NCF Nation: EagleBank Bowl
Sounds great, eh? Sure, the Bruins' line has struggled in recent years, but those struggling young guys now will become salty veterans. And there will be depth.
Insert sigh from UCLA fans, players and coaches here. Things have certainly changed since the Bruins won the EagleBank Bowl.
The Bruins lost another lineman -- perhaps their best one -- early in Saturday's scrimmage when center Kia Maiava went down with a fractured left ankle. The junior almost certainly is done for the season.
The hit list on the line in addition to Maiava goes like this:
- Talented tackle Xavier Su'a-filo opted to go on a two-year Mormon mission after starting as a true freshman.
- The leading candidate to replace Su'a-filo, Nik Abele, was forced to retire because of neck problems.
- Right tackle Mike Harris is suspended for the opener at Kansas State because of a violation of team rules.
- Left guard Jeff Baca has been ruled academically ineligible, pending an appeal with the NCAA, and even if he wins his appeal he's nursing a stress fracture in his right leg.
- Right guard Eddie Williams has missed practices due to a concussion, though he should be ready to play by the season opener.
Barring any more issues, the starting line probably will look like this at Kansas State on Sept. 4: Sean Sheller and Micah Kia at the tackles, Williams and Darius Savage at the guards and Ryan Taylor at center.
Understand: That's not a woeful lineup. Sheller, who's battled injuries and position changes, is the only one with no starting experience. Taylor replaced Maiava in the EagleBank Bowl last year, and Kia started 15 games before missing 2009 with a knee injury. And Harris will return after the opener.
Still, there isn't too much remaining margin for error if anyone else -- knock on wood -- pulls up lame.
You can see all the bowl game ratings here.
The Pac-10 finished fourth among BCS conferences in average bowl TV ratings, behind the Big Ten, SEC and Big 12. The Big Ten and SEC had two teams in BCS bowl games.
The Rose Bowl's TV ratings went up 13 percent. The Emerald Bowl, which featured USC and Boston College, was up 15 percent and ranked third among non-BCS bowls.
The Las Vegas Bowl and EagleBank Bowl matched last year's rating.
The Holiday Bowl, a 33-0 Nebraska blowout of Arizona, was down five percent. The Poinsettia Bowl between California and Utah was down 25 percent, but that's due to last year's game featuring unbeaten Boise State and 11-2 TCU.
The Pac-10's bowl roster also will get a boost from the inclusion of the Alamo Bowl next year. The Alamo Bowl was the second-highest rated non-BCS Bowl.
1. Oregon: A disappointing Rose Bowl loss doesn't ruin a great first season for coach Chip Kelly. And it's hard not to look ahead to an extremely promising 2010.
2. Oregon State: Making distinctions from here until No. 9 is difficult, but the Beavers finish No. 2 because, despite a bad loss to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl, they played for the Rose Bowl in their regular- season finale. And the returning cast should inspire optimism for 2010.
3. USC: Team turmoil! Still, the Trojans won their bowl game -- the conference's only bowl victory over a BCS foe -- and that means they finished with the second-most wins in the conference (nine).
4. Stanford: Sure, the Cardinal lost the Sun Bowl to Oklahoma, but it was a competitive game and the Cardinal were playing without their starting quarterback, Andrew Luck.
5. Arizona: The Wildcats fall in here and they know exactly why. Three words: Holiday Bowl disaster.
6. UCLA: While beating Temple isn't the sort of thing to lead a résumé with, a bowl win means the Bruins are one of just three conference teams to head into the offseason coming off a victory.
7. Washington: The Huskies finished the season with a two-game winning streak, beating Washington State and California, and a home run: Quarterback Jake Locker is returning for his senior season.
8. California: When California won five of six after getting whipped by Oregon and USC, it looked like the Bears had righted the ship. Nope.
9. Arizona State: The pressure is on coach Dennis Erickson to get the Sun Devils back to a bowl game in 2010.
10. Washington State: After another terrible season, the big question for the Cougars is what are optimistic yet reasonable expectations for 2010? Ninth in the conference?
