NCF Nation: bowl recap 0901

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

By now, we all know that the 2008 bowl season culminated with Florida knocking off Oklahoma to win its second BCS national championship in the last three years. The SEC finished 6-2 in bowl games. There were memorable moments along the way and a few forgettable ones, too. Here's a look at the SEC bowl version of the Best and Worst:

 
  Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI
  Tim Tebow had the SEC's best performance bowl of the year in the BCS championship game.
Best player: Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was the best player in college football during the regular season, and he was even better during the bowl season. He never flinched after throwing two interceptions in the first half and finished with 231 passing yards and two touchdowns to go along with 109 rushing yards in the Gators' 24-14 win over Oklahoma in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game.

Best catch: The catch itself was spectacular, but it also came at a time when Ole Miss needed to make a statement. With the Rebels trailing 14-7 in the first half, senior receiver Mike Wallace split two Texas Tech defenders and somehow managed to bring in Jevan Snead's 41-yard pass with one of those defenders hanging onto him. Wallace juggled the ball in his right hand, then in his left hand and squeezed it as he rolled into the end zone for a touchdown.

Best defensive plan: Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong had an answer for everything Oklahoma tried to do in holding the Sooners to 40 points below their season average of 54. Granted, the Gators didn't stop the Sooners in their tracks, but they made all the key plays defensively. Most importantly, they were in position to make those plays -- and that's coaching. What more does Strong have to do to get a shot at a head coaching job?

Worst protection: Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson has never spent so much time running for his life or simply trying to throw from his back. He was sacked eight times by Utah in the Utes' 31-17 victory over the Crimson Tide in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Utes used a wide array of stunts and blitzes and feasted on the absence of Alabama left tackle Andre Smith. The eight sacks were half the total the Tide had allowed (16) in 13 previous games.

Best comeback: Kentucky looked dead and buried in the first half of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The Wildcats trailed 16-3 at halftime, and it was one of those games where it appeared they could play for 20 quarters and still not score an offensive touchdown. But David Jones opened the second half with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and the Wildcats outscored the Pirates 22-3 in the second half to win their third straight bowl game.

Worst offense: How's this for irony? Vanderbilt wins its first bowl game in 53 years with a 16-14 victory over Boston College in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, but is the only one of the eight SEC teams in bowl games that doesn't score an offensive touchdown. That's right, the Commodores broke their bowl drought without finding the end zone offensively and finishing with just 200 yards of total offense. Talk about a clinic in opportunistic football.

Best defensive play: Florida sophomore defensive tackle Torrey Davis had made all of five tackles coming into the FedEx BCS National Championship Game and had found his share of trouble off the field. But his second-quarter tackle of Oklahoma's Chris Brown for a 2-yard loss on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1 was textbook. And not only that, but it kept the game tied 7-7 at the half and shifted the momentum into the Gators' favor.

Worst team performance: This was an easy call. South Carolina's 31-10 loss to Iowa in the Outback Bowl was the kind of performance that makes you scratch your head and say, 'Why even bother showing up?' Some would argue the Gamecocks didn't. They were down 31-0 before most of their alarm clocks had gone off, and the only semblance of a pulse came when Steve Spurrier had to break up an argument on the sideline.

Best run: The great part is that it didn't even come from an offensive player. Kentucky defensive tackle Ventrell Jenkins scooped up an East Carolina fumble in the fourth quarter and barreled 56 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. It's debatable what was better -- his mean stiff-arm of East Carolina quarterback Patrick Pinkney or the balance the 285-pound Jenkins showed to stay on his feet and score?

Best hit: It's the kind of hit that puts every offensive player on alert. Florida safety Major Wright timed it perfectly on a deep pass down the sideline, torpedoed over from his center field position and absolutely unloaded on Oklahoma receiver Manuel Johnson on the third play of the game. The hit occurred right in front of the Gators' sideline. The Florida players went crazy, and Johnson somehow wobbled to his feet and slowly jogged off. The tone had emphatically been set by Wright and the Florida defense.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

A look back at the best and worst of the Big East bowl season:

 
  Dale Zanine/US Presswire
  Pat White went out with a bang, passing for a career-high 332 yards.

Best performance: Just when you thought Pat White had shown us everything in his bag of tricks, the West Virginia quarterback goes out and shreds a good North Carolina pass defense for a career-best 332 passing yards while completing 26 of 32 throws in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. White went out the only appropriate way: a winner.

