Snaps from the Jan. 2 slate’s non-BCS bowls, of which the Big Ten managed to win just one of four…
• No. 12 Michigan State 33, No. 18 Georgia 30 (3OT): Hail, Sparty the redeemer! At the end of a very long afternoon for the Increasingly Inaccurately Named Big Ten, following three dissimilar but equally dispiriting losses by conference squads (more on those down below), MSU pulled one out for the honor of Jim Delany and middle America.
The game began in most ignominious fashion, with the Spartans’ first drive culminating in a safety by all-everything Dawg Brandon Boykin, and two spectacular field-enveloping plays (an 80-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to Tavarres King and a 92-yard punt return by Boykin) giving Georgia a 16-0 halftime lead. Le’Veon Bell made up most of that ground for the Spartans in the second half with two short-yardage touchdown runs, and by the end of his second scoring effort, the game was tied 27-27 with 14 seconds to play in regulation.
Which is about where the trouble started, although Dawgs fans fed up with conservative playcalling on offense might have a good argument that Georgia’s last drive of the fourth quarter sealed its fate. Here, as predicted in this week’s Bowl Breakdown, special teams came into the spotlight in a big, bad way. UGA kicker Blair Walsh, a Groza finalist in 2010 but not himself in 2011, missed a 42-yard field goal attempt (on third down, no less) in the first overtime period, after Bacarri Rambo’s interception of Kirk Cousins snatched away State’s chance to strike first. Walsh connected on a 47-yarder in the second period, as did MSU’s Dan Conroy. Walsh’s final attempt, to match Conroy’s third-period three-pointer, was blocked.
Those of you who enjoy the exploits of very large players will be pleased to note that Fat Guy Footballers acquitted themselves beautifully today. John Jenkins, whom I heard referred to in the press box this season as a “baked potato in silver britches,” ended up cradling a Cousins interception tipped to him by Alec Ogletree, and Jerel Worthy performed this memorable caper. [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 20 Houston 30, No. 24 Penn State 14: Not as close as it looked, even with the (barely) two-possession final score. Case Keenum wound up his historically prolific college career with a 532-yard, three-touchdown hailstorm against what had been, statistically, the 10th-ranked defense in 2011 FBS play. The Nittany Lions had few answers for Keenum, and none of them good ones.
But they had no answers at all for Patrick Edwards, who finished with 228 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 receptions. Trailing Edwards was Justin Johnson, who recorded a mere 148 yards and a score on 12 receptions. All this after the loss of third musketeer Tyron Carrier, who went down in the second quarter with what appeared to be a injury and did not return. Tom Bradley, in his postgame interview, got right to the root of the problem: ”Well, they put 17 points up right away.” [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 10 South Carolina 30, No. 21 Nebraska 13: Rather than giving up straight away and failing to get within 10 points after the game’s first six minutes, Nebraska bettered PSU’s performance by playing valiant football for a half or so. It would not save the Huskers: South Carolina’s defense bore down and shut out the Huskers for the entire second half, turning a 13-9 deficit into an entirely respectable 30-13 victory. Fans of two-point scoring methods take note: It would’ve been a 13-7 hole but for Stephon Gilmore returning the blocked extra point attempt from Nebraska’s first touchdown attempt.
Alshon Jeffery, too quiet for too much of this season, blasted away his 2011 personal-bests with a 148-yard performance that might well have turned into 200 had he not been ejected for scuffling after a play with Nebraska’s Alfonzo Dennard. Now, I’m not at the game, but from here it didn’t look like much of a fight, particularly on Jeffery’s part. Media actually in attendance appear to agree — they named Jeffery MVP. [RECAP | BOX]
• Florida 24, Ohio State 17: Lesson absorbed: Florida can pretty much beat Ohio State no matter how much the Gators are trying to beat themselves, and lordamercy, was this Florida team trying.* Special teams scoring saved the Gators’ bacon, in the form of a 99-yard Andre DeBose kick return and 14-yard Graham Stewart blocked punt return. [RECAP | BOX]
*UF>OSU postulate not valid in event of some crazypants act of a malicious trickster god, like Urban Meyer magically taking over Ohio State and returning them to glory – what do you mean that’s actually happening??