1. A 5-0 bowl season is more fun than a 2-5 one: Last year, the Pac-10 rolled through the bowl season 5-0. Pac-10 fans crowed, while Pac-10 critics said bowl games don't prove anything. This year, the Pac-10 went 2-5 in the bowl season. Pac-10 fans said bowl games don't prove anything, while Pac-10 critics crowed. Who's right? Both. Bowl games in large part operate as a separate season, and issues such as motivation and focus are telling. But bowl games are also football games. And if you lose, you lost. Shut up and stop making excuses. That said, I picked BYU to beat Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl, foreseeing a Civil War hangover. If they played on Saturday, I'd pick the Beavers.
2. It's fair to question Pac-10 defenses: As I wrote here, only USC beat its defensive season averages in yards and points allowed in its bowl game. UCLA eclipsed its season average in yards allowed and matched its points number (21). It's legitimate to raise questions about the performances of Pac-10 defenses, just as it was legitimate to point out the regular-season numbers, which went a different direction. Still, for the Pac-10 to genuinely enter the argument as the nation's best conference, it must get better on defense. Or, at least, it can't opt to take the bowl season off.
3. Oregon isn't ready to take over the Pac-10 -- and the nation -- just yet: The Ducks will be the Pac-10 favorites next year. They also could become national title contenders. But they need to get more physical on both lines and they need to refine their passing game to take the next step. The Ducks' offensive line was young. It will be better -- and more physical -- next fall. The defensive line is less certain. There's plenty of hope for the passing game, with the return of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and a host of talented receivers. Still, potential is just a word. Got to make it happen on the field over a 13-game schedule, which, of course, includes the bowl game.
4. We still don't know what USC will be like in 2010: Beating Boston College 24-13 in the Emerald Bowl shouldn't make USC fans think that the Trojans' ship has been righted. The game showed many of the same issues that the Trojans had all season -- inconsistency from quarterback Matt Barkley, the offensive line and the defense. And it also provided glimpses of Barkley's and the defense's upside. But when you combine the regular season, bowl game and the departure of Pete Carroll and a number of key players, 2010 feels like a great mystery.
5. The bowl flops may help the 2010 effort: For weeks preceding the bowl season, national pundits were touting the Pac-10 as the nation's best conference. Then: Splat. Maybe the talk went to a few teams' heads? The conference has rightfully taken some tweaks since going 2-5. But a quick review of what's coming back next fall suggest the Pac-10 should be even deeper and better top to bottom in 2010. With another rugged slate of nonconference games ahead, the conference should be plenty motivated to put the bowl implosion behind it with some marquee victories over other BCS conferences.
You may notice a lot of USC and UCLA players. You might remember that the LA schools posted the conference's only two wins.
QB Matt Barkley, USC: Barkley completed 27 of 37 throws for 350 yards with two touchdowns against Boston College in the Emerald Bowl. He also had two interceptions.
RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford: Against an Oklahoma defense ganging up on him, he rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in a Sun Bowl loss.
RB Stanley Havili, USC: He only rushed for 2 yards, but he also he caught six passes for 83 yards with two touchdowns.
WR Damian Williams, USC: He caught 12 passes for a season-high 189 yards.
WR Damola Adeniji, Oregon State: He caught seven passes for 102 yards and a touchdown in the Beavers' Las Vegas Bowl loss to BYU.
TE Anthony Miller, California: He led Cal with five receptions for 55 yards in the Poinsettia Bowl loss to Utah.
OL Chris Marinelli, Stanford: The offense was without its starting quarterback, but Gerhart gained 133 yards and the Sooners only had one sack.
OL Mike Tepper, California: Cal's pass protection wasn't great against Utah, but running back Shane Vereen finished with 122 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
OL Charles Brown, USC: The Trojans didn't run terribly well vs. Boston College, but they only yielded one sack and gave Barkley plenty of time to throw.
OL Jake Dean, UCLA: He was thrust into the starting lineup after starting center after Kai Maiava was ruled academically ineligible, and the Bruins yielded only one sack vs. Temple.
OL Chase Beeler, Stanford: See Marinelli.
K Kai Forbath, UCLA: He kicked field goals of 40 and 42 yards.
DE Kenny Rowe, Oregon: He set a Rose Bowl and Oregon bowl record with three sacks in a losing effort against Ohio State.
DT Jurrell Casey, USC: Casey had five tackles, a sack and a 22-yard return of a fumble.
DT Brian Price, UCLA: Price started slowly vs. Temple but he dominated the second half and finished with five tackles, with one coming for a loss.
DE Tyson Alualu, California: Alualu had five tackles, with 1.5 coming for a loss.
