NCF Nation: Ohio Bobcats

A closer look at East Carolina’s win over Ohio on Monday in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Fla., which snapped a four-game postseason losing streak for the program.

It was over when: In a back-and-forth battle, the Pirates were able to make the plays that mattered most down the stretch and iced the game with an interception by Damon Magazu as the clock ticked under 7 minutes in the fourth quarter. The ensuing drive didn’t produce any points for East Carolina, but coming on the heels of a touchdown on a trick play, the turnover kept the momentum squarely in its favor down the stretch and killed off a bit of time to give coach Ruffin McNeill his first bowl victory.

Game ball goes to: The Pirates racked up yardage through the air and wound up with a pair of passing touchdowns, but they clearly weren’t playing quite up to their high standards and even looked a bit shaky at times. But the rushing attack more than made up for it as Vintavious Cooper had his way with the Bobcats, using some shifty moves and incredible vision to set a career high with 198 yards and two touchdowns.

Stat of the game: A couple of fourth-down conversions in the red zone came up short, but that was about the only black mark for the Pirates as they moved the ball with relative ease and dominated time of possession. In all, East Carolina put up 568 yards of offense and held the football for more than 33 minutes in what ended up being a comfortable victory.

Best call: The passing game wasn’t quite as sharp as usual, but the Pirates jump-started it down the stretch by flipping the script and throwing it to Shane Carden. A double-pass from Cam Worthy to the junior quarterback midway through the fourth quarter helped seal the deal. Carden came down with the 14-yard toss with two Ohio defensive backs around him -- and then celebrated by pretending he couldn’t shake the football free from his grip.

What it means: The Pirates showed signs of progress a year ago in McNeill’s third season with eight wins, but ending a four-bowl losing streak for the program and clinching a 10-win campaign made it obvious his team is trending in the right direction as it prepares for a move to the American Athletic Conference.

To watch the trophy presentation of the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg, click here.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl preview

December, 23, 2013
A glance at the lone game on Monday’s schedule, a clash between Ohio (7-5) and East Carolina (9-3) in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl (TV: ESPN, 2 p.m. ET).

Who to watch: Shane Carden might have been working well outside of the spotlight compared to the rest of the nation’s most prolific quarterbacks, but he has earned the right to be in that conversation with another eye-popping statistical season leading the attack for the Pirates. The junior ranks sixth in the country in passing yardage with 3,866 in the regular season, two spots ahead of a pair of guys with Heisman Trophies on their mantles in Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel. While Carden gets nowhere near the acclaim, he has steadily picked apart defenses all season, throwing for more than 300 yards in seven games thanks in part to a productive partnership with junior wide receiver Justin Hardy that generated 105 receptions, more than 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns.

What to watch: With almost no bowl history to speak of until 2007, coach Frank Solich has turned the Bobcats into a fixture of the postseason recently, hitting the road around the holidays for five straight seasons -- and playing some pretty entertaining affairs along the way. Ohio won a thriller two years ago over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and backed that up with a blowout win over Louisiana-Monroe in the Independence Bowl. The Bobcats will need a defense that has had its ups and downs to play like the unit that allowed a total of three points in consecutive outings in September and not the one that was gouged for 49 and 44 points in losses to Bowling Green and Kent State.

Why to watch: For starters, the Bobcats and Pirates have the stage all to themselves, and with only one bowl on the docket, they offer the only college football fix of the day. But beyond that, East Carolina has an offense built to put up fireworks and provide some entertainment. And under Solich, the Bobcats have rarely backed down from a challenge and have proved to be a motivated bunch in bowl games recently.

Prediction: East Carolina 41, Ohio 27

East Carolina Pirates (9-3) vs. Ohio Bobcats (7-5)

Dec. 23, 2 p.m. ET, St. Petersburg, Fla. (ESPN)

[+] EnlargeShane Carden
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeShane Carden pulls the trigger for one of the nation's highest-scoring offenses.
For the seventh time in the past eight years, the Pirates are headed to a bowl game.

It wasn't too tough for East Carolina to reel off nine wins with an offense that ranked second in the conference, averaging 459.8 yards per game. The Pirates also scored 40.4 points per game and reached 30-plus points in nine games.

All year, the Pirates offense moved behind the arm of quarterback Shane Carden, who led the conference with 3,866 yards and was second in the league with 32 touchdowns. Carden eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark seven times and tossed three or more touchdowns seven times as well.

