Tag:Bowl Grades
Posted on: December 31, 2010 5:54 pm

Bowl Grades: Meineke Car Care Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

South Florida weathered a late charge by Clemson to win, 31-26.

South Florida

Offense: From a productivity standpoint, B.J. Daniels regressed substantially this year from his brilliant freshman campaign; his passing rating was down 20 points, and he rushed for over 500 fewer yards on the season. Not surprisingly, the Bulls' scoring dropped three points a game from last year. So it was nice to see Daniels put together a solid performance today, going 19-26 for two scores and rushing for another touchdown. At one point, Daniels completed 10 straight passes on the day. The running game was generally ineffective, with the Bulls' 38 rushes netting only 90 yards, but the ground attack helped open up passing lanes for Daniels. Grade: B

Defense: There might not be another team in the country that runs as many screens as Clemson, and to USF's credit, that screen game didn't exactly take off today. USF also swallowed up the run game, allowing just 50 yards on 27 carries. Of course, giving up 26 points isn't exactly a point of pride and there's no telling what would have happened if that last onside kick had gone another two feet before being recovered, but still. Grade: B

Coaching: There wasn't anything terribly special about Skip Holtz and his gameday coaching, which is really what fans should want to see: no surprises from the sideline. In that respect he did a good job, and the aforementioned defensive successes against the run and screen passing games indicate solid preparatory work coming into the game. Holtz probably needs to get his team's onside kick return game fixed, but he's got all offseason to work on that. Grade: A


Offense: It's hard to say whether South Florida or Clemson fans were more upset to see Kyle Parker leave the game with broken ribs; Parker's a fine quarterback who'll probably have a stellar career with the Colorado Rockies. He also single-handedly made his touchdown pass happen by scrambling away from pressure and finding his running back wide open on a check-down for the score. And yet, he also threw two picks and was brutally inconsistent. So was Tajh Boyd in relief, but at least Boyd threw two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Still, Dabo Swinney needs to figure out a way to get Jamie Harper some help in the run game; he rushed for all of 34 yards today and really never got free. That can't happen in a big game. Grade: C

Defense: It's something of an oddity that Clemson gave up 31 points; the Tiger defense was fast enough to keep USF from turning the corner on the sidelines, as the Bulls tried routinely. And yet, when USF got down to it and threw the ball downfield or rushed between the tackles, it encountered little resistance. Clemson has got to tighten up on defense if it ever wants to make the leap. Grade: C-

Coaching: I was ready to praise Dabo Swinney at the half when he decided to go for it on 4th and 7 near midfield late in the half, and was rewarded with a big play and eventually a touchdown. He then kicked an extra point rather than trying to get the game to within three points at the break, which was also the right call. Those are decisions that coaches routinely screw up and Swinney got them right.

And yet, he also called two punts in the fourth quarter -- one on a 4th and 1, which, WHY?! -- and his decision to go for two on Clemson's first touchdown of the fourth quarter trying to get the Tigers to within 10 meant Clemson couldn't afford to kick a field goal for the rest of the game. Yes, Georgia would have eventually needed that conversion, but conversions should be delayed until necessary in order to keep as many scoring options on the table during a comeback. And last, kicker Richard Jackson is apparently Clemson's onside specialist, and he put up two absolutely beautiful onside kicks in the fourth quarter. And with a weapon like that on special teams, why not use him all the time? Serious question. If you can reliably recover half or even a third of your onside kicks, that is an absolute game-changer. Do something with it! Grade: C

Final Grade

Today's game was about what people should have expected coming in: a slapfight between two physically talented but inconsistent and untrustworthy teams. Nothing was particularly impressive about the game, short of Clemson's near-comeback thanks to Boyd and Jackson. In fact, I'm still bitter that Swinney doesn't use Jackson on every single kickoff. It's like playing make-it-take-it! C'mon, Clemson! Grade: B-

Posted on: December 30, 2010 10:06 pm

Bowl Grades: Armed Forces Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Army jumped out to a big first half lead and held on to stun the heavily favored SMU by the score of 16-14.