Worst performance: Cincinnati and Pittsburgh's offenses combined for seven total points in the FedEx Orange and Brut Sun bowls, respectively, and zero points in either second half. It wasn't a great year for offense in the Big East, and the league's top two scoring teams proved it in the postseason.

Best closing statement: Connecticut running back Donald Brown was wrongly ignored during awards season but showed why he was the nation's leading runner with a career-high 261 yards in the International Bowl, finishing his season with more than 2,000 yards. Then, in his postgame news conference, Brown announced he was skipping his senior year to turn pro.

Best red zone play call: Rutgers dialed up a fake field goal from the NC State 6-yard line on its first possession of the Papajohns.com Bowl, and first-time holder Rob Cervini ran past the surprised Wolfpack defenders for a touchdown.

Worst red zone play call: Trailing 20-7 midway through the fourth quarter, Cincinnati had a fourth and goal on the 1-yard line. Never a great short-yardage team, the Bearcats got away from what they do best and called for quarterback Tony Pike to try and run it in off tackle. He was stuffed, and the game was effectively over.

Best feel-good bowl win: After what amounted to a lost season, South Florida went out on a high note by blasting Memphis 41-14 in the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl, even allowing senior quarterback Grant Gregory to play the entire fourth quarter.

Worst feel-bad bowl loss: After a breakthrough year had Pitt thinking about a 2009 Top 10 preseason ranking, the Panthers produced an unparalleled stink bomb in their 3-0 loss to Oregon State. Out of 68 bowl teams, Pittsburgh was the only one that didn't score a point, and the performance raised questions about the program's future.

Best atmosphere: The Meineke Car Care Bowl drew a sellout crowd of 73,712, fueled both by the home-state Tar Heels fans and the traveling horde of Mountaineers supporters. The game had the second-highest attendance of all the non-BCS bowls, behind only the Cotton Bowl, and fans were treated to a highly entertaining game.

Worst atmosphere: The magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl should eventually develop into one of the Big East's best postseason slots, given the sunny Florida locale. But the inaugural game attracted an announced crowd of just 25,055 (an estimate that seems generous), making it the second-lowest turnout of bowl season. It doesn't help when Memphis claims only 1,000 of its 10,000-ticket allotment.

Best postgame quote: From West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, remarking on White's accomplishments and the state of his team: "Those people out there in the old gold and blue, they all love him," Stewart said of White. "About half of them would like to hang me. The other half would probably like to make me governor. But, I'm not mad at any of them. You know why? Because I'm one of them. They have such a passion in West Virginia for football. All they want is for us to be the best."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Before putting a sleepy Big Ten bowl season to bed, it's time to recognize some of the memorable moments from the last few weeks. Contrary to the 1-6 record, the Big Ten produced its share of highlights. And lowlights.

Here they are.

Best closing performance -- Iowa running back Shonn Greene capped a tremendous 2008 season in fitting fashion with his 13th consecutive 100-yard rushing performance. Greene punished South Carolina for 121 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the Outback Bowl. The junior then confirmed what many had believed for months and declared for the NFL draft.

 
  Scott A. Miller/US Presswire
  Shonn Greene punctuated his college career with a victory over South Carolina.

Best catch -- Ross Lane's leaping grab in the back of the end zone secured a 23-yard touchdown and gave Northwestern a 23-20 lead over Missouri entering the fourth quarter of the Alamo Bowl. Lane used his entire 6-foot-3 frame to make the reception and managed to get a foot down before tumbling beyond the end line. His catch would have been the signature image had Northwestern held on for the win.

Best catch by a quarterback -- OK, Terrelle Pryor is the only Big Ten signal caller who qualified, but he showed impressive athleticism to haul in a 5-yard fade pass from Todd Boeckman for a touchdown. Ohio State's use of Pryor and Boeckman together gave the offense a boost at times, and Pryor's leaping ability had some wondering whether he would be better used as a wide receiver.

Best preview of the future -- Michigan State backup quarterback Kirk Cousins continued to boost his stock for the 2009 season with a solid effort in limited action at the Capital One Bowl. Cousins spelled Brian Hoyer for a series and completed 4 of 5 pass attempts, leading Michigan State into Georgia territory and setting up a long field-goal attempt. Though he'll have to beat out Keith Nichol for the starting job in the offseason, Cousins looked game-ready this fall.

