NCF Nation: Alamo 0829

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Missouri tight end Chase Coffman and Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson sustained significant injuries in their respective bowl games.

Coffman's father told the Kansas City Star that his son broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot on Missouri's final offensive play in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

The Tulsa World reported Wednesday that Robinson sustained a separated right shoulder in the second quarter of the Cowboys' 42-31 loss to Oregon in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Robinson remained in the game and accounted for 383 total yards as he withstood several punishing hits after the original injury occurred.

Despite his injury, Coffman plans to continue with his preparations for the NFL draft.

"It shouldn't affect his draft status," Paul Coffman told the Star on Wednesday.

Coffman, predicted to be one of the first several tight ends picked in the upcoming NFL draft, still plans to take part in the NFL combine on Feb. 24. His injury will not require surgery, but has been immobilized in a cast.

The injury occurred on the same foot that Coffman has struggled with turf toe earlier this season. It came on the same play where Jeremy Maclin snagged the game-winning 7-yard touchdown pass from Chase Daniel, providing the winning margin for the Tigers' 30-23 overtime victory over Northwestern.

Even with his injury, Robinson surpassed his coach Mike Gundy's school record for total offense in a career. Robinson has 7,786 yards with one season of eligibility remaining. Gundy had 7,749 yards in his career, which ended in 1989.

The Cowboys also played much of the game without wide receiver Dez Bryant, who injured his knee in the second quarter. Even with the injury, Bryant still finished with a Holiday Bowl record 13 receptions despite missing much of the second half.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It almost hurt to watch Chase Daniel try to pass in Monday night's Valero Alamo Bowl.

 
 AP Photo/Eric Gay
 Chase Daniel completed 27 of 44 passes for 200 yards with 2 TDs and 3 INTs against Northwestern.

Understand that I love to watch Daniel play quarterback when he's healthy. The Tigers were one of the most fun Big 12 teams to watch during the last several seasons when Daniel, tight end Chase Coffman and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin made for one of the most potent Big 12 offensive teams.

But something happened somewhere and that Missouri team was a far cry from what we saw in the bowl game Monday night.

Daniel did orchestrate a comeback 30-23 victory over Northwestern. It was the first time as a starter that he directed the Tigers to a comeback victory when the team trailed in the second half.

And it was clear that he just wasn't right. He couldn't throw the ball past an intermediate route all night. His longest completion might have been his biggest -- a 16-yard strike he hung over the middle for Coffman on the drive that tied the game late in regulation.

But Daniel couldn't throw deep and abandoned any vertical passing presence by the end of the game. Missouri had only five passing gains of 11 yards or more against Mike Hankwitz's defense.

And when the crowd turned on him -- both ESPN announcers mentioned they heard Missouri fans booing Daniel in the fourth quarter -- it was sad to see.

Daniel finished as one of the top 10 passers in terms of passing yardage in college football history. One could argue that he was the best quarterback in Missouri history. And to hear some fans boo him when he struggled was disappointing to see and hear.

But it does bring up the fact that Daniel wasn't the same quarterback at the end of the season that he was at the start. Daniel was intercepted three times in Monday's game to match his career high. His 200 passing yards were a season-low. And his 7.4 yards per completion (200 yards on 27 completions) Monday night was the lowest in any of his 41 career starts.

The high point of Daniel's 2008 season was the Nebraska game, in which he directed Missouri to a 52-17 victory. The triumph pushed the Tigers to No. 3 nationally the following day. But they never recovered after losing games against Oklahoma State and Texas in the next two outings.

Take a look at Daniel's statistics after the Nebraska game to see how his play regressed.

By The Numbers: Chase Daniel
 CMPATTCMP%YDSY/AY/CTDINTRATW-L
First five games11915676.31,66510.714.0151196.385-0
Final nine games26637271.52,6707.210.02417143.955-4

There was a huge difference between the early season Daniel and the one that struggled late in the season.

But he still didn't deserve the catcalls that were hounding him late Monday night in San Antonio.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12 claimed its first bowl victory Monday night. But it will get a lot tougher tonight when Oklahoma State faces Oregon in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.