Offense: There usually isn't much pride to be taken in scoring 16 points in an entire game, and it usually adds up to a loss to boot. But even that would be an overestimation of Army's production today; one of the Black Knights' scores came on a fumble return, so the offense really only managed nine points. Further, QB Trent Steelman struggled with the SMU defense: in the second half, Army never even managed to get into field goal range until the last clinching drive. Things really could have gone south for Army today. Grade: D

Defense: Those things did not, in fact, go south for Army today because the defense was so effective in the first half. In addition to the fumble returned for a touchdown, Army also came up with two interceptions in the first half (neither of which it was able to turn into points, mind you, but that's not the defense's fault). In the second half, Army's defense seemed to be running out of gas, allowing two long touchdown drives and another drive to field goal range. That field goal was missed, but again, not necessarily on the defense. Still, three first-half takeaways put Army in charge, and that's nothing to take lightly. Grade: B-

Coaching: Here, Rich Ellerson deserves a great deal of credit; the Black Knights were much more prepared for today's game and took the fight to SMU early. Then late in the game, with the Army offense floundering and SMU desperately needing a stop, Ellerson made two brilliant third-down calls: one a play action QB sweep on 3rd and 9, and an especially gutsy play action throw to the tight end to seal the game with 1:14 left -- only Steelman's second completion of the game. The bottom line is this: Army played four quarters, and SMU didn't. Grade: A

Southern Methodist

Offense: SMU QB Kyle Padron threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns, and the Mustang offense gained over 400 yards in total. When their backs were up against the wall, the Mustangs responded well, gaining 198 yards on their three drives of the second half. But thanks to Army's time-intensive ground attack, all SMU got in that second half was three drives, so all Army needed was one stop -- which it got late. The stop itself was something of a surprise, considering how well the Mustang offense was connecting through the air and grinding on the ground, but it still happened. If only Padron hadn't given the ball away three times in the first half. Grade: B-

Defense: The SMU defense did its job, for the most part; Army's offense gathered 16 first downs but only 221 total yards, and it had just two scoring drives on the day. The Mustang defense didn't force any turnovers, though, which meant SMU was never in a short-field situation; even after forcing four punts, SMU's average starting field position was its own 24-yard line. Small nit to pick with a defense that gave up nine points, but an important note when one team outgains the other by almost 200 yards and loses by two points. Grade: B+

Coaching: It's easy to understand why the Mustangs might not have been thrilled about this bowl assignment, since they had to play it at their home stadium in front of a generally disinterested crowd. There are things football players expect out of a bowl experience, and staying home isn't one of them. That said, responsibility for getting the team ready to play ultimately falls on June Jones -- who's normally well-respected as a coach, and deservedly so -- and the flat first half the Mustangs put forth is on his shoulders. Now, whatever Jones said to his guys at the half (probably something along the lines of "GUYS YOU ARE IN A BOWL GAME") worked, as SMU outscored Army 14-0 after the break, but when Matt Smymanski 's 47-yard field goal sailed left, it was too little, too late. Why Szymanski was even kicking a 47-yard field goal in the first place is a good question, since Jones called an inside draw on 2nd and 10 -- away from what had been working very well for the SMU offense the entire day -- and the blitz pickup on 3rd and 9 was nonexistent. Those calls didn't put SMU in a position to win, and for that, June Jones must be judged harshly. Grade: D

Final Grade

Anyone who saw the 16-0 lead for Army knew it wasn't going to stay that way for long, and it didn't; SMU made this a game with plenty of time in the fourth quarter, and if it weren't for some odd play calling on the final series, SMU could have easily won. That said, the contest was pretty sloppy at times on both sides, and fans can probably be excused for tuning out before the exciting last few minutes. All that aside, this is a bowl win for Army -- its first in over two decades -- and it's this writer's opinion that success at a traditional power like Army is on the whole a net plus for the sport of college football, so this game was good to see. Grade: B+

Posted on: December 30, 2010 7:34 pm

Bowl Grades: Pinstripe Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Syracuse rides Delone Carter, Marcus Sales and some help from the refs to beat Kansas State 38-36 in first ever Pinstripe Bowl


Offense: Syracuse did not come into this game with the reputation as a strong offense, as the Orange averaged only 21.0 points a game this season.  Still, a funny thing happens when you have a running back like Delone Carter and are facing one of the worst run defenses in the country: you rack up yards like there's no tomorrow.  The Syracuse offense put up 498 yards of total offense on the day, led by Carter's 202 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns.  Ryan Nassib also found his groove after playing poorly down the stretch of the season, to throw for 240 yards and three touchdowns of his own.