Best performance by a secondary -- Iowa's back four continued to cause problems in the Outback Bowl, as they did throughout the second half of the season. Safety Tyler Sash recorded two interceptions and cornerback Bradley Fletcher had an interception and a forced fumble. Cornerback Amari Spievey added a pass breakup as the Hawkeyes flustered South Carolina's Stephen Garcia.

Best comeback: Had Ohio State held on to beat Texas, Boeckman would have been the top story. After sitting on the bench for the final nine regular-season games, Boeckman returned to meaningful action and gave the Buckeyes' offense a much needed boost against Texas. He sparked the offense with a 48-yard pass to Brian Robiskie and hit Pryor for the team's first touchdown.

Worst quarter -- The Big Ten's second-quarter blues continued in BCS games as Penn State was outscored 24-0 in the second quarter of the Rose Bowl. Penn State had taken USC's first punch and mounted an impressive scoring drive, but the Nittany Lions committed out-of-character mistakes in the second quarter and couldn't stop Mark Sanchez and the Trojans, who took a 31-7 halftime lead.

Worst turnover -- It seems hard to fathom given the final score, but Wisconsin outplayed Florida State for the first quarter of the Champs Sports Bowl and had the ball inside the Noles' red zone early in the second quarter. Quarterback Dustin Sherer attempted a lateral that fell incomplete, and Florida State's Derek Nicholson wisely picked up the ball and raced 75 yards to the end zone. Wisconsin players thought Sherer had thrown an incomplete forward pass and didn't bother to chase Nicholson. They would never catch Florida State.

Worst tackle -- Safety Anderson Russell had been one of Ohio State's defensive standouts in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, recording an interception, a forced fumble and a pass breakup to go along with nine tackles. But unfortunately, Russell's lasting image will be a missed tackle on wide receiver Quan Cosby that allowed Texas to score the game-winning touchdown with 26 seconds left. Ohio State had tackled extremely well until the final minute, limiting big plays, but Cosby scooted by Russell and into the end zone.

Worst special teams play -- Northwestern's Stefan Demos was supposed to punt the ball out of bounds late in the first half, but his kick instead went high and short, right into the hands of dangerous return man Jeremy Maclin. The Missouri star raced 75 yards to the end zone with a minute left in the half, and Northwestern went to the locker room tied at 10-10 after dominating the first 30 minutes. A missed extra point in the third quarter also stung the Wildcats in their overtime loss.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

We know what the ACC's best win was (Virginia Tech over Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl), and there shouldn't be much debate about the worst loss (Georgia Tech to LSU). But there were moments and plays within the games that defined the bowl season for the ACC. Here's a look at the best and worst the conference had to offer in its 10 games:

 
  AP Photo/Matt Cilley
  Da'Rel Scott came off the bench in the second half, running for 174 yards and two TDs.

BEST STORY: Breaking curfew and breaking tackles: Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott was benched for two-and-a-half quarters for breaking curfew (Boise must be more interesting than it sounds), but came in and rushed for 174 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries in the Terps' 42-35 win over Nevada.

BEST SOUVENIR: Sod. After beating Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl, FSU punter Graham Gano cut a swatch of sod out from the 3-yard line near where two of his punts went out.

BEST QUOTE: "BCS -- finally, we got one!" -- Virginia Tech cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris.

BEST CATCH: Easily UNC's Hakeem Nicks' behind-the-back vs. West Virginia. Anyone who watched Nicks reach behind his back, grab the ball with his left hand and pass it to his right for an eight-yard gain had to think NFL. The remarkable catch set up T.J. Yates' 4-yard touchdown run to give North Carolina a 30-24 lead.

BEST STAT: 32. The Wake Forest seniors finished as the winningest class in school history with 32 victories after their win over Navy in the EagleBank Bowl.

BEST COACHING JOB: Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech. The entire ACC owes him a big "thank you" for breaking the league's eight-game losing streak in BCS bowls. Beamer had to have been feeling the pressure after last year's loss to Kansas, but he kept the team and the staff together and directed the Hokies to a 20-7 win over Cincinnati in the FedEx Orange Bowl.

WORST ENDING: Miami's fumble and botched two-minute offense against Cal. There was poor clock management on the Canes' final possession, and freshman quarterback Jacory Harris fumbled the ball in the fourth quarter as Miami squandered its chance to beat Cal in the Emerald Bowl.

