Barker Davis of The Washington Times looks at the best and worst of the postseason.
GAME: Fiesta Bowl.
Boise State’s 43-42 overtime victory over Oklahoma on New Year’s night was more fun than a month of birthdays. The teams combined to score 22 points in the final 86 seconds of regulation, each one-upping the other’s Lazarus routine before the Broncos answered Adrian Peterson’s 25-yard overtime touchdown gallop with a touchdown pass from a wide receiver and a two-point conversion straight out of Merlin’s playbook.
For sheer entertainment value, this was the best theater ever supplied by the BCS bowls, nipping Ohio State over Miami (2003 Fiesta Bowl) and Texas over Southern California (2006 Rose Bowl) on aesthetics if not importance.
ADIOS EFFORTS: Dwayne Jarrett (Southern Cal)/JaMarcus Russell (LSU).
Jarrett’s 11 receptions for 205 yards and two touchdowns in Southern Cal’s 32-18 Rose Bowl rout of Michigan all but clinched the junior receiver’s NFL decision. Of course, Keyshawn Johnson still doesn’t think Jarrett is ready. After all, not just any old Trojan can be Wayne Chrebet’s valet.
Russell, LSU’s Brobdingnagian quarterback, should also be headed to Sunday play after leading the Tigers’ 41-14 Sugar Bowl emasculation of Notre Dame. The 6-foot-6, 257-pound junior connected on 21 of 34 passes for a career-high 332 yards and two touchdowns against the golden-domed leprechauns, displaying a right arm that would leave Hans Blix, much less NFL GMs, stuttering in awe.
How good is Russell? Just ask him:
“I really do think I’m one of the best in college football. You can’t take that away from me.”
Yep, he’s ready for the NFL. He’ll fit right in.
COMEBACK: Texas Tech.
Coach Mike Leach’s crew spotted Minnesota a 31-point lead in the third quarter of the Insight Bowl before erupting down the stretch for a 44-41 overtime victory to consummate the largest comeback in Division I-A bowl history.
JOE PISARCIK IMITATION: Navy’s Reggie Campbell.
His fumbled pitch as the Midshipmen were attempting to run out the clock against a Boston College team without a timeout gave the Eagles the ball at the Navy 43-yard line with 1:43 remaining. The play led directly to a 37-yard field goal that gave BC a 25-24 victory in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
TRICKERATION: Boise State.
Broncos coach Chris Petersen called three virtually consecutive trick plays down the stretch of the Fiesta Bowl. The first, a hook-and-lateral on fourth-and-18 with time running out in regulation and Boise State trailing Oklahoma 35-28, stands as the prettiest play run this season.
On the play, quarterback Jared Zabransky hit receiver Drisan James on a deep curl route at the Sooners’ 35-yard line. James then flipped the ball in stride to receiver Jerard Rabb, who sprinted to the end zone to force OT with seven seconds left in regulation. That play doesn’t even work in cellulite, much less in reality against a Bob Stoops defense.
After Adrian Peterson and the point-after kick put the Sooners ahead 42-35 on their overtime possession, Boise State’s coach again pushed the Houdini button on fourth down from the Oklahoma 5-yard line, as receiver Vinny Perretta took a direct snap and lobbed a touchdown pass to tight end Derek Schouman.
Instead of kicking the extra point and proceeding to a second overtime, Petersen elected to go for two and uncorked one final gem: a counter to a bubble screen Boise State had run out of a trips-right formation for a two-point conversion earlier this season — a play Petersen knew Stoops and Co. had seen on film and would expect. Zabransky faked a toss to the right with his empty right hand and used his left hand to slip the ball behind his back to tailback Ian Johnson running left. The fake, combined with the modified Statue-of-Liberty handoff and a textbook seal block by the Broncos’ left end, meant Johnson had already scored, celebrated, proposed to his girlfriend and boarded the plane back to Boise before Oklahoma even figured out who had the ball.