All three of Nassib's touchdown passes went to Marcus Sales, who only had one touchdown during the season, and wasn't even listed on the depth chart before the year started.  Sales finished the day with 5 catches for 172 yards.  Grade: A

Defense: Much like its offense, Syracuse's defense took on an alternate personality in Yankee Stadium.  Syracuse only gave up 13.1 points a game during the season, but life is a bit different when you step out of the Big East apparently.  Still, even though Kansas State put up a lot of points, the Syracuse defense played a bit better than it looks.

First of all, holding a Kansas State offense that averaged over 200 yards on the ground per game to 120 yards and 3.3 yards a carry is nothing to be ashamed of.  No doubt the Syracuse game plan was to stuff the Wildcats ground attack and force them to air it out, which they did, but had probably been hoping they could do a better job of containing the passing game.  Grade: C

Coaching: Doug Marrone took the leash off his offense and let the kids play a bit in this one, and it worked out very well for the Orange.  From flea-flickers to reverses, to being smart enough to pound KSU into submission with Delone Carter, I can't find much in Syracuse's gameplan to complain about.  Grade: A

Kansas State 

Offense: Much like Syracuse, Kansas State didn't have a lot of trouble finding the end zone in this game.  What was surprising, however, was to see Chase Coffman have so much success throwing the ball.  I had thought that Kansas State would be better served with Collin Klein at quarterback in this game, and it turns out I was wrong.

Coffman completed 17-of-23 passes for 229 yards and a couple touchdowns.

The problem for the Wildcats was that aside from his 51-yard touchdown run in the first minute of the game, Daniel Thomas was virtually non-existent.  Yes, he finished with 3 touchdowns, but following that first run, Thomas had only 38 yards on 20 carries.  When he struggles like that, Kansas State isn't going to win a lot of games.  Grade: B

Defense: Did Kansas State play defense during this game?  I'm having some trouble remembering plays in which it did.

Seriously, Kansas State's defense wasn't anything to be proud of all season, and it wasn't on Thursday as well.  When you allow an offense that had been as lackluster as Syracuse's to pick up nearly 500 yards of offense, well, there's only one grade you deserve.  Grade: F

Coaching: Bill Snyder.  I love what you've done for Kansas State in your career, but you made some questionable decisions in this one.  While I loved the call to run the option on fourth and goal early in the fourth quarter, the fake field goal you ran later in the quarter when down five just didn't do it for me.  You know that touchdown you scored in the final minutes that the refs jobbed you on -- more on that in a bit -- and cost you a chance to send the game to overtime?  Yeah, well had you just kicked that field goal, the refs wouldn't have factored into the game and you'd have won. Grade: C

The Referees

Seriously, refs?  A personal foul in the final minutes after Adrian Hilburn scored a touchdown to bring Kansas State within two points?  Really?  Was a salute to the crowd actually enough to warrant a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call, and force Kansas State to go for two from the 18-yard line?  I hope it was for you, because I fear that what was a very good game will only be remembered for your boneheaded call at the end of it.

But, hey, at least you kept the kids from having any fun in their bowl game, right?  That's why we have these bowl games, isn't it?  As a reward for the players?

Final Grade: This game was not the crispest football game we've seen this year, but as far as the bowl games have gone, this was one of the more entertaining affairs for both the fans and viewers.  It's just unfortunate that a terrible call by the referees had such a dramatic impact on the outcome.  Still, even with that happening, I'm going to base this grade on the first 58 minutes and 46 seconds.  Grade: A-
Posted on: December 30, 2010 1:55 am

Bowl Grades: Alamo Bowl


Offense: The Cowboys weren't actually quite as dominant as the scoreboard (or their reputation) would suggest in the first half, punting four times and getting 14 of their 17 points via a 61-yard thunderbolt to Justin Blackmon and a short-field score following a muffed punt. After three quarters, they still hadn't even cracked 260 total yards, and their final total of 313 fell well below their nation-leading 537-yard average.