WORST DECISION: Clemson's comeback gets sacked. Trailing 26-21 in the fourth quarter, the Tigers had crept as close as Nebraska's 10-yard line with under two minutes left to play. On second and goal from the 10, quarterback Cullen Harper was sacked for a loss of 16 yards. The veteran should have gotten rid of it.

WORST QUARTER: Second quarter of the Chick-fil-A Bowl. LSU outscored Georgia Tech 28-0. 'Nuff said.

WORST INJURY: NC State quarterback Russell Wilson's knee injury. While Wilson was sidelined for all of the second half against Rutgers in the Papajohns.com Bowl, his replacements combined to throw three interceptions. The Pack's 17-6 halftime edge quickly disappeared.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

The 2008 non-BCS bowl season was loaded with good and bad moments that defined both the postseason and the non-BCS. Below is a summary of the 10 best and worst moments that happened during the bowl season (in no particular order):

 
  Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
  Utah's win in the Sugar Bowl completed the Utes' perfect season.

Busting the BCS: Utah handily defeated Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl to capture the Utes' second BCS win and its second undefeated season. Utah finished as the only undefeated team in the country, second in the AP poll, the highest ranking in school history, and forced several BCS pundits to take notice of the non-BCS schools.

MAC attacked: The Mid-American Conference got a ton of praise for the play of Ball State, and teams such as Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Buffalo, during the regular season, but when the bowl season came around, the conference flopped. It was 0-5 in bowl games, the only conference not to win a bowl game, and created doubt about the strength of the conference as a whole.

Senior sensation: Colorado State running back Gartrell Johnson was well-known in the Mountain West, but his performance in the New Mexico Bowl put the senior on the national map. In the final game of his career, Johnson had 375 all-purpose yards, including 285 rushing yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns that gave the Rams a 40-35 win over Fresno State.

Record-setting wins: With wins in the GMAC Bowl and the Texas Bowl, Tulsa and Rice notched the best seasons in program history. Tulsa finished the year with 11 wins, topping the 10 it had a year ago, and Rice finished with 10 wins, more than the eight it notched in 2001.

Boise Bust: Boise State finished yet another regular season undefeated -- the third since 2004 -- but there were several questions about the strength of its Western Athletic Conference schedule. Those questions were answered when the Broncos lost to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Boise State players remarked after the game that TCU was the fastest team it had seen all season.

First-year success: Kevin Sumlin (Houston), Larry Fedora (Southern Miss), and Steve Fairchild (Colorado State) each won the first bowl games of their head coaching careers this year after leading each of their teams to at least seven wins (Houston won eight games). All three teams went on winning streaks to both get into a bowl and win their bowl games. Southern Miss won its final five, Colorado State its final three, and Houston won four of its final five.

Notre Dame jumps back in the spotlight: After what many termed a disappointing season, Notre Dame ended its 2008 campaign with a 49-21 blasting of Hawaii on Hawaii's home field. The win, orchestrated by a record-setting day from quarterback Jimmy Clausen, broke a 15-year stretch without a bowl win. Clausen finished with 401 passing yards and five touchdowns, and broke nine Notre Dame bowl records during the victory.

Dismal against the BCS: Even though Utah toppled the biggest BCS contender the non-BCS faced this season -- No. 4 Alabama -- the rest of the non-BCS struggled against its BCS brethren. Outside of Utah's win, the non-BCS was 0-6 against the BCS, losing by an average of 13 points. Four of those losses were by double digits. Only East Carolina and Nevada were able to stay within a touchdown -- they lost by six and seven points, respectively.

Running toward history: Tulsa running back Tarrion Adams was 93 yards away from being the Golden Hurricane's all-time leading rusher, and in his final collegiate game he not only got the record, he ran away with it. Adams finished the GMAC Bowl against Ball State with 207 rushing yards and three touchdowns to lead the Golden Hurricane to a 45-13 win and end the team's season on a high note.

Hawaii still branded in postseason: After suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of Georgia in the Sugar Bowl a year ago, the Warriors did little to redeem their reputation with a 49-21 shellacking by Notre Dame on their home turf in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Hawaii has proven it can compete in the WAC, but when it gets out of its conference comfort zone and plays one of the college football powers, it still hasn't proven it can compete.

Best-Worst of the Pac-10 bowls

January, 13, 2009
1/13/09
12:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Superlatives from the bowl season. In both directions.