LB Akeem Ayers, UCLA: Ayers led the Bruins with nine tackles, two for a loss, and his leaping interception at the Temple 2-yard line, which he returned for a TD, was the play of the Pac-10 bowl season.
LB Kyle Bosworth, UCLA: He finished with seven tackles and 1.5 sacks.
LB Eddie Young, California: Young had seven tackles and returned an interception 31 yards for a TD.
CB Shareece Wright, USC: In his first game back after academic ineligibility, Wright grabbed a key interception.
CB Alterraun Verner, UCLA: Verner had seven tackles, two for a loss, and a pass breakup.
S Rahim Moore, UCLA: Moore had four tackles and an interception.
S Taylor Mays, USC: Mays had five tackles for a Trojans defense that shut down Boston College in the second half.
P David Green, Stanford: He averaged 44 yards on six punts, three of which were downed inside the Sooners' 20-yard line.
But there were some good things that shouldn't be overlooked.
Best performance, defensive player: Oregon's undersized but quick defensive end Kenny Rowe set a Rose Bowl and Oregon bowl record with three sacks in a losing effort against Ohio State. He finished the season with 11.5 sacks, which led the Pac-10.
Best performance, offensive player: In his final game in a USC uniform, receiver Damian Williams caught 12 passes for a season-high 189 yards in the Trojans' 24-13 win over Boston College in the Emerald Bowl. It's fair to say that Williams was USC's most consistent player over the entire season.
Worst performance, period: There was nothing good about Arizona's 33-0 loss to Nebraska in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Nothing. Feel free, though, to look at this box score and try to find something.
Best play: With UCLA trailing Temple 21-20 in the fourth quarter, and the Owls pinned on their 8-yard line, Bruins outside linebacker Akeem Ayers -- after falling down on his initial pass-rush burst -- leaped into the air and intercepted Vaughn Charlton's pass and gamboled 2 yards into the end zone.
Worst play: Trailing 19-17 in the Rose Bowl, Oregon faced a second-and-2 from Ohio State's 18-yard line. A huge hole opened. But running back LeGarrette Blount couldn't handle a high handoff from quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. The Buckeyes recovered the fumble and dominated the rest of the game.
Worst play, II: After BYU tied Oregon State 7-7 in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, the Beavers took over at their 40-yard line. On second down, running back Jacquizz Rodgers couldn't handle a backward pass from Sean Canfield, and Matt Bauman returned the loose ball 34 yards for a touchdown. That was the first fumble of Rodgers' career, and the Cougars dominated the game from then on.
Best performance under tough circumstances: Oklahoma knew Stanford had no passing offense without quarterback Andrew Luck. So it ganged up on running back Toby Gerhart. Nonetheless, the Heisman Trophy runner-up rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in a rugged effort in the Sun Bowl loss.
Worst pass defense: California made Utah true freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn look like an All-American in the Poinsettia Bowl. Against what was supposed to be one of the nation's best secondaries heading into the season, Wynn completed 26 of 36 passes for 338 yards with three touchdowns. He shook off an early pick-six to run the Bears ragged.
Best second-half defense: UCLA held Temple to 41 yards and zero points in the second half of the EagleBank Bowl.
Worst performance you didn't see coming: Canfield, Oregon State's quarterback, earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors this season. He has been invited to the Senior Bowl and is going to have an NFL career. Nonetheless, he had a horrible Las Vegas Bowl and was outplayed by BYU's Max Hall, who threw three touchdown passes. Canfield completed just 19 of 40 passes for 168 yards with an interception and no touchdowns, and he seemed completely befuddled by a strong wind and the Cougars' secondary.
Best unsung performance: USC fullback Stanley Havili always seems to sneak up on folks. In the Trojans' win over Boston College, he caught six passes for 83 yards with two touchdowns, including a 53-yard jaunt on a screen pass. He also had a critical tackle after one of Matt Barkley's two interceptions.
Unless, of course, UCLA's Rick Neuheisel joins now-former USC coach Pete Carroll and opts to bolt for another job. Then there will be none.
Ah, there are many ways to slice and dice a 2-5 bowl season. None is very tasty.
Things started badly: Oregon State got thumped 44-20 by BYU in a frigid, windy MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. Then California meandered through a 37-27 defeat to Utah in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
Hey, 0-2 vs. the Mountain West.