Before we get there, here are a few lunchtime links to help prime the palate:

  • Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle writes that Texas players are excited to start their football preparations for the Jan. 5 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. "There comes a point when your mom asks you to take the trash out, so it was time to leave home and get here," Texas quarterback Colt McCoy said. "Those days off are nice, but now it's time to go back to work."
  • The Kansas City Star's Jason Whitlock writes that Missouri shouldn't celebrate its Valero Alamo Bowl victory over Northwestern. Instead, Whitlock calls them "The kings of the pathetic North Division."
  • Reid Laymance of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the defensive MVP of the Tigers' Alamo Bowl victory over Northwestern, will return for another college football season. Weatherspoon hopes to convince his roommate Jeremy Maclin to join him.
  • Texas Tech's defense is bracing for a heavy dose of Mississippi wide receiver Dexter McCluster from coach Houston Nutt's "Wild Rebel" formation in Friday's AT&T Cotton Bowl.
  • Tonight's Pacific Life Holiday Bowl could serve as an important catapult for an Oklahoma State program hoping to compete for its first Big 12 South Division title next season. The Oklahoman's John Rohde said a win tonight could serve as a serious stimulus to the program's first BCS bowl appearance.
  • Starting Kansas cornerback Justin Thornton won't play in the Jayhawks' Insight Bowl game Wednesday night against Minnesota, starting linebacker James Holt told the Topeka Capital-Journal's Tully Corcoran. It will mean senior Kendrick Harper will get the start for a Kansas pass defense that ranked 113th nationally in yards allowed.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

So much for Chase Daniel's Alamodome curse.

Daniel overcame a struggling three-interception performance to orchestrate a dramatic comeback as Missouri claimed a 30-23 overtime victory over Northwestern in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

Earlier in his career, Daniel lost a high school state championship game and struggled through a blowout victory in the 2007 Big 12 championship game to Oklahoma at the San Antonio domed facility.

 
 Margaret Bowles/US Presswire
 Jeremy Maclin won the Most Valuable Player trophy.

It looked like more of the same after his early struggles Monday night. After being booed by Missouri fans earlier in the fourth quarter, Daniel hooked up with Jeremy Maclin for a game-winning 7-yard pass to cap the first possession of overtime. Daniel bobbled the snap, but still got the ball away for the score to finish his record-breaking career for the Tigers.

Missouri's maligned pass defense did the rest. A couple of key blitzes helped secure the victory, which was settled by a game-sealing interception in the end zone by William Moore.

Maclin was the best player on the field Monday night. His 75-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the first half pumped life in the moribund Missouri offense that sleepwalked through most of the first half.

As Daniel struggled with any kind of vertical passing game, Maclin became more involved in the offense as he finished by accounting for 187 all-purpose yards.

And Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was dominant as the Tigers finally clamped on Northwestern's pesky spread offense by holding it scoreless on its final four possessions. Weatherspoon ended up with 13 tackles, including three for losses. He also contributed a sack, forced a fumble and also notched two quarterback hurries.

But as Daniel and the Tigers' ballyhooed offense sputtered, the game turned into exactly the kind of contest that Missouri coach Gary Pinkel feared. The underdog Wildcats jumped to an early lead and seemed to be emboldened as they seemingly played with house money for much of the game as they converted eight of their first 11 third downs.

Their luck appeared to have held at the end of regulation, when Jeff Wolfert misfired on a 44-yard field goal at the final buzzer that would have won the game. Wolfert was the most successful kicker in NCAA history before his late miss, converting 95.5 percent of his field goals and point after touchdowns in his career.

But Daniel shrugged off his early struggles to lead the Tigers to the comeback, capping off a 10-4 season that marked the the first time in school history that Missouri has won 10 games in consecutive seasons.

The loss continued Northwestern's bowl game struggles. The Wildcats have not won a bowl game since Jan. 1, 1949 -- a stretch of 21,912 days.

But they certainly made the Tigers sweat to extend the streak Monday night.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Northwestern outplayed Missouri for most of the Valero Alamo Bowl.

The Wildcats had a tremendous game plan, made big plays on both sides of the ball and kept Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman from lighting up the Alamodome scoreboard, which seemed like a guarantee entering tonight's contest. As the biggest underdog of the 68 FBS bowl teams, Northwestern has nothing to be ashamed about after a 30-23 overtime loss to the Tigers in a thrilling contest.

But when you're a massive underdog and you face a more talented opponent, you need to execute the little things. Details matter more than ever. For Northwestern, the little things came on special teams, and in that area, Pat Fitzgerald's team failed.

Northwestern had no business being tied with Missouri at halftime after dominating the opening 30 minutes. But a poorly executed punt, one that should have gone out of bounds, allowed Maclin to race 75 yards for the tying touchdown with a minute left before the break.

That's seven points right there. At worst, Northwestern should have been up 10-3 at the half.

The Wildcats then opened the second half with a brilliant scoring drive capped by a 46-yard Rasheed Ward touchdown catch. But in a scene Northwestern fans are all too familiar with, kicker Amado Villarreal missed on the extra point attempt. The conversion would have forced Missouri to score a touchdown in the closing minutes rather than settle for a field goal. Northwestern's defense did a great job of keeping Missouri out of the end zone, so the chances for a stop were likely.

Eight points on special teams likely doomed the Wildcats, and that's not even counting a missed field goal in the opening half. In a game where Northwestern did so many things right, the special teams details really stung.

