helped the Bulldogs claim the 10th Southeastern Conference bowl victory in the last 13 games against Big 12 teams, dating to 2003.

Player of the game: Brandon Boykin set a Southeastern Conference record by bringing back an 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown – his record-breaking third TD return of the season. He finished with 107 yards on two returns, but his TD return ignited the slumbering Bulldogs.

What Georgia learned: The Bulldogs’ makeshift defensive coaching staff could get players ready to play. Georgia produced interceptions on back-to-back drives for the first time this season to spark the third-quarter turnaround.

What Texas A&M learned: The Aggies’ special teams need a lot of work during the off-season. A&M dominated the game offensively, but was behind because of its frequent problems returning kicks and punting. It can’t afford to do that against good teams – from outside the conference and inside the Big 12.

Instant analysis: Georgia 44, Texas A&M 20

December, 28, 2009
A quick look at Georgia’s 44-20 victory over Texas A&M on Monday in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl:

How the game was won: The Bulldogs scored 30 unanswered points and broke the game open thanks to their special teams dominance and the Aggies’ special teams ineptitude. Georgia blocked a field goal attempt, returned a kickoff for a touchdown, recovered a high punt snap by Texas A&M to set up a touchdown and blocked a punt, which led to another touchdown. The Bulldogs started deep in Texas A&M territory on their first three touchdown drives – the 2, 25 and 32.

Turning point: The two teams had gone more than 27 minutes without scoring any points in the first half, but Texas A&M took a 7-0 lead with 2:33 to play in the half on Jerrod Johnson’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Jamie McCoy. Only seconds later, the Bulldogs answered right back when Brandon Boykin took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 81 yards for a touchdown, his third kickoff return for a touchdown this season.

Stat of the game: Georgia gave up 471 yards of total offense, but Texas A&M didn’t reach 20 points until the final minute when the game had long since been decided. The Bulldogs were pretty stingy any time the Aggies got near the red zone.

Player of the game: Georgia redshirt freshman defensive end Cornelius Washington led an inspired effort by the entire Georgia defensive line, which got after Johnson all game long and forced him into several bad or rushed throws.

Unsung hero: The Bulldogs were playing without their starting right tackle, Josh Davis, who was out with an ankle injury. Vince Vance struggled at that position in the first half, but Justin Anderson replaced him in the second half and provided a much-needed lift for Georgia up front after a miserable start to the game.

What it means: Georgia (8-5) can go into the offseason feeling better about itself after knocking off Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale and winning its fourth straight bowl game. It’s not what anybody in Athens wanted or expected, but the Bulldogs showed their pride as a program by not completely unraveling after that bitter home loss to Kentucky back on Nov. 21. The next step is for Mark Richt to settle on his defensive coordinator. It’s obviously a huge hire for Richt and a huge hire for the program.

Record performance: Boykin’s 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was his third of the season, which tied an SEC record. Vanderbilt’s Warren Norman also returned three kickoffs for touchdowns this season, and Tennessee’s Willie Gault returned three in a season in 1980.