Things appeared to reverse course with victories by the LA schools, with both USC and UCLA winning with dominant second halves. The Trojans bested Boston College 24-13 in the Emerald Bowl, while UCLA held Temple to 41 yards after halftime of a 30-21 win in the EagleBank Bowl.
But that was the end of the, er, glory.
Arizona got throttled 33-0 by Nebraska in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, an inexplicably bad performance. Stanford, playing without starting quarterback Andrew Luck, who injured a finger during the regular-season finale vs. Notre Dame, fell to Oklahoma 31-27 in the Brut Sun Bowl.
And, finally, Oregon went down 26-17 to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi, with Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor turning in the game of his life while the Ducks' offense sputtered.
It was a very bad end to what had been a good regular season.
The Pac-10, discussed much of the year as perhaps the nation's best, or at least, deepest conference, led all conferences with five teams ranked in the final BCS standings. But only two -- No. 11 Oregon and No. 22 USC -- ended up ranked in the final polls.
The bowl season also left a large crack in what had been a 21-9 record vs. the nation's toughest nonconference schedule.
Still, this was only the second time the conference had seven bowl teams (2002 was the other). The Pac-10 never previously had boasted six teams with eight or more wins, and seven teams finished with winning records.
And the conference, with eight returning starting quarterbacks, looks to be even deeper in 2010.
So perhaps these postseason woes will prelude a breakthrough next year: Two BCS bowl teams.
Pac-10 improved to 2-2 during the bowl season.
How the game was won: Not to discount an inspired effort from Temple, but the Bruins, who were down 21-7 before tacking on a field goal just before halftime, won because they turned up their intensity in the second half on both sides of the ball. Also, from the Owls perspective, the UCLA cause got a boost when Temple lost leading rusher Bernard Pierce to injury in the second quarter.
Stat of the game: 41 and zero. That's how many yards and points Temple had in the second half after they gained 241 yards and scored 21 in the first half.
Player of the game: UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince didn't have a great game. He missed open receivers a number of times and tossed an interception. But he was much better while leading the second-half comeback, completing 9 of 15 passes for 131 yards with a touchdown after the break. He also ran for a key first down in the fourth quarter while the Bruins were trying to run out the clock -- the bad news being he appeared to re-injured the shoulder he hurt in the season-finale vs. USC.
Unsung hero of the game: Despite tough conditions, UCLA kicker Kai Forbath connected on field goals of 40 and 42 yards. He's now made 37 in a row from inside 50 yards.
What it means: After going 4-8 in Rick Neuheisel's first year, the Bruins improved to 7-6 and won a bowl game in year two. While it wasn't a distinguished performance, a bowl win is a bowl win, and it sends the Bruins into the offseason on a positive note, which is encouraging for a team expected to take another step forward in 2010
WHO TO WATCH: UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince has been inconsistent this year and is coming back from a shoulder injury that he suffered against USC. If he is healthy and on-target, the Bruins should be able to attack an Owls secondary that isn't terribly skilled. And the passing threat should open up the Bruins' typically anemic running game a bit against a tough Owls run defense. In other words, Prince is the linchpin here. If he play well, UCLA should be able to score. But the Bruins won't be able to just line up and run right at Temple, which boasts a solid front-seven, particularly with a banged up offensive line.
WHAT TO WATCH: The Bruins' run defense has been hot and cold this year, ranking seventh in the Pac-10 while giving up 144 yards on the ground per game. Temple is a run-first team with a good pair of true freshmen running backs in Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown. The good news for UCLA is middle linebacker Reggie Carter, who has been slowed by a sprained knee much of the year, is healthy again. And it's unlikely that the Owls have faced many front-sevens with as much power and athleticism as UCLA, particularly junior tackle Brian Price, a potential first-round NFL draft choice if he opts (as expected) to enter the NFL draft. If Temple struggles to run, it could be in trouble because it ranks 112th in the nation in passing and the Bruins' ball-hawking secondary is among the best in the country.
WHY WATCH: It's a last chance to see -- probably -- three of the Pac-10's best defensive players in Price, Carter and cornerback Alterraun Verner. Also, the Pac-10 is looking to even its bowl record after an 0-2 start to the postseason. Further, if Price and the offense show some sparks, it bodes well for the Bruins continuing their deliberate climb in the conference pecking order in 2010, Season 3 under Rick Neuheisel.