 
  Charles Baus/Icon SMI
  Mark Sanchez completed 28 of 35 passes, setting the Rose Bowl record for completion percentage.

Best performance by a leading man: USC quarterback Mark Sanchez accounted for five touchdowns -- four passing -- and completed 28 of 35 passes for 413 yards in the Trojans 38-24 blitzing of Penn State in the Rose Bowl. After being blamed much of the season for USC's inconsistent offense, Sanchez turned in the day's most spectacular performance, one that might have proved he's NFL-ready.

Best defense: With its offense struggling without James and Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State's defense throttled Pittsburgh to secure a 3-0 victory in the Sun Bowl. The Beavers had five sacks and held the Panthers to just 178 yards and 10 first downs and limited All-American running back LeSean McCoy to just 85 yards on 24 carries. Pittsburgh's deepest penetration was the Beavers' 36-yard line. This is the same unit that gave up 65 points and 694 yards to Oregon in the regular-season finale.

Worst start: Oregon's defense looked, well, defenseless to start the Holiday Bowl against Oklahoma State, giving up 199 yards and 17 points in the first quarter. Cowboys quarterback Zac Robinson and receiver Dez Bryant hooked up seven times for 89 yards and a touchdown in the first frame. The Ducks, however, would surrender 270 yards and 14 points over the final three quarters.

Best defensive play: With the score tied and 3:28 left in the Emerald Bowl, California linebacker Zack Follett caught Miami quarterback Jacory Harris from behind and slapped away the football. Cal recovered on the Hurricanes' 2-yard line, setting up the game-winning touchdown pass from Nate Longshore to Anthony Miller. It was Follett's second sack of the game, but the savvy play was the cornerstone of the Bears' 24-17 win.

Worst way to set a record: Arizona receiver Mike Thomas had a great career but he didn't have a good Las Vegas Bowl. He entered the game needing just three receptions to eclipse former Arizona State great Derek Hagan's Pac-10 career record of 258. He broke the record on a 3-yard pass on the final play of the game, during garbage time when the Wildcats' victory was well in hand.

Best hit, quarterback class: Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli set the Ducks physical tone in the second half of the Holiday Bowl by running over Oklahoma State safety Quinton Moore on a 41-yard touchdown run. Masoli finished with three rushing touchdowns and one passing.

Best Heisman Trophy showcase: California running back Jahvid Best was spectacular while rushing for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against Miami in the Emerald Bowl, accounting for well over half of the Bears' offense on the evening. The sophomore had runs of 42, 32, 28 and 25 yards, and probably earned a spot on most short lists for the 2009 Heisman Trophy.

Worst fourth quarter: USC probably lost a couple of potential No. 1 votes when it went to sleep in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl and gave up 17 points and 159 yards to Penn State. While the Nittany Lions deserve credit for fighting until the end, college football fans -- and pollsters -- were reminded how indifferent the Trojans can look at times.

Best way to go out as a record-setting senior: Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama rewrote the Wildcats' passing record book but never led his team to a bowl game, much less a bowl victory, until the final game of his four years as a starter. And he saved his best for last, completing 24 of 35 for 325 yards and two touchdowns, leading Arizona to its first bowl win in a decade. He also ran six yards for a score.

Best bowl records (tie): Oregon State's Mike Riley improved to 5-0 in the postseason as the Beavers' coach. While you can't argue with perfection, it's hard to ignore that USC's Pete Carroll improved to 6-2 in bowl games since he took over at USC, including a 6-1 mark in BCS bowls.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

After watching or listening to every play of every Big 12's bowl game, here are 10 observations gleaned from this bowl season.

 
  Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
  Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz turned in the performance of his career in a Gator Bowl win over Clemson.
1. No Ordinary Joe: Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz's career could be encapsulated in his Gator Bowl performance directing the Cornhuskers' triumph over Clemson. Ganz's career hasn't always been pretty -- just like his struggles against the Tigers. He was knocked around and even left the game with a bum shoulder that looked like it had knocked him out. But the resilient Ganz rebounded to direct a comeback and finish his career like he has this season -- with unexpected success.

2. Surging Jayhawks: Kansas provided the best overall performance by a Big 12 team with an impressive 42-21 victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl. Ed Warriner's offense was as strong as ever with Todd Reesing passing for 313 yards and Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier combining for 24 catches and 314 yards and three touchdowns. But the biggest revelation was the play of the Kansas defense. After allowing touchdowns on the first two drives, the Jayhawks allowed only one scoring possession on Minnesota's final nine drives as Kansas allowed only 331 yards en route to the victory.