Helping Carden this season has been running back Vintavious Cooper, who has rushed for 995 yards and 12 touchdowns.
-- Edward Aschoff


[+] EnlargeTyler Tettleton
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesTyler Tettleton has thrown for 20 touchdowns this season.
Ohio is headed to a bowl game for the sixth time in nine years under coach Frank Solich and for the fifth straight season. It won the first bowl game in school history in 2011 over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and followed with an Independence Bowl victory last year over Louisiana-Monroe.

Record-setting quarterback Tyler Tettleton, a third-year starter, struggled through November before leading Ohio to a season-ending victory over Massachusetts.

The Bobcats, after opening with a loss to Louisville, reeled off six wins in seven games, including a 34-31 thriller over Marshall on Sept. 14.

Solich's squad is well rounded, ranking third in the 13-team Mid-American Conference in total defense and sixth in total offense.

Running back Beau Blankenship and top receiving target Donte Foster, a second-team All-MAC pick, help carry the load offensively. Cornerbacks Devin Bass and Travis Carrie are strong in coverage and provide a threat in the return game. -- Mitch Sherman

Instant analysis: Ohio 45, La.-Monroe 14

December, 28, 2012

Ohio University bounced back from a three-game losing streak to end the regular season and romped past Louisiana-Monroe for a 45-14 victory in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl on Friday in Shreveport, La.

Here’s a quick recap:

It was over when: Ohio got the ball to open the second half and drove 75 yards in seven plays to take a 31-7 lead on Beau Blankenship's 2-yard touchdown run.

Turning point: Louisiana-Monroe, instead of trying a field goal at the end of the first half, went for it on fourth down from the Ohio 10-yard line, and Kolton Browning's pass toward the back of the end zone sailed over the head of Rashon Ceaser as the second quarter ended. The Warhawks had a first-and-goal at the Ohio 1 with 21 seconds remaining in the first half, but Browning was sacked for a 10-yard loss by Tremayne Scott.

Game ball goes to: Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton hit his first six passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns to ignite the Bobcats' rout. He finished 13-of-21 for 332 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Stat of the game: Browning, who threw seven interceptions all season, was picked off three times in the first half Friday.

Unsung hero: Scott, who missed the last nine games of the regular season with a foot injury, returned in a big way and made two huge plays in the first half to help trigger the Ohio rout.

What it means: After a disappointing close to the regular season, Ohio put together one of its most complete performances of the season to win its second straight bowl game. The Bobcats finished with nine wins and have won 19 games over the past two seasons. Meanwhile, Louisiana-Monroe’s first bowl appearance since becoming an FBS program in 1994 was anything but memorable. The Warhawks turned the ball over three times in the first half and were never in the game.

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl keys

December, 28, 2012
Breaking down today’s AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl matchup between Ohio and Louisiana-Monroe:

1. Healthy Tettleton: Ohio junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton was slowed by a rib injury that played a role in the Bobcats losing four of their final five games. He’s thrown 16 touchdown passes and only three interceptions and is much healthier now that he's had time to recover. Ohio will use Tettleton on designed running plays. And now that he’s back to full strength, he becomes even more difficult to defend because he won’t be as tempted to try to force things in the passing game.

2. Beating man coverage: Louisiana-Monroe isn’t afraid to play man coverage and leave their cornerbacks one-on-one on the perimeter. The Warhawks have intercepted 15 passes, led by Isaiah Newsome's four picks. They will stack the line of scrimmage and come after Tettleton. Pass protection will be critical for Ohio, not to mention making some big plays down the field when the Warhawks bring the pressure. The Bobcats need to set the tone early in their offensive line.

3. Getting defensive: Ohio was decimated by injuries on defense this season, particularly in its front seven. Some of those defenders are scheduled to return for the bowl game, but it remains to be seen how rusty they might be. Against an offense like Louisiana-Monroe’s that’s continually attacking, the Bobcats could help their cause by forcing some turnovers and not allowing the Warhawks to get into a rhythm early.

Pregame: AdvoCare Independence Bowl

December, 28, 2012
Ohio (8-4, 4-4 MAC) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt)

WHO TO WATCH: Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Kolton Browning. Even though he missed nearly two whole games with a foot injury, Browning passed for 2,830 yards and 27 touchdowns and is also the Warhawks’ leading rusher with 441 yards and seven more touchdowns on the ground. He’s always a threat to take off and run, but is equally effective at scrambling around, buying time and finding open receivers down the field. He's one of the more underrated players in the country.