PREDICTION: UCLA has better players, but Temple, playing in its first bowl game in 30 years, will compete as though its collective hair is on fire. So the big issue is will the Bruins match the Owls' passion? Or at least approach it? And might chilly temperatures in Washington, D.C., get the best of the Bruins, who are accustomed to the warmth of Southern California? If UCLA is focused, it should win. The guess here is that the Owls will scrap and claw into the third quarter, but the Bruins will gradually take control and win 24-17.
Went 2-1 with the early bowls -- Cal, drrrrr! -- which leaves the season record at 57-20.
EagleBank Bowl, Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. (ET) ESPN
UCLA 24, Temple 17: Though the Bruins' defense wasn't great against the run, it should have enough to slow down Temple's tough rushing attack, while the struggling offense should have enough to provide the winning margin. While the Owls, playing in their first bowl game in 30 years, figure to show up with plenty of passion, it's hard to get past their 35-17 loss to Ohio in the season finale that knocked them out of the MAC championship game.
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, Wednesday, 8 p.m. (ET) ESPN
Arizona 23, Nebraska 20: Arizona quarterback Nick Foles gets rid of the ball quickly, which will be critical against Ndamukong Suh and a tough Nebraska defense. The bigger question might be whether the Cornhuskers will be able to run the ball against the Wildcats. The Wildcats would love to force quarterback Zac Lee to beat them. Arizona looks to have a slight advantage in both areas.
Brut Sun Bowl, Thursday, 2 p.m. (ET) CBS
Oklahoma 30, Stanford 21: Even if Andrew Luck is able to play with a surgically repaired finger, he won't be 100 percent, and that means the Sooners' outstanding defense will gang up on Toby Gerhart. Moreover, the Sooners have enough speed at the offensive skill positions to exploit a middling Stanford defense that lacks overall athleticism.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
It was a great season to cover ACC football, with plenty of memorable moments, games, plays, coaches, players and issues -- some good, some not so good. Here are a few things I won't forget from 2008, in no particular order:
The jumbled, exciting race for the ACC title -- It was arguably the most competitive season in ACC football history, as the race to Tampa came down to the final weeks in November, and four teams finished with 5-3 conference records and six teams finished at 4-4.
Tommy Bowden resigns midseason -- On Oct. 13, 2008, Clemson announced that Bowden would no longer be head coach, and wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney took over the program and made immediate, sweeping changes, including the firing of offensive coordinator Rob Spence.
Miami's quarterback controversy -- It all began when starter Robert Marve was suspended for the season opener, and ended with him being suspended for the Emerald Bowl. Jacory Harris or Marve? Following Marve's transfer, there's only one choice.
Myron Rolle wins a Rhodes Scholarship -- There might not have been a more positive story in ACC football this season, as Rolle interviewed for one of the prestigious scholarships on the same day Florida State played a critical Atlantic Division game at Maryland. Rolle won the award, and flew to Maryland in time to contribute to the 37-3 win.
Virginia Tech wins the FedEx Orange Bowl -- The Hokies did the most with the least this season, as Frank Beamer did arguably the best coaching job of his career and led Virginia Tech to its fifth straight 10-win season. The 20-7 win over Cincinnati gave the ACC its first BCS bowl win since 1999.
Jeff Jagodzinski gets fired -- After only his second season and back-to-back appearances in the ACC title game, Jagodzinski decided to interview with the New York Jets, knowing it would cost him his job. A private matter of trust between Jagodzinski and athletic director Gene DeFilippo became public.
Bye-bye coordinators -- Virginia coach Al Groh fired his son, offensive coordinator Mike Groh, Miami coach Randy Shannon fired offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, Clemson coach Swinney fired offensive coordinator Spence, and both Maryland and Clemson's defensive coordinators both bolted for K-State. BC will need a new defensive coordinator now that Frank Spaziani is the new head coach.
Georgia Tech's 45-42 win over Georgia -- The Yellow Jackets earned their first win in the series since 2000, and they did it on the road and in Paul Johnson's first season. Georgia Tech broke a seven-game losing streak to the Dawgs and rushed for 409 yards in the process. It was arguably the ACC's best nonconference win of the season, though the Hokies' win over Cincinnati had a bigger impact.