OFF-FIELD SAGA: Alabama.
The Crimson Tide’s coaching search provided the running halftime-show joke for much of the postseason. Nick Saban, football’s version of Larry Brown, provided the punch line by accepting the post Wednesday. Stay tuned for Part II in the series, Trials of the Tide, expected to hit the airwaves around Christmas of 2009, when some other desperate institution offers the sideline mercenary $4,000,001 a season.
COMMERCIAL: Encouraging Norwegians Love Emerald Nuts.
The archer missed the target, but this Emerald Bowl ad sure didn’t. Hey, we’ve got one: Exiting Nepotists (cue Jeff Bowden celebrating in a luxury box) love Emerald Nuts.
CONFERENCE: Big East.
The league supposedly doomed to irrelevance by ACC raiding finished a surprisingly strong season with a perfect bowl campaign thus far (4-0 pending Cincinnati’s result in the International Bowl). Louisville provided the league’s BCS exclamation point by dominating ACC champion Wake Forest 24-13 in the Orange Bowl.
2007 STOCK UP
Southern Cal, Michigan, Penn State, West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia Tech.
GAME: New Mexico Bowl.
Only the lonely watched the Dec. 23 game, featuring a toxic matchup between New Mexico and San Jose State. The Spartans are rumored to have beaten the Lobos, 20-12. Quick, name a single player from either program … ever.
PERFORMANCE: Notre Dame.
The BCS probably should rethink Notre Dame’s perennial free pass after the Irish were annihilated, once again, in what was supposed to be one of the season’s marquee bowls. The 41-14 final in the Sugar Bowl doesn’t come close to doing justice to how badly the Irish were physically throttled by LSU. In the second half, the Tigers gained 330 yards to Notre Dame’s 30, recording 19 first downs to Notre Dame’s one. The Golden Domers, who have now lost a record nine straight bowls and have been on the losing end of two of the three worst bowl thrashings in the past 10 years (see also Oregon State over Notre Dame 41-9 in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl and Nebraska over Florida 62-24 in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl), should be ashamed to accept their unearned BCS lucre. By the way, Charlie Weis was more gut than guru in year two.
Providing the bowl season’s best reason to mock the Powder Puff-10, UCLA gave up 44 points to the erstwhile offensive cripples from Florida State. The Seminoles scored a grand total of 83 points in five ACC losses but dropped more than half that on the Bruins in an Emerald Bowl beatdown just three weeks removed from UCLA’s 13-9 snuffing of Southern Cal’s title-game hopes. What gives? Well, Baby Bowden wasn’t calling the plays for Daddy’s Seminoles, and the Pac-10 still is allergic to tackling.
EXIT: Brady Quinn.
The Notre Dame senior quarterback, favored by many to win the Heisman at the start of the season, was scandalously outplayed by LSU’s JaMarcus Russell. Quinn completed just 15 of 35 passes for a paltry 148 yards in his collegiate finale, tossing as many picks (two) as touchdown passes. Quinn was abysmal in all three of Notre Dame’s lopsided losses to BCS bowl teams this season — a fact that will undoubtedly give NFL GMs considerable pause come draft day.
HALFTIME SHOW: Orange Bowl.
The only thing less entertaining than watching a no-talent Joe attempt a 35-yard field goal for $1 million is being assaulted with some gyrating, no-talent refugee from American Idiot desperately trying to stretch Warhol’s 15 minutes into 15 months.
CONFERENCE: Big Ten.
The men of the Midwest are 2-4 heading into the BCS title game, posting the worst bowl winning percentage among the nation’s six major conferences. That’s not particularly comforting news for top-ranked Ohio State, as the Buckeyes prepare to face SEC champion Florida. The SEC (5-3) is the only league outside of the Big East that boasts a winning bowl record.
2007 STOCK DOWN
Ohio State, Louisville, Notre Dame and Wake Forest.