Reviews: Birmingham, Belk, Music City, Holiday

Bowl Games of Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Birmingham Bowl
Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama
Auburn 31,  Memphis 10
* Auburn scored on its first two possessions for a 10-0 lead.  But starting quarterback Sean White threw two interceptions, the second of which was returned 53 yards by Reggis Ball for a touchdown that tied the game 10-10 just before halftime.
* Jake Elliott had earlier kicked a 53-yard field goal for Memphis, which could not muster an offensive touchdown the whole game.  Quarterback Paxton Lynch and the prolific Memphis offense was held to 205 total yards by a team playing without a defensive coordinator.  Lynch was 16 of 37 (43% for a guy who completed almost 70% during the regular season) for 108 yards.
* Auburn coach Gus Malzahn:  “That was great overall defense.  We really wanted to put pressure on the quarterback.  We harassed him a lot.  Our secondary just really locked down the receivers, didn’t give them much room.”
* The game’s MVP was Jovon Robinson, who, ironically, is from Memphis.  He ran for 126 yards on 27 carries and scored once.  Marcus Davis had punt returns of 28 and 56 yards; Auburn scored touchdowns after both.
*  Jeremy Johnson had an immediate impact on the proceedings when he subbed in for White in the second half.   Johnson led Auburn to three touchdowns in a five-minute stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters.  His first play:  An 11-yard touchdown pass to Jason Smith.  Second play:  A 17-yard run.  Third play:  A 5-yard run for a touchdown.
* Robinson’s 4-yard run made it 31-10 in early in the final stanza.
* Auburn finished 7-6 as Malzahn avoided the first losing season in his 11-year college coaching career.  Memphis wound up 9-4 after an 8-0 start.
* After the game Ball stole an Auburn game ball, flipped people off, and was subsequently kicked off the team.

Belk Bowl
Charlotte, North Carolina
Mississippi State 51,  North Carolina State 28
* In the rain and mud Dak Prescott shined.
* The Mississippi State quarterback threw for a Belk Bowl-record 380 yards and four touchdowns.  He completed 27 of 42 passes while also rushing for 47 yards.  Prescott becomes one of only four players ever to throw for 9,000 yards and run for 2,500 yards in an FBS career.  Prescott and Florida’s Tim Tebow are the only ones to do so at a Power Five school.
* Brandon Holloway was on the receiving end of two of Prescott’s TD passes in the second half when the Bulldogs turned a 31-21 game into a rout.

Music City Bowl
Nashville, Tennessee
Louisville 27,  Texas A&M 21
* True freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson passed for 227 yards and ran for 226.  The only other FBS quarterbacks to have 200+ yards through the air and on the ground were Vince Young of Texas and Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.
* Jackson threw for two scores and ran for two more.
* His rushing yardage is a Music City Bowl record, as is his 453 total yards.
* Linebacker Devonte Fields had three of Louisville’s five sacks.
* Texas A&M never led but closed to 27-21 with 4:54 left on Jake Hubenak’s 29-yard pass to Christian Kirk.  Louisville went three-and-out, giving the Aggies a chance.
* Hubenak, the third-stringer pressed into duty after the two guys ahead of him transferred out following the regular season, led Texas A&M from its own 21 to the Louisville 24.  On 2nd and 8, Hubenak’s pass to Kirk was ruled a catch at the 6-yard line.  However, replay showed Kirk hadn’t maintained possession and the call was overturned.  Hubenak’s next pass was batted down and he threw incomplete into the end zone on 4th down.  More than a minute and a half remained, but Louisville picked up a first down to run out the clock.

Holiday Bowl
San Diego, California
#23 Wisconsin 23,  Southern California 21
* The Badgers appeared to be the better team.  They outgained U.S.C. 394 to 286 and possessed the ball for more than 37 minutes.  First downs:  21-16, Wisconsin.
* None of this, of course, would mean a Holiday Bowl game would not be exciting at the end.
* The Trojans were down 20-7 but came back to grab their first and only lead of the night on Cody Kessler’s 7-yard pass to Darreus Rogers with 10:19 to play.
* Tanner McEvoy broke a long run that would’ve put Wisconsin back on top except that he was incorrectly ruled to have stepped out of bounds; the whistle blew and the play could not be reviewed.  Wisconsin punted.
* U.S.C. could not get a first down and was forced to punt from deep in its own end.  Wisconsin got the ball back on its own 47 and drove into the red zone.  Rafael Gaglianone’s third field goal of the game, this one from 29 yards, put the Badgers back in front at the 2:27 mark.
* The Trojans would get two more possessions.  The first ended when Kessler’s arm was hit by Jack Sichy, who had earlier sacked Kessler on three straight plays , and the pass  was intercepted by Sojourn Shelton.  The second reached midfield before U.S.C. ran out of downs (four straight incompletions) and time (:03 remained when the Badgers took over).

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