But with the Poke defense playing the way it was (and the Arizona offense helping OSU out the way it was), the most important thing for the Cowboy attack was simply to take advantage of its opportunities and not make mistakes, and that they did. Both red zone opportunities were converted into touchdowns, Brandon Weeden (who punctuated a pedestrian-looking stat line with several NFL-quality throws) didn't throw an interception, the Poke ballcarriers never fumbled, and Lou Groza Award finalist Dan Bailey went 3-of-3 with makes from 40, 50, and 44 yards. Combine that with the usual smattering of brilliance from Blackmon -- who finished his sophomore season with 100 yards and at least one touchdown receiving in all 12 games he played, not to mention two more highlight-reel scores in this one -- and it was more than enough to cruise past the bumbling Wildcats. GRADE: A-

The book on the Cowboy defense was that it could slow down most running games, but would really struggle against a competent passing game, and between quarterback Nick Foles and All-American receiver Juron Criner that's what Arizona appeared to have.

But that wasn't the way the game played out at all. In the secondary, the much-maligned Poke defensive backs picked off Foles three times, held him to a mediocre 5.6 yards per attempt (that still flatters his performance), and scored as many touchdowns from his passes -- thanks to a Markelle Martin pick-six -- as Arizona did. Criner grabbed nine receptions, but none for longer than 12 yards. Meanwhile, up front, Foles was sacked five times and hurried twice that many times at least. The end result was that a pass defense that appeared to be the most vulnerable part of the Cowboy team was its most vital part in San Antonio.

That's not to say the Cowboys didn't allow their fair share of yards; over a span of six drives in the second and third quarters, Arizona racked up 194 yards and crossed midfield five times. But thanks to the stiffening OSU defense, they scored fewer points on those drives (three) than the Cowboys did (six, thanks to Martin). As defensive performances go, it was just this side of dominating. GRADE: A-

Coaching: The Cowboy staff of head man Mike Gundy, now ex-offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, and defensive coordinator Bill Young have a collective reputation for aggressiveness, and they more than lived up to it Wednesday night. Holgorsen tested the 'Cat defense deep and with various misdirection plays, Young dialed up a number of successful blitzes, and Gundy's willingness to go for a 4th-and-2 near midfield up big in the fourth quarter paid off with an Arizona penalty and, eventually, the icing touchdown. The Oklahoma State staff showed by far the more aggressive coaching philosophy, and were rewarded with a far, far more aggressive performance from their team. GRADE: A-


Give the Wildcats some credit: with 369 yards and all the aforementioned forays into OSU territory, it's not like they didn't at least give themselves opportunities. But don't give them much -- or any, if you like -- since they squandered virtually all of them via a variety of mistakes. There was Foles, ruining Arizona's first threatening drive with a one-hopper to an open receiver on 4th-and-5 and throwing all three of his interceptions across midfield. There was the timidity in the running game, with the three Wildcat backs averaging just 3.5 yards on their 28 carries. There were the drops from the receivers, with even Criner joining in. There were the seven penalties, the five sacks, the four total turnovers. There was embattled kicker Alex Zendejas missing from 47 and 34 yards.

In short, there were far more shots aimed at the Wildcats' own feet than at their opponents in the Alamo Dome. When one final consolation touchdown with under five minutes to play -- on Foles' best pass of the night, a long arcing bomb to Richard Morrison -- was called back for a hold along the offensive line, you couldn't have asked for a better single-play summation of the Wildcat offense's night. That kind of sloppiness was simply never going to fly opposite a unit as explosive as Oklahoma State's. GRADE: D+

Defense: Frankly, given the quality of the opposition they were facing, you can't hang the outcome on the Arizona defense. With Weeden playing as well as he was and Blackmon being Blackmon (to say nothing of the likes of Kendall Hunter), to hold the Cowboys to 313 yards and three offensive touchdowns -- one of those coming on a turnover-aided short field -- is quite the accomplishment. A forced turnover somewhere would have been nice, but these Wildcats (active cornerback Joseph Perkins in particular) have nothing to hang their heads about. GRADE: B+