WHAT TO WATCH: Louisiana-Monroe, making its first postseason appearance since the I-AA playoffs in 1993, is one of the most entertaining teams in college football to watch on offense. The Warhawks spread teams out and chuck the ball all over the field. But they’ve been vulnerable on defense, ranking 71st nationally in total defense and giving up an average of 407.3 yards per game. Ohio possesses the kind of balance on offense that could give Louisiana-Monroe fits. The Bobcats are rushing for more than 200 yards per game (202) and passing for more than 200 yards per game (233.5), and the Warhawks gave up 40 or more points in both of their November losses.

WHY TO WATCH: Both Louisiana-Monroe and Ohio made waves early this season. The Warhawks upset then-No. 8 Arkansas 34-31 in overtime to open the season and then lost close games the next two weeks at Auburn and Baylor. Ohio started out 7-0, including a win at Penn State, and climbed to No. 23 in the polls before losing four of its final five games. Which team can close the season with the kind of momentum it had when it started?

PREDICTION: Louisiana-Monroe 35, Ohio 24. The Warhawks know how to score points. They averaged 35.5 points per game and scored 31 or more points in eight of their 12 games this season. The Bobcats are a good enough running team to keep this one close, but won’t be able to match the Warhawks touchdown for touchdown.

3-point stance: Fiesta familiarity

December, 14, 2012
1. The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl is a marquee game because No. 4 Oregon and No. 5 Kansas State make for the only top-10 matchup outside of the Discover BCS National Championship. But the Fiesta will be fun to watch because the Ducks and the Wildcats are similar. They wait for the other team to crack and then they pounce. Oregon does it with a fast tempo. Kansas State leads the nation in punt returns, kickoff returns and turnover margin. All three are indicative of a well-coached, well-disciplined team.

2. Ohio University began the season with the 24-14 upset at Penn State -- which was no upset -- and won its first seven games. But the Bobcats suffered 14 season-ending injuries and finished 8-4. “They were injuries that required surgery,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. His training staff tried to discern a pattern. “Practice field, game field, opponent’s field,” Solich said. “We couldn’t piece anything together that just fit. It’s just a roll of the dice and we came up short.”

3. Speaking of dice-rolling, that’s what Colorado has done. Not by hiring head coach Mike MacIntyre -- if he could resurrect San Jose State, he can resurrect Colorado -- but in committing to raise the money to build an indoor practice facility, expand the Dal Ward Athletic Center and gussy up Folsom Field. Colorado is wading in to raise up to $100 million, according to the Boulder Daily Camera, in an uncertain economy from a fan base that a) has never given at that level and b) is all about the NFL's Broncos. That’s a tough slog.

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl

December, 2, 2012
Ohio Bobcats (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (8-4)

Dec. 28, 2 p.m. ET, Shreveport, La. (ESPN)

Ohio take by Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett: Ohio must feel a little envious seeing Northern Illinois go to a BCS game. For a while, it looked the Bobcats might become the first MAC team to break through that glass ceiling. They started out 7-0, including a season-opening win at Penn State, and reached as high as No. 23 in the coaches' poll. Alas, they lost four of their final five games to end any BCS dreams. The season wasn't a total loss, though, as Ohio secured its fourth straight bowl appearance and fifth since 2007 under head coach Frank Solich. This team has experience in the postseason after notching its first-ever bowl win last year. Veteran quarterback Tyler Tettleton and 1,500-yard back Beau Blankenship give the Bobcats a solid chance at another one.

