Early afternoon games:
#16 Troy v. #1 Oklahoma
Maybe it was the gusty conditions throwing Sam Bradford off his game, but Oklahoma, considered by many a prohibitive favorite to make the Golden Bowl, got more than they bargained for from the #16 seed. Troy managed to get inside Sooner territory on the first drive and Oklahoma could only score one touchdown in the first quarter, but that probably looked like a fluke after Chris Brown ticked off a 76-yard touchdown run to start the second. Oklahoma followed that up on their next drive by marching from their own 20 all the way to the Troy 2, only for Sam Bradford to be sacked on third and goal, holding the Sooners to a field goal. When Troy got a touchdown of their own, the whispers of a potenial upset started up again, even after the Sooners ended the half with another field goal to go up 20-7 – and they seem justified when Oklahoma starts the second half with two three-and-outs and Troy manages to go from near midfield to a touchdown in five plays, cutting the lead to six.
Oklahoma picks up another field goal but ends the quarter with another three-and-out, and despite Troy never scoring again, no one thinks the game is over until Bradford gets the ball back with 4:24 on the clock and proceeds to burn almost three minutes of that time before DeMarco Murray pounds through the line for a 13-yard score. Levi Brown proceeds to get intercepted on Troy’s very next play from scrimmage and Oklahoma escapes to the second round with a game that was a lot scarier than the final score would indicate.
Final score: Troy 14, Oklahoma 30 (I’m not counting Whatifsports’ rub-it-in field goal at the end)
#15 Buffalo v. #2 Florida
The Gators had no problem with the Bulls of Buffalo. They took a while to get going, allowing the Bulls to drive 59 yards for a touchdown the first time they got the ball, but that would be the last time Buffalo scored, and the Gators responded the next drive when Percy Harvin ran off a quick 46-yard touchdown. Buffalo threatened again the next drive, driving to the Gator 21 before being nailed for delay-of-game and giving up an interception. Florida scored five minutes into the second off that turnover, then intercepted Drew Willy’s next pass attempt and scored another touchdown off that. Florida added a field goal to end the first half with a 24-7 lead, then started the second half by forcing Buffalo to go three-and-out and returning the ensuing punt for a touchdown. The crowd in The Swamp engages in dueling “Bring on the Buckeyes!” and “Bring on the Raiders!” chants for most of the fairly pedestrian fourth quarter.
Final score: Buffalo 7, Florida 38
#11 Georgia Tech v. #6 Cincinnati
Many criticized this matchup when it was made, questioning why Cincinnati was getting such a high seed ahead of Texas Tech and USC and why Georgia Tech was in the field at all. The Bearcats seemed to vindicate the second question and make people reconsider the first. The Yellowjackets started the game with a 62-yard drive to the Cincy 10 only to miss a short field goal, then promptly coughed up a fumble the next time they had the ball and watched the Bearcats capitalize with a made field goal of their own. Georgia Tech did make a field goal to start the second quarter, but then saw Cincinnati run off three straight touchdowns and spike the ball too late on first-and-goal on the 3 to try for a fourth before going into the half. Nonetheless, the Bearcats went into the half with a 24-3 lead, and while Jonathan Dwyer started some thoughts of a Yellowjacket comeback with an 80-yard touchdown run on Georgia Tech’s first play from scrimmage of the second half, Cincinnati snuffed it out with a field goal, a three-and-out, and a long punt return that just barely got shoved out-of-bounds at the 1. The Bearcats run up another 13 in the fourth to ice the game.
Final score: Georgia Tech 10, Cincinnati 47
Late afternoon games:
#14 East Carolina v. #3 Texas
This was the team that upset Virginia Tech and West Virginia to start the season? This was the team that had just stunned Tulsa in the Conference USA title game? They were nothing to a Longhorn team out to prove they should have been in the Big 12 title game, as Colt McCoy made his final argument for the Heisman by going 13-16 with his arm and scoring three touchdowns, two with his arm and one with his legs. For much of the game it didn’t look to go that way. Vondrell McGee fumbled the ball on the Longhorns’ first drive but the Pirates went for it on fourth and three and didn’t get it. Texas went three and out and the Pirates proceeded to drive 59 yards only to miss a 37 yard field goal attempt. Texas scored on their next two drives but the Pirates got a touchdown of their own, and the Longhorns went into the half up 14-7. The Longhorns could only get one more touchdown in the third quarter but ran three off in the fourth to put the game away.
Final score: East Carolina 7, Texas 42
#13 Virginia Tech v. #4 Alabama
No two ways about it: Alabama gave the Hokies a shellacking in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide scored on their only two drives of the first quarter and the Hokies only threatened once. The Tide let up on the gas in the second, just stopping the Hokies from fourth-and-goal on the one and not getting that lucky later on third-and-goal from the 2, but they methodically finish off the Hokies in the second half. It’s not pretty, but it’s still a big win, keyed by Glen Coffee picking up 158 yards on 23 carries, including a touchdown.
