Bowl season is finally upon us! Our reporters are breaking down the best of the games from notable performances, breakout players and so much more.
Monday, Dec. 19
Rasheen Ali and Khalan Laborn combined to rush for 182 yards and a touchdown and the Marshall defense forced four takeaways to lead the Thundering Herd to their first bowl win since 2018. Still, it was a worthy performance for a UConn team that was a major surprise to even make a bowl. The Huskies still haven’t won a bowl since 2009, but they outgained Marshall and staged a second-half comeback that fell short largely on the back of a couple of failed fourth down tries. — David Hale
Saturday, Dec. 17
In his first season at Boise State, freshman running back Ashton Jeanty had only crossed the 100-yard threshold in a game one time. On Saturday against North Texas, Jeanty exploded through that mark for 178 yards on the ground, 6.4 yards per carry and one touchdown. Jeanty’s performance, as well as two interceptions forced by the defense, keyed Boise State’s win over North Texas, after the Broncos were down 10-3 early. The victory gives the Broncos a 10-win campaign as well as a glimpse of what their offense could look like next season with Jeanty in the backfield as the team’s primary ball carrier. — Paolo Uggetti
Cornerback Jakob Robinson saved the night for BYU by denying SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai‘s potential game-winning 2-point conversion with eight seconds left in regulation, preserving a 1-point victory. The Cougars built a 14-point lead in the third quarter on a 76-yard pick-six from linebacker Ben Bywater and running back Christopher Brooks‘ 22-yard scoring run, only to see the Mustangs come back with 13 fourth-quarter points. The Cougars, buoyed by the efforts from Robinson and Bywater, won despite the Mustangs holding a 389-256 edge in total yards. Quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters and Brooks combined to run for 184 yards and two scores as BYU ran for at least 200 yards for the fourth time in its past five games (209) while ending the season with a fourth straight victory. — Blake Baumgartner
Southern Miss takes home a LendingTree bowl victory thanks to Frank Gore Jr.’s 329 rushing yards and 3 total touchdowns.
Frank Gore Jr. not only rewrote Southern Miss’ bowl and school record books, he broke the NCAA bowl game record with 329 rushing yards in a 14-point victory. Gore ended his sophomore season with a bang by running for two touchdowns and throwing for another as he also broke Camerun Peoples‘ bowl rushing record. Spurred on by Gore, Southern Miss churned out a season-high 361 rushing yards and won its first bowl game since 2016. Senior linebacker Daylen Gill recorded three of Southern Miss’ five sacks. Rice freshman quarterback AJ Padgett (295 passing yards) threw three touchdown passes — two to senior wide receiver Isaiah Esdale — in the third quarter as the Owls erased a 14-point halftime deficit, taking a short-lived 7-point lead. — Baumgartner
A 1-4 start to the season now feels like a lifetime ago. Fresno State hasn’t lost since then, beating Washington State to finish the year with a 10-4 record. Quarterback Jake Haener was sharp, completing 24 of 36 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. And Jordan Mims went off for the Bulldogs, rushing for a career-high 210 yards and two touchdowns on only 18 carries. But don’t forget the Fresno State defense, which limited quarterback Cameron Ward and Washington State to the Cougars’ lowest total of the season. Fresno State picked off Ward — a 3,000-yard passer on the season — and held him to only 137 yards passing on 32 attempts. — Alex Scarborough
Silas Bolden puts on his cape and dives to make an incredible snag for a Beavers first down.
A week after signing a six-year deal worth $30.6 million, Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith led his team to a dominating triumph over Florida, securing the Beavers’ first 10-win season in 16 years and their first-ever victory against an SEC opponent. It was a balanced, all-round effort for Oregon State, which threw for 189 yards and rushed for 164 yards — 107 of which came from junior running back Deshaun Fenwick. The defense allowed only 1.2 yards per rush. A 40-yard field goal by Adam Mihalek with less than a minute remaining avoided the shutout and extended the Gators