Louisiana-Monroe take by SEC blogger Chris Low: Don’t tell Louisiana-Monroe there are too many bowls. The Warhawks, on the heels of their best season in 20 years, will be making their first-ever appearance in a bowl game when they take on Ohio in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl. It’s a season that started with a bang when Louisiana-Monroe went to Little Rock and shocked No. 8 Arkansas 34-31 in overtime after clawing back from a 21-point deficit. The Warhawks nearly made it two in a row over the SEC, but lost 31-28 in overtime to Auburn the next week. Six days later, they played Baylor to a 47-42 loss. Junior quarterback Kolton Browning makes Louisiana-Monroe’s spread attack go and has had a terrific season. He’s passed for 2,830 yards and 27 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing with 441 yards and seven touchdowns. Much of the time, the Warhawks will go with an empty backfield and Browning will be in the shotgun by himself. They scored 30 or more points in eight of their 12 games this season, but also gave up 40 or more in their two Sun Belt Conference losses to Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State.
1. Let us stipulate that assembling conference schedules for this season was done on the fly because the membership rolls changed little more than a year ago. But do we really want seven SEC teams playing FCS opponents on the third Saturday in November? Nothing tops the potential Pac-12 snafu that Kevin Gemmell pointed out on the Pac-12 blog. If Stanford upsets Oregon and UCLA beats USC on Saturday, it very easily could happen that Stanford and UCLA will play on Nov. 24 and then play again six days later for the league title.

2. Really, what else is Brian Kelly going to say? The Notre Dame coach said that if the Irish go 12-0 and don’t reach the BCS National Championship Game, they will have done everything they could do. Where I disagree with Kelly is when he said Kansas State is ranked ahead of Notre Dame because the Wildcats got to Oklahoma first. Notre Dame has three-point wins over Purdue (4-6), BYU (6-4) and, in triple overtime, Pittsburgh (4-6). When you have to find a difference between two teams, close games against mediocre teams do matter.

3. Remember when Ohio not only stood among a handful of unbeaten teams with a 7-0 record? The Bobcats now have lost three of their past four after Ball State pulled away to an easy 52-27 victory Wednesday night. The victory at Penn State in Bill O'Brien's first game as Nittany Lions head coach gave Ohio a big pedestal. But none of the Bobcats’ next six victims has a winning record. The losses to Bowling Green (7-3) and Ball State (8-3) put Ohio in its place.

Video: Miami (OH) upsets No. 24 Ohio

October, 27, 2012

Zac Dysert threw for 311 yards and a touchdown to lead Miami (OH) over No. 24 Ohio 23-20.

In Mark Schlabach's Upset Special of the Week, he picks Ohio to defeat Penn State.
Every football game triggers emotion for 18- to 22-year-old players who work year-round for a dozen guaranteed days in the spotlight.

Every season opener heightens the adrenaline after eight months of toil. Factor in what Penn State players have been through over the past eight months, and their emotional roller-coaster will reach its apex shortly after noon Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

[+] EnlargeMichael Mauti
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarLinebacker Michael Mauti expects Saturday to be very emotional for the Nittany Lions.
Among the key events since the Lions last left the game field Jan. 2 at the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas ...

  • Jan. 6: The hiring of new coach Bill O'Brien, the program's first new leader since 1966
  • Jan. 22: The death of former coach Joe Paterno
  • June: The trial and conviction of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky
  • July 11: The release of the university-commissioned Freeh report, which detailed a cover-up at the highest levels of leadership at the school
  • July 23: The NCAA leveling historically severe sanctions against the program, including a four-year postseason ban beginning this fall
  • Late July-early August: The transfers of nine players, including star running back Silas Redd

The scrutiny has been there for months, and all Penn State players have wanted to do is play football. They finally return to the game field Saturday against Ohio University in a season opener unlike any other in the history of the school -- or the sport.

"It's going to be an exciting and very emotional day," Lions senior quarterback Matthew McGloin said last week. "We've been getting pretty anxious. You can't help but think what that's going to be like coming out of the tunnel."

Added senior linebacker Michael Mauti: "It’s going to be very emotional, not only for me but for everybody in the stadium."

Even O'Brien, whose last game was Super Bowl XLVI, admitted he'll have butterflies before kickoff Saturday.

"I'd be crazy to tell you otherwise," he said. "I mean, this is my first football game as a head football coach."

The challenge for Penn State players -- and, to a lesser extent, the coaches -- on Saturday is harnessing their emotions without becoming overwhelmed or reckless. Saturday marks the Lions' first opportunity to "punch back," as O'Brien said in July.

But if the Lions take things too far, they'll be in trouble against a talented Ohio team that comes to town with little to lose.

"It's going to be our job really to handle that and to control that," Mauti said. "After all the things that have gone on this offseason, to finally get back to doing what we love to do, and that's play football on Saturday, it's going to be really exciting. ... Every football game's going to be emotional, it's going to be exciting, but at the end of the day, you've got to read your keys, get off blocks, as a defender you've got to make tackles. You've got to play football.

"So as excited as we get, that's our job to control that."