The poor attendance at the ACC title game in Tampa -- Having seen it first-hand, it will be tough to forget. According to the St. Pete Times, the turnstile count for the game at Raymond James Stadium was 27,360, about half the tickets that were sold and distributed (53,927).
NCAA-record 10 bowl eligible teams -- Heading into the season, it didn't seem as if the ACC would be strong enough to have even a ninth team qualify to play in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl, but the conference became the first to send 10 teams to bowl games in a single season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The bowl season provided reasons for change from the top to the bottom in the final version of the power ranking. Remember, this is all based on 2008, not what 2009 might look like. We'll save that one for later.
Here is the final list:
|Mark Zerof/US Presswire|
|Darren Evans' 153 rushing yards helped lead Virginia Tech in its Orange Bowl win.|
1. Virginia Tech (10-4) -- The Hokies gave the ACC its first BCS bowl win since 1999 and broke the league's eight-game losing streak in those games. It was their fifth straight 10-win season under Frank Beamer, and they finished the season on a four-game winning streak.
2. Florida State (9-4) -- Their convincing 42-13 win over Wisconsin was the ACC's only other bowl win over a team from a BCS conference, and the Noles finished with more than eight wins for the first time since 2004. They never lost back-to-back games.
3. Georgia Tech (9-4) -- The Yellow Jackets are a better team than the one that showed up for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but their 38-3 loss to LSU and the other results forced them to sink a few notches. Still, they won two of their last three games, including a statement win over rival Georgia.
4. Wake Forest (8-5) -- What separates the Demon Deacons from the other 8-5 teams is how they finished the season -- with back-to-back wins. They redeemed themselves in what was virtually a home game for Navy in the EagleBank Bowl, and had one of their best offensive performances all season.
5. Maryland (8-5) -- The Terps ended the season on a positive note with their win over Nevada, and that helped ease the disappointment of losing three of their last four regular-season games. Instead of worrying about missed opportunities, they took care of the one they were given.
6. Boston College (9-5) -- Yes, they have nine wins, but the Eagles also ended the season with back-to-back losses, a struggling offense and a fired coach. Instead of concentrating on Vanderbilt -- a team both Wake Forest and Duke were able to beat during the regular season -- the Eagles were stuck on what could have been.
7. North Carolina (8-5) -- The Tar Heels lost three of their last four games, including the Meineke Car Care Bowl, but it wasn't as if UNC got blown out by West Virginia. They countered Pat White with Hakeem Nicks, but it wasn't enough as UNC couldn't get its running game going in the 31-30 loss.
8. Clemson (7-6) -- The Tigers ended the season the way it began -- floundering on offense. Clemson finished with just four rushing yards in a 26-21 loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl, but deserve credit for a 4-3 finish under Dabo Swinney.
9. NC State (6-7) -- The Wolfpack made progress in Tom O'Brien's second season by earning a bowl bid, but depended too heavily upon quarterback Russell Wilson down the stretch. With no other answer, NC State relinquished a first-half lead and Rutgers snapped the Wolfpack's four-game winning streak.
10. Miami (7-6) -- The Hurricanes collapsed at the end, ending the season with three straight losses, one less quarterback and no offensive coordinator. A good effort against Cal in the Emerald Bowl was negated by fourth-quarter mistakes.
11. Virginia (5-7) -- The Cavaliers remain status quo after being just one of two ACC teams not to play in a bowl game this season.
12. Duke (4-8) -- The Blue Devils were only two wins shy of bowl eligibility in David Cutcliffe's first season and he is already talking about the potential for 2009.
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 Heather Dinich
Now that that national championship game is over, ESPN.com is officially putting a cap on the 2008 season. We're kicking it off today with a bowl edition of helmet stickers. The ACC won four of its 10 bowl games, with Virginia Tech, Florida State, Maryland and Wake Forest earning postseason victories.
Here are the ACC's top performers during the bowls:
Virginia Tech's backups: Offensive guard Jaymes Brooks, linebacker Barquell Rivers and defensive end Nekos Brown filled in for Tech's missing starters and the Hokies didn't miss a beat. Brooks played all 78 snaps as the Hokies put up nearly 400 yards of total offense. Brown and Rivers helped limit the high-powered Cincinnati offense to just one touchdown and Rivers had a key stop on fourth-and-goal at the 1 to help seal the game.