3. Pinkel erupts: Missouri coach Gary Pinkel had the fieriest in-game reaction when he verbally berated a Missouri fan who was expressing his displeasure at Chase Daniel as the Tigers left the field after struggling in the first-half against Northwestern in the Valero Alamo Bowl. The coach's response helped stoke the Tigers' overtime victory, which came despite a off-night by Daniel. After the game, it was revealed that Daniel sprained a ligament at the base of his right thumb the previous game against Oklahoma and had gamely played through the injury.

4. OSU can't overcome loss of Bryant: The most significant game-changing injury occurred when Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant sustained a knee injury against Oregon in the Cowboys' 42-31 Holiday Bowl loss. Oregon's leaky secondary didn't have an answer early as Bryant ripped them for seven first-quarter catches as the Cowboys jumped to an early lead. But after Bryant's injury, things certainly got easier for Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. No Big 12 team was as dependent on a single receiver as the Cowboys were on Bryant. And his loss enabled the Ducks to zero in and eventually tee off on OSU quarterback Zac Robinson, who could no longer utilize Bryant on the quick routes that were blistering the Ducks earlier in the game. Robinson was the victim of several huge hits, sustaining a separated shoulder as the game continued. And it might not have happened if Bryant hadn't gotten injured in the first place.

5. Yes, Suh: Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh provided the Big 12's best individual defensive game, helping stake the Cornhuskers' victory over Clemson with dominant inside play. Suh accounted for eight tackles, including 3.5 for losses and two sacks. For good measure, he provided a blocked field goal and a quarterback hurry and even played a little offense as a short-yardage blocking back. Suh is poised for an All-American season as a senior after his national coming-out party in the bowl game.

6. Maclin saves the Tigers: Jeremy Maclin's 75-yard punt return was not only the longest scoring play in a Big 12 bowl game, but also one of the most significant. Northwestern inexplicably kicked to Maclin despite dominating most of the first half while nursing a 10-3 lead in the Alamo Bowl. The Tigers had been limited to two interceptions and two punts in their first five drives to that point, gaining only 136 yards to that point of the game. But with 1:00 left in the first half, Maclin's TD return resuscitated his team after struggling early. Missouri overcame a sputtering offense for a 30-23 victory capped by Maclin's 7-yard touchdown grab from Chase Daniel in overtime. But his return earlier in the game was an even bigger play.

7. Colt does it again: The Big 12's most dramatic comeback came from Colt McCoy of Texas, directing the Longhorns' late victory over Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. McCoy's 26-yard touchdown pass to Quan Cosby was a fitting conclusion to the former minor-league baseball player's career and capped a career-best 414-yard passing game for McCoy as well. But Cosby's late heroics on his touchdown grab never would have happened without the crucial fourth-down catch by sophomore James Kirkendoll two plays before.

8. Oklahoma's red-zone blues: The most surprising in-game trend in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game was the way that Oklahoma struggled in the red zone against Florida. Coming into the game, the Sooners were the one of the nation's most proficient teams inside opponents' 20-yard line, scoring on 76 of 80 drives with 69 touchdowns. But two huge stops inside the Florida 6 in the first half helped turn around momentum in the Gators' 24-14 victory. The Sooners never could recover from their self-inflicted mistakes, paving the way for their fifth-straight BCS bowl loss.

9. Tech's Cotton Bowl nightmare: The Big 12's worst collapse came from Texas Tech, which was unable to maintain its early success against Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl. The Red Raiders jumped to an early 14-point lead against the Rebels, but couldn't sustain that momentum as Jevan Snead's passing and a sure-tackling Mississippi defense gradually took control in Mississippi's 47-34 victory. It was a masterful in-game performance by Mississippi coach Houston Nutt, who thoroughly outcoached Mike Leach.

10. Harrell's ill-advised QB sneak: The worst single decision in a Big 12 bowl game came with Texas Tech's fourth-and-4 quarterback sneak by Graham Harrell early in the third quarter. Trailing 31-21, the Red Raiders had snatched momentum away from the Rebels after a missed field goal. But on fourth down, Harrell inexplicably tried a quarterback sneak that fell more than a yard short of the first down. Brandon Bolden scored on a 17-y
ard run for Mississippi three plays later and Tech would come no closer than 10 points during the rest of the game.

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