O'Brien plays a big role as well, despite the opener being his first game as a head coach. He and his staff will emphasize focus and composure throughout the week.

They'll keep players busy Friday with meetings and a walk-through where game situations and special teams will be among the emphasis points.

"These are college guys," O'Brien said, "so when they run out there for the opening kickoff or the opening play on offense or defense, they're going to be excited. We just have to make sure that they understand once the ball is snapped, now we're playing football."
video Editor's note: Ivan Maisel has the latest from Penn State as the Nittany Lions prepare for their season opener versus Ohio.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- It took nearly the entire two-hour practice for the Penn State offense to get on head coach Bill O'Brien's good side Tuesday.

Midway through the practice, O'Brien huddled up the entire team and said, "No. 1 is we got to pick this up, especially on offense. We've got to pick this practice up."

He never got to No. 2. He sent them back out on the field.

O'Brien bellowed. He yelled. He demanded. "I'm not talking about wanting to be good! I'm talking about doing something!" he said.

He made the offense repeat a practice period, and only at the end, when fifth-year starter Matt McGloin moved the starters smartly down the field, did O'Brien see what he wanted to see.

Just like that, practice ended.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Fisher
Ivan Maisel, Penn State quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher writes out playcards.
"If you want to be good," he told his team, "you have to shut up and practice, practice like you did at the end right there. You've got to string drives together. String plays together."

Tuesdays are often the ugliest day of a football week. Game plans are installed. Players are trying to transfer what they saw on video and heard in the meeting room onto the football field. On Tuesday morning, quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher printed screen grabs off video of the Ohio defense to prepare his quarterbacks.

"In the pros, you can take these pictures during the game and look at them on the sideline," Fisher said. "In colleges, you can't take a picture. I'm trying to give them a visual."

He also "wrote play cards," coachspeak for the X's-and-O's diagrams that players have studied in three-ring playbooks since the dawn of college football time. Fisher drew the offense in with a blue Sharpie, then handed it to graduate assistant Bartley Webb, who diagrammed the defensive look with a black Sharpie.

"I wish I had a dime for every card I've drawn," said Fisher, a coach for 31 years. "You keep everything. Coaches are like pack rats. We're afraid to throw away anything: playbooks, notes, game plans from 1995."

After practice, after the cold pool and the hot tub, ice pack in place, McGloin said, "All that stuff Coach Fisher does, the pictures he gives us, some tips he writes down after every practice, but just going back to the basics and watching film. That's the main thing. You've got to watch as much film as you possibly can to see what they're doing on third-and-5, what they do the most on first-and-10."

McGloin said the offense will be prepared for Saturday, Tuesday's tumult notwithstanding. Penn State will start seven seniors on defense. McGloin is one of four fifth-year seniors on offense. After them, the experience level drops pretty fast.

"He just wants to see us practicing fast," McGloin said of O'Brien, "doing the right thing, me making the right checks, running the routes right, lining up right. It's the little things that irritate him. If you throw an interception, throw a bad ball, he's not going to get mad. He's going to get mad if you make a wrong read or you don't check to this play or that play. We ended on a good note. Hopefully it will carry over to tomorrow. We're trying to do some new stuff out there."

Once upon a time, linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden said, "We used to call it Bloody Tuesday." Wednesdays are for correcting mistakes -- cleaning up the blood -- and Thursdays are for polishing. If you're still correcting mistakes on Friday, you're going to keep making make them on Saturday.
Time to put a bow on non-AQ bowl season and look at what we learned.

1. Boise State should have been in a BCS game. We already knew that going into bowl season, but Boise State's 56-24 dismantling of Arizona State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas just served as a fresh reminder that the Broncos were done an injustice. Combine that with the mistake-filled Allstate Sugar Bowl between Michigan and Virginia Tech, and you get that "woulda, shoulda, coulda" feeling all over again. Playing in the Vegas bowl game was not only unfair to the Broncos, who had to bid farewell to Kellen Moore on a weeknight in December, it was unfair to the Sun Devils. Both teams deserved a chance to play a team more on their own level. Being paired up against San Diego State would have made a much better game for Arizona State; A Michigan-Boise State matchup would have been much more appealing as well. Instead, Boise State is left with an unsatisfying end to the season.