Virginia Tech's defense: The Hokies grabbed four interceptions, held Cincinnati to 71 yards rushing and 310 yards of offense. They didn't allow any touchdowns after the first drive.
UNC wide receiver Hakeem Nicks: In what became the final game of his career, Nicks caught eight receptions for 217 yards and three touchdowns, including ESPN's No. 1 bowl play of the season -- a behind-the-back catch. It was a standout performance in a losing effort, as the Tar Heels fell, 31-30, to West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Florida State kicker Graham Gano: He averaged 48.2 yards on five punts and had three downed inside Wisconsin's 5-yard line to earn MVP honors. Gano placed three first-quarter punts inside the 4-yard line, including two at the 1.
Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder: He threw for 199 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the 42-13 romp over Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl. It was a dramatic improvement from the last 10 games of the regular season during which he threw six touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott: After being benched for 2 1/2 quarters for a curfew violation, Scott came in and ran 14 times for 174 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the Terps' 42-35 win over Nevada. His 49-yard touchdown run with 12:21 left put Maryland ahead 35-28, and Scott became the seventh back in Maryland history to top 1,000 yards.
Wake Forest offensive lineman Jeff Griffin: After starting 11 games at right tackle, Griffin moved to right guard and graded out at 94 percent (65 offensive plays, 61 plays graded positive), led the team with 18.5 knockdown blocks and didn't have one missed assignment. Wake Forest rushed for a season-high 239 yards and outrushed Navy 239-221 in the 29-19 win over Navy in the EagleBank Bowl. Griffin paved the way for Kevin Harris to rush for 136 yards, the most by a Demon Deacon this season. Wake Forest did not allow a sack.
Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner: He completed all 11 pass attempts against Navy for 166 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed seven times for 29 yards. Trailing Navy 19-14 with 12:30 to play in the game, Skinner drove the Deacons 80 yards in nine plays and finished it off with an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight Ben Wooster. Skinner was named the game's MVP.
Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers: Bowers had three tackles for loss, the most ever by a Clemson freshman in a bowl game. He finished with five total tackles and three quarterback pressures in the Tigers' 26-21 loss to Nebraska. He was named Clemson's MVP of the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl by the media attending the game.
Had Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada kept running, Navy might have had a chance.
|AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais|
|Wake Forest's Ben Wooster (85) celebrates his touchdown against Navy during the fourth quarter of the EagleBank Bowl.|
With less than two minutes remaining and Navy facing fourth-and-10, Kaheaku-Enhada scrambled from the pocket. Instead of running hard to the first-down marker, he looked to pass the ball, hesitated and was tracked down. He fumbled the ball before he reached the marker and Wake Forest ultimately scored to put the game away.
Now, I'm not blaming Navy's 29-19 loss to Wake Forest in the EagleBank Bowl on Kaheaku-Enhada. Quite the contrary. Kaheaku-Enhada helped the Midshipmen to a lead in the first half and kept them in the game late.
But there were several things that led to the loss, including Navy's inability to throw the ball on key downs and when it trailed late in the fourth quarter. Navy was 2-for-7 passing, and while that's not uncommon for the Midshipmen, they needed to have some variance in their game plan considering Wake Forest was an opponent they'd already faced and already knew what to expect. The Wake Forest defense was ready for the option and more times than not, stopped Navy behind the line of scrimmage.
Also, the Navy defense allowed Wake Forest receivers to get behind them multiple times. In the first meeting, Navy did a better job of reading Wake quarterback Riley Skinner and jumping routes. Skinner had a great game in the EagleBank Bowl and made amends for the four interceptions he threw in the first meting. He finished 11-for-11 for 166 yards and a touchdown.
But Wake Forest's offense belonged to the rushing game. After much had been made about Navy's ability to control the game on the ground, Wake running back Kevin Harris rushed for 136 yards, his best game of the year by far (previous high was 36 yards against Vanderbilt in the final game of the regular season), and the Deacons outrushed the nation's leading rushing offense 239-221.
Saturday's loss was the third consecutive bowl loss for Navy. The last two losses were by an average of two points. First-year head coach Ken Niumatalolo is now 0-2 in bowl games as the head coach of Navy.
Despite the loss, though, Navy still had a great season. The Midshipmen capped their sixth consecutive season of at least eight wins and several young players got valuable playing experience, which will serve this team well in coming seasons.