Final score: Virginia Tech 7, Alabama 34
#12 Boise State v. #5 Penn State
The Broncos were right at home in the biting, below-freezing temperatures, and gave the Nittany Lions a bit of a scare – at first. Penn State scored on their first two drives, the first being a blistering 60-yard touchdown drive, but the second hinging on Kevin Kelly making a 49-yard attempt. The momentum seems to shift after that, with Penn State going three-and-out three straight times and Boise State finally taking advantage with a 70-yard touchdown drive of their own, entering the half only down three and with their defense credited with an interception. The Nittany Lions find their offense in the third quarter, but can’t put the ball in the end zone and settle for three field goals while their vaunted defense keeps the Broncos at bay. The Lions offense finally reward them with a touchdown, and Joe Paterno’s squad ices the game with a drive that takes off 4:25 of the 4:51 that was on the clock to start the drive and ends with another field goal, one that leaves many wondering why Chris Petersen held on to his timeouts until his team was on offense with less than 30 seconds to make up three scores.
Final score: Boise State 7, Penn State 29
#10 Ohio State v. #7 Texas Tech
Graham Harrell drove the Red Raiders 52 yards for the touchdown on Texas Tech’s first drive of the game, but after a Buckeye field goal, Ohio State forced a three-and-out and returned the ensuing punt 63 yards for the touchdown to take a 10-7 lead after the first quarter. But the first time they got the ball in the second, they went three-and-out and saw Texas Tech return the ball into Buckeye territory, then proceed to take advantage with a touchdown to retake the lead. Ohio State never scored again while the Red Raiders broke the game open in the second half. As the game became all-too-similar to a certain Los Angeles night to Buckeye fans, Texas Tech scored 30 points in the second half while Harrell made his own last pitch for the Heisman, going 32-48 for 320 yards and four touchdowns, and even running seven times for 14 yards. Ohio State’s first first down of the second half came over five minutes into the fourth quarter.
Final score: Ohio State 10, Texas Tech 44
#9 USC v. #8 Utah
Pete Carroll made his feelings clear during the post-game press conference. “I don’t see why they made us play the game in that (expletive),” the normally soft-spoken coach told reporters. “That game should not have been played. When you have a game this big, if you have an 8-9 matchup, and you’re not going to give home field to the team that’s proved themselves to be better over the course of the season, at least put it in the warmer-weather environment. There was no reason for that game to be played. We deserved better than that and everyone knows it.”
When he was interviewed by ESPN’s “College Football Live” the next day, Golden Bowl Selection Committee chairman Morgan Wick had only three words for Carroll: “Play better teams. Oh, and play better teams on the road. And don’t lose to a team that Utah beats next week, even if your loss is on the road, their win is at home, and both games are close.” Most sportswriters and TV commentators agreed with Carroll, while Utah fans indicated that it was their team that had “proved themselves to be better over the course of the season”.
You could be forgiven for briefly forgetting that USC actually won the game, the only road team to win an octofinal game – but the game was sloppy as heck, played with a couple inches of snow on the field in below-freezing conditions. It’s a wonder people weren’t falling down all over the place. USC drove 35 yards down to the 28 their first drive of the game, but David Buehler hooked a 45-yard attempt to the left. Buehler would later score from 36 yards and tack on two more (and miss another), but the game’s only touchdown would come on a 51-yard run by Joe McKnight in the second quarter.
The defense was the real key to USC’s eventual victory, holding the Utes scoreless, and leaving them without a first down in the second half until 5:46 was left in the fourth quarter, on a drive that ended when Brian Johnson lost a handle on the football and USC was able to recover to set up the last field goal – oddly, the only fumble of the game. Utah was still able to come back in two scores if they got two-point conversions on both, and managed to drive from their own 28 to midfield, but managed the clock badly in doing so: the drive started with 3:09 left on the clock, Johnson was sacked on first down with 1:33 left on the clock, took another sack on second, and by the time he was sacked again on fourth down only 48 seconds were left on the clock and Mark Sanchez could start taking knees.
Final score: USC 16, Utah 0
#9 USC v. #1 Oklahoma
Sam Bradford and Oklahoma’s high-powered offense, meet Rey Maualuga and USC’s best-in-FBS defense. With a pretty impressive set of personalities on offense as well, from Mark Sanchez to Joe McKnight, there’s a very real chance of an upset here as USC attempts to prove they deserved a higher spot in the national championship conversation. One potential source of Trojan concern: The game will be in Norman.
#7 Texas Tech v. #2 Florida
No fewer than three players with at least an argument for the Heisman take the field in The Swamp, as the same defense that held Terrelle Pryor and Beanie Wells to a combined 39 yards rushing now attempts to stop last year’s Heisman winner Tim Tebow. On the other hand, have Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree ever faced a defense like this?
#6 Cincinnati v. #3 Texas
Cincinnati proved it could put up points as well as they could prevent them, but that was against Georgia Tech. To many, the Bearcats still have yet to prove they deserve their absurdly high seeding. But the only way they’ll prove it is by proving that if anything, they were underrated – in Austin no less. In the Golden Bowl Universe, Colt McCoy may just have won himself the Heisman against East Carolina, and he’ll pose quite a challenge to the Bearcat defense.
#5 Penn State v. #4 Alabama
Now we’re talking! This will be a low-scoring affair, I can guarantee that, when two fantastic defenses – and two of college football’s greatest coaches – take the field in Tuscaloosa. Looks like the Rose Bowl half of the bracket could continue to produce some absolutely amazing games, when this is coupled with Oklahoma-USC.
Modified non-BCS bowls coming tomorrow; quarterfinal results next Sunday.