Coaching: Already down 23-7 with less than 10 minutes to play in the third quarter, Mike Stoops faced a decision: go for it on a 4th-and-5 from the Oklahoma State 30, knowing that his team would need all the points they could get given the potency of the OSU offense and the deficit his team faced, or try a 47-yard field goal with a kicker whose confidence had to have been badly shaken from the botched extra points that cost the Wildcats their rivalry game with Arizona State. That Stoops chose the "safe" route of kicking the highly-unlikely field goal (whcih badly missed, of course) tells you all you need to know about the halfhearted, play-not-to-lose, roll-over-and-get-crushed attitude Arizona approached this game with. For all his sideline bluster, Stoops didn't show the kind of actual fieriness and conviction his team needed. (And hey, that's not even mentioning leaving two timeouts on the board at the end of the first half while Stoops raged about a pass interference call.) GRADE: D

Like so many other bowls this season, the game was firmly in one team's grasp by the end of the first half and entirely out of reach by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. Yawn. Again. At least Weeden-to-Blackmon was worth a look. Grade: C-

Posted on: December 29, 2010 10:08 pm

Bowl Grades: Texas Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Ron Zook got the first bowl victory of his career as Illinois handed Baylor a 38-14 loss in Houston.


Offense: This was likely Illinois' best all-around performance of the season since it beat Penn State, as both the offense and defense performed extremely well.  We already knew that Illinois could get the job done on the ground, but Nathan Scheelhaase showed everybody why he has such a bright future on Wednesday night.  The freshman completed 18-of-23 passes for 242 yards, while contributing 53 yards and a touchdown rushing.  Of course, 55 of those yards came on one play in the closing seconds as he kept the ball on a bootleg and nobody from Baylor followed him.  Still, as good as Scheelhaase was, Mikel LeShoure was the star of the show.  LeShoure rushed for 184 yards and 3 touchdowns to set the Illinois single season marks for yards in a season and touchdowns.  The Illini just had their way with Baylor all night long, racking up 533 total yards.  Grade: A

Defense: Illinois' defense hasn't gotten as much respect as it probably deserved this season thanks to some rough games against Michigan and Minnesota, but this unit isn't nearly as mediocre as most people think.  Case in point: On Wednesday night the Illini held a Baylor team that had averaged 32.6 points per game and 478.5 yards per game to 14 points.  Corey Liuget and the defensive line were in Robert Griffin's face all night, and most importantly, got off the field on third down, allowing Baylor to convert only two of ten third downs.  Grade: A

Coaching: After last season Ron Zook decided that if he wanted to keep his job and turn the Illinois program around he was going to have to start over.  So he overhauled his coaching staff and brought on Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning to run the offense and the defense.  Well, it paid off.  Zook has the first bowl win of his career thanks to the game plans his coordinators drew up to stop Baylor, and suddenly things are looking good in Champaign again.  Grade: A


Offense: Robert Griffin is a remarkable kid. I feel the need to make this point because I'm sure a lot of college football fans don't get the chance to see Baylor play all that often, but I assure you, the Robert Griffin you saw tonight was not the Robert Griffin the Big 12 saw most of the season.  I'm not sure whether Baylor was nervous playing in its first bowl game in so long, but the Bears just didn't have it out of the gate on Wednesday night.  They showed some flashes on offense in the second half, but they were few and far between, and just not in time.  Any rhythm the team did pick up was quickly thrown off by penalties or bad decisions, and the Baylor offense that had shown up all season just never made its way to Houston.  Some of this has to be attributed to Illinois' defense, but Baylor didn't do itself any favors.  Grade: D

Defense: Was there that kid in your grade school that liked to beat up on younger, smaller kids during recess?  You know, the fifth grader with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove to the second grader?  Well, Illinois' offense was the fifth grader on Wednesday, and Baylor's defense was the second grader just lying on the ground hoping that a teacher would show up to break up the fight before he was dead.  You got the feeling that Illinois could have let Baylor know what it was going to do before every play and Baylor still couldn't have stopped it.  Grade: F

Coaching: There Baylor coaching staff isn't going to find much on the game film to be happy about when they get back to Waco.  It was just a bad night and the coaching staff deserves some of the blame for the Bears coming out so flat to start the game.  Still, considering what Art Briles has done at Baylor during his three years, and where this program could be going, it's hard for me to give Briles and company a terrible grade.  Grade: C

Final Grade

I was hoping this game would be a shootout that would come down to who had the ball last, or at least the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.  Instead it was a game that was pretty easy to figure out early, and felt more like a three and a half hour Illinois coronation ceremony.  Which is nice for Illinois fans, but for the impartial observer, it's rather boring.  Grade: D
Posted on: December 27, 2010 8:46 pm

Bowl Grades: Independence Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Air Force out-optioned Georgia Tech just enough to win the game 14-7.