[+] EnlargeHouston Cougars quarterback Case Keenum
Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIREHouston quarterback Case Keenum and the Cougars completely dominated in their bowl win over Penn State.
2. Houston was fired up. OK maybe that was an understatement. Houston came out with its full passing arsenal and completely obliterated Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl. It was a bigger rout than the 30-14 final score indicates, as Houston led 24-7 at halftime. Despite losing a shot to play in the BCS, and then losing head coach Kevin Sumlin, the Cougars clearly felt they had something to prove. Case Keenum threw for 532 yards and three touchdowns on a defense that was giving up an average of 162 yards through the air headed into the game. The bowl performance capped Keenum's NCAA record-breaking career, and also allowed Houston to complete the best season in school history at 13-1.

3. MWC not as dominant. Last season, the Mountain West rolled to a 4-1 bowl record and its fourth Bowl Challenge Cup. But the success was not replicated this year. The Mountain West went 2-3 in its bowl games, with two losses to the MAC (Wyoming to Temple, Air Force to Toledo) and one loss to the Sun Belt (San Diego State to Louisiana-Lafayette). If you fashion yourself as one of the top conferences in the country, you have got to win all your bowl games against non-AQ competition. Boise State and TCU once again held up their end of the bargain, but the story of this conference has been and will continue to be its lack of quality depth top to bottom. You can add in Nevada, which joins in 2012, and the Mountain West went 2-4 -- 1-4 against non-AQ competition.

4. MAC, C-USA shine. On the other end of the spectrum, bravo to the MAC and C-USA for putting together 4-1 marks during bowl season. C-USA went 2-0 against competition from the AQ conferences, with wins for Houston over Penn State, and SMU over Pitt. In the MAC, the Toledo-Air Force game was perhaps one of the best of the entire bowl season, with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun calling a fake extra point attempt to win the game instead of heading to overtime. Toledo was prepared, and the 42-41 win gave 32-year-old Rockets head coach Matt Campbell his first victory. Ohio pulled a come-from-behind stunner on Utah State to win the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl 24-23 -- the first bowl win in school history. Northern Illinois ended the season with its ninth straight win, and Temple cruised.

5. BYU ends with 10 wins. Closing Year 1 as an independent with a 24-21 win over Tulsa in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, meant the Cougars notched their fifth bowl win in the last six season and ended with 10 victories. How much fun was it to see Riley Nelson unleash the fake spike just before throwing the winning touchdown pass to Cody Hoffman? That win earned them a No. 25 ranking in the final coaches' poll, also the fifth time in the last six seasons they ended in the Top 25. BYU is one of only 11 programs nationally to be ranked in at least one of the two major polls during five of the last six seasons.

Surprise, surprise: Utah State was in a close game. The Aggies, who have been on both sides of tight contests this season, lost on a last-second touchdown Saturday to Ohio, 24-23 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho. Here's a closer look at how it happened:

Turning point: Facing a fourth-and-6 from the Utah State 14 with 45 seconds left, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton withstood the Aggies' rush and hit LaVon Brazill near the goal line with 37 seconds left to tie the game. Brazill appeared to lose the ball when landing at the 1 but fell on top of it in the end zone. One official signaled "touchdown," the play was reviewed and the head official announced that the play would stand as a touchdown. Then the officials convened again and announced that the ball had come loose, because of the ground, at the 6-inch line, setting up a first-and-goal for Ohio. Tettleton ran it in two plays later on what appeared to be a broken play, tying the game with 13 seconds left. Matt Weller's extra point put Ohio in front 24-23.

Stat of the game: Utah State's Michael Smith had his second consecutive 100-yard performance, tallying 156 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries. His 63-yard touchdown on Utah State's first drive of the second half gave the Aggies a 16-7 lead and looked to put them in control. The Aggies as a team rushed for 342 yards and averaged 6.8 yards per carry.

Player of the game: Playing through a torn meniscus and having not practiced leading up to the bowl game, Brazill caught eight passes for 108 yards, including the 13-yard grab on fourth down with less than a minute left that set up the winning score.

What it means: Ohio overcame a crushing defeat in the MAC title game to notch its first 10-win season since 1968 and its first bowl victory in six tries. Utah State, meanwhile, saw its five-game winning streak snapped and lost in its first bowl appearance in 14 years. It also missed out on its first eight-win season since 1979. Add the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to the long list of heartbreakers this season for the Aggies, who also dropped last-second contests to Auburn, Colorado State and BYU.