The program's first bowl win since 1949 would have been huge, but Northwestern made a strong statement tonight, especially on the defensive side. The Wildcats held Missouri's offense to three first half points and picked off Daniel three times. Though Missouri ultimately made the plays when it mattered, Northwestern's defense was one of the bright spots in the Big Ten and should only improve in 2009.

Quarterback C.J. Bacher and wide receivers Eric Peterman, Ross Lane and Ward played arguably their best games of the season, and running back Tyrell Sutton came off a wrist injury to rush for 114 yards. Northwestern's problems along the offensive line came back to haunt the team late, and some questionable play-calling gave Missouri the time to rally and force overtime.

The 34-year-old Fitzgerald has Northwestern headed in the right direction. It's critical that this program sustains success, something it did not do after Fitzgerald finished playing in 1996. Those who dismiss Northwestern because of its pre-1995 history are simply uninformed, but the program still needs to get over the hump in bowl games.

Fine-tuning the details on special teams is a good place to start.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Years from now, Tyrell Sutton will return to Northwestern as a distinguished alum and reminisce with head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

There might also be a little smack talk.

"We'll have bragging rights just as much as he does," the senior running back said. "We can talk about our 10-win season compared to his 10-win season."

Sutton's team would have something extra to boast about if it reaches 10 wins, a mark matched by only one other Northwestern squad, the 1995 version led by Fitzgerald. An upset victory against Missouri tonight in the Valero Alamo Bowl (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET) would mark Northwestern's first bowl win since 1949.

Not even Fitzgerald and his program-changing team hold claim to that feat.

Fitzgerald could always counter Sutton with the whole College Football Hall of Fame thing -- the former star linebacker was inducted Dec. 9 -- but he'd be more than happy to let his player have the last word.

"It's been a whirlwind," Fitzgerald said of the last few weeks. "It's been a lot of fun to represent my teammates and to represent our great university. But that will all pale in comparison to getting our seniors this 10th win, to send them out the right away and to get over this last mountain of getting a bowl victory."

(Read full post)

Valero Alamo Bowl preview

December, 29, 2008
12/29/08
11:08
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Who to watch: Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel will be culminating his record-breaking career for the Tigers against Northwestern. Daniel will go down in history as one of the greatest players in school history. He needs only 115 yards in his final college game to ease past Kliff Kingsbury's career total and crack the NCAA's top 10 in career passing yardage.

What to watch: The Tigers' secondary has struggled all season, ranking 117th nationally in pass defense. Missouri has been torched for 102 points and 1,065 yards in back-to-back losses to Kansas and Oklahoma to finish the season. The Tigers shouldn't be facing a formidable challenge from Northwestern's tepid passing offense keyed by quarterback C.J. Bacher, who has thrown as many interceptions (14) as touchdowns and has only 14 passes of more than 25 yards this season. But still, the challenge should be formidable for the Tigers, considering their late struggles.

Why to watch: It will be interesting to see how Missouri approaches this bowl. The Tigers entered the 2008 season with legitimate BCS title hopes, but finished the season with a pair of embarrassing losses to finish at 9-4. But they do have the opportunity to win 10 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the school's 119-year football history. Monday's game will be the last time together for Daniel, record-breaking tight end Chase Coffman and lame-duck Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, who leaves for the head-coaching job at Wyoming after the game. And it likely will be the last game for explosive wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Maclin, who could be headed for the NFL draft after the season.

Valero Alamo Bowl preview

December, 29, 2008
12/29/08
11:04
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

After an embarrassing start, the Big Ten resumes postseason play tonight as No. 23 Northwestern faces No. 21 Missouri in the Valero Alamo Bowl (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET). Here's a quick look at the matchup.

WHO TO WATCH: Northwestern's offensive backfield of quarterback C.J. Bacher and running back Tyrell Sutton plays its final game after three patchy seasons. Bacher has had several monster games in his career, and he might need another to keep pace with Missouri's high-powered offense. But the senior struggles with mistakes, throwing as many touchdowns as interceptions in each of the last two seasons. Sutton, the Wildcats' best all-around player, returns to the field for the first time since Oct. 25.

WHAT TO WATCH: A Wildcats defensive line that led the Big Ten in sacks (33) needs to put pressure on Missouri senior quarterback Chase Daniel, who ranks fifth nationally in total offense and completes 74 percent of his passes. Defense has been Northwestern's calling card this season, and standout end Corey Wootton has to step up for the Wildcats to have a shot at the upset.

WHY TO WATCH: A bowl victory is the one objective Northwestern hasn't achieved despite fielding a very respectable program since 1995 (three Big Ten titles, six bowl appearances). The Wildcats are heavy underdogs, but they've exceeded expectations this season and arguably have more to play for than a Missouri team that entered the fall with BCS bowl hopes. Tonight marks the final game for Daniel, tight end Chase Coffman and most likely dynamic wide receiver/return man Jeremy Maclin.

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