Air Force

Offense: Looking at the final score, you can see that offense was at a premium in this game.  Also, while Air Force won the game, the Falcons actually didn't play strong enough to even reflect the 14 points they did get.  All you need to know is that Air Force's option attack was so successful against Georgia Tech on Monday that the Falcons threw the ball 23 times.  During the regular season they averaged 12 passes a game.  Even crazier, Air Force was more successful throwing the ball than running it, as Tim Jefferson led a nice drive out of the shotgun before halftime to get a field goal.  As for Air Force's lone touchdown, it came following a muffed punt by Georgia Tech set the Falcons up inside the 15-yard line.  In fact, punter Keil Bartholomew was Air Force's offensive MVP, as two of his punts were muffed by Tech and resulted in about 90 yards of field position and eight points.  Grade: D

Defense: While they only gave up 7 points, the Falcons defense wasn't amazing on Monday night.  They did allow Georgia Tech to rush for 320 yards, and gave up nearly 5 yards a carry.  They also allowed Tech to convert 8 of 18 third downs, and 2 of 3 fourth downs.  The key for Air Force was that they forced a few key turnovers.  On the opening drive of the second half, Tech put together an 18-play, 77 yard drive that took over eight and a half minutes off the clock.  That's when GT's Tevin Washington was stripped inside the Air Force 5-yard line and the Falcons recovered.  The second big turnover came at the end of the fourth quarter when Jon Davis intercepted a Washington pass in the final seconds to seal the victory.  Grade: B-

Coaching: At the end of the day, you can't be too critical of a coaching staff when the team gets a win, but there were a few things I felt Troy Calhoun and the Falcons could have done.  Particularly after seeing the success that the offense had out of the shotgun at the end of the first half.  The Falcons couldn't get much going on the ground all day, so I would have liked to have seen Air Force shake things up a bit on offense.  Of course, following the script did get a win.  Grade: B

Georgia Tech

Offense: Coming into the game I had doubts about Tevin Washington and how well he could lead Georgia Tech in this game in lieu of the injured Josh Nesbitt.  Well, Washington didn't play poorly at all.  Yes, there were those two back-breaking turnovers that can't be forgiven, but he also had 131 yards rushing.  Anthony Allen finished with 91 yards, and Tech ran the ball well on the day.  The problem was that yards don't count for points, and the Jackets just couldn't punch it into the end zone when it mattered.  Grade: C+

Defense: I had a lot of crow to eat when it came to Georgia Tech in this game.  Much like Washington, I had low expectations for Georgia Tech's defense in this game as well.  Seems I forgot one important thing: when you spend all season practicing against an option offense, you tend to get pretty good at stopping an option offense.  Anytime you can hold Air Force under 200 yards on the ground and force them to air it out more than they want to, you've done your job, and Tech did just that.  It's not their fault they were let down by special teams and turnovers on offense.  I'd give them an even better grade than this had they been able to force some turnovers.  Grade: A-

Coaching: I can't fault Paul Johnson or anyone on his coaching staff for this game.  They had a plan, stuck to it, and the plan worked.  They were without their starting quarterback and were in the game with a chance to win through the closing seconds.  The coaches can't be held accountable for backup punt returners and a backup quarterback turning the ball over.  Grade: A

Final Grade

I was looking forward to this game for weeks because I'm a big fan of the triple option offense, and we don't get many chances to see two teams running it face off.  The problem is that option offenses generally struggle in bowl games, and it turns out that when they go against each other, it tends to make things worse.  Seriously, the most enjoyable part of this game was that the Air Force's falcon mascot literally flew away before the game and the academy needed to form a search party to find him in downtown Shreveport.  They did find him in the fourth quarter.  They would not confirm that he was found at a casino playing blackjack.  Still, the game was close throughout, and the bird did provide entertainment, so that bumps the grade up a notch. Grade: C+
Posted on: December 27, 2010 3:59 am

Bowl Grades: Little Caesar's Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Florida International topped Toledo with a last-second field goal, capping a wild fourth quarter, 34-32.

Florida International

Offense: It wasn't always easy to watch, especially with Wesley Carroll redefining inconsistency at quarterback. But T.Y. Hilton lived up to his considerable hype, playing a role in FIU's three consecutive second-half touchdowns (89-yard kickoff return TD, decoy on wildcat keeper TD, and TD reception) that gave the Golden Panthers their first lead of the game. Hilton was also the recepient of a hook-and-ladder on 4th and 17 on FIU's last drive, which helped set up the game-winning field goal. All in all, Carroll finished 16-27 for 140 yards, a score, and an interception, while Hilton contributed 210 all-purpose yards. Grade: B

Defense: FIU couldn't have completed its fourth-quarter comeback without forcing numerous turnovers, as it so did against Toledo. Toledo QB Terrance Owens was pressured into three second-half interceptions, and a blocked punt late in the fourth quarter nearly buried Toledo. And yet, Toledo was not buried, and the Rockets completed a late drive to take the lead, putting FIU under enormous pressure. It only set the stage for the dramatic final drive, of course, but still: FIU's defense didn't hold when it needed to the most. Grade: C

Coaching: Mario Cristobal did a fine job of not letting his players wilt, whether under the pressure of the program's first bowl game or of the 17-point deficit they found themselves in early in the second half. Some of that credit also goes to Hilton, of course, but Cristobal also did a great job getting the ball into Hilton's hands in a variety of ways -- including that late hook-and-ladder. I didn't agree with all of Cristobal's decisions over the course of the game, but all in all FIU at least stayed in position to win for the entire game, and that credit belongs to the coaches. Grade: B


Offense: Terrance Owens is something of an enigma at QB for the Rockets: wonderfully gifted in both athleticism and arm strength, but a liability in the pocket while under pressure. Owens' three second-half picks (most of which came with him standing still and a defender closing in) helped let the Golden Panthers back in the ballgame, and effectively negated the 304 yards of rushing the Rockets rolled up thanks to running back Adonis Thomas and company. Still, even with a -3 turnover ratio, the Rockets came thiiiiis close to winning the game, and the loss wasn't due to a failure on offense. Grade: B

Defense: During the time it took for Toledo gave up three straight touchdowns to relinquish the lead, the Rockets' defense only gave up 89 yards. Granted, that was still enough for the Golden Panthers' offense to get into the end zone twice, thanks to short fields, but there was also a three-and-out and a Myshan Veasley-Pettis interception in that mix too. And yet, we cannot endorse a defense that allows T.Y. Hilton -- the guy FIU has been trying to get the ball to all game long -- to take a hook-and-ladder for a first down on 4th and 17. How do you not see that one coming? Grade: B-

Coaching: It's hard to put this loss on Toledo head coach Tim Beckman ; after all, it's not as if he never thought to tell Owens to stop throwing passes off his back foot into triple coverage or told his players to ignore T.Y. Hilton. Just like with Cristobal, Beckman had his players in position to win for the entire game; the swings of chance on the field had more control over the final result than did any coaching decision on Beckman's part.

One decision, however, that seems to have backfired was the last two-point conversion. After Owens took in a keeper to bring Toledo within one point with 1:14 left in the game, Beckman decided to go for two points, a decision that seems to have been vindicated by the successful conversion by WR Eric Page . And yet, if Toledo kicks the extra point, this game probably goes to overtime; recall, if you will, that FIU's big play came on 4th down, a play that calls for a punt in a tie game and not an insane trick play. Indeed, by giving his team a one-point lead with 74 seconds left, Beckman essentially gave FIU a daunting but plausible challenge: get into field goal range with that 1:14 or lose the game. Thus, the wild ending. It seems wiser to go for two at the end of regulation only when there's not enough time for the other team to put together a decent-sized drive; 1:14, quite demonstrably, was enough such time. Grade: C

Final Grade

It would be downright ungrateful to give anything less than a stellar grade to a game that features 66 points, five fourth-down attempts, and three lead changes in the last 7:34 -- including two in the last 75 seconds. Sure, the first half was a snoozer, and the turnovers were more the product of poor decision-making than some brilliant defensive work, but this is the type of 60-minute insanity we'd been hoping for all bowl season long. If this is the best bowl of the year, we're all in trouble, but it's at least the best so far. Grade: B+/A-

Posted on: December 25, 2010 1:49 am

Bowl Grades: Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

Tulsa uses speedy scoring to keep Hawaii in check on their home turf in the 62-35 win.


Offense:  It was going to be tough to try and keep up with the nation's best passing offense score for score, so Tusla did a fantastic job of seizing every opportunity they were given.  Thankfully for Golden Hurricanes fans, Hawaii offered up enough opportunities to stimulate an economy against Tulsa in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.  Tulsa took advantage of Hawaii's mistakes to jump out to an early lead on the heavily favored Warriors.  The thing that was so impressive about Tulsa's offense was their relentlessness once the lead was established.  They scored quickly and often, continuing to steal all the momentum from a Hawaii team that did their best to rally a not-so-neutral crowd in a comeback.  Wide receiver Damaris Johnson wrote himself into the NCAA record books with 326 all-purpose yards, and Hawaii had no answer for the quick-strike attack of Tulsa.  GRADE: A   

Defense: Tulsa didn't do a ton of radically impressive things in their gameplan, but what the simple things worked on Friday.  Hawaii has one of the best passing offenses in the country, and for some reason dropping a linebacker into coverage seemed foreign to both Bryant Moniz and G.J. Kinney.  Both quarterbacks threw interceptions in the first half on coverage-heavy plays by the Golden Hurricanes.  The stats also do not accurately represent the effect of Tulsa's defense sucking the momentum away from Hawaii with the turnovers.  GRADE: B

Coaching: The Golden Hurricanes entered the game as a two-score underdog basically playing an away game.  But none of these obstacles seemed to bother a Tulsa team that came in with the utmost expectations of winning.  Have to impressed with Tulsa's preparation and aggressiveness coming into the game.  Over and over again, it seems that half of the postseason battle is seeing which team cares more, and Tulsa seemed to have that edge about them on Friday. GRADE: B+


Offense:  If Hawaii thought they were going to run n shoot over the Golden Hurricanes on their home turf they were sorely mistaken Statistically, there are tons of reasons to believe that Hawaii's offense was successful on Friday night. Unfortunately, all of that analysis requires you ignore the fact that they had six turnovers. Sure, 471 sounds about right for a Warriors win. But having multiple drives end in turnovers and allowing Tulsa to convert those turnovers into points continued to keep Hawaii stuck behind a deficit the entire game. GRADE: F

Defense: The Warriors not only allowed Tulsa to score in plentiful amounts, but they allowed it to happen at record speeds.  The longest (time) scoring drive Hawaii gave up on Friday night was 3:31, and that was late in the fourth quarter with the game decided.  Granted, the defense was not given much of a chance with the turnovers by the offense, but still it is hard to leave a 62-35 game and feel like the losing team really did their best out there on the defensive side of the ball. GRADE: F

Coaching:  Outside of a general lack of preparation for the moment, it is difficult to pin the blame for Hawaii's embarrasment on head coach Greg McMackin.  The team did come into the game flat, but the coaching had nothing to do with the first half turnovers that basically buried the Warriors.  I will give the coaching staff credit for keeping Hawaii fighting for a while, but by the fourth quarter they did a great job of making their opponents look like the runners and shooters.  GRADE: C-

All in all, the Hawaii Bowl was not the best game on the slate thus far.  Not that we have been served the most gourmet menu thus far, but still a painful second half to watch.  The stadium in Honolulu had less fans than points on the scoreboard by the time the final horn sounded, and my guess is that most of the national audience chose to divert to other holiday festivities.  There was a lot of scoring, and the big plays at least gave some "wow" factor.  Still far too sloppy to laud the "greatness" of the game.  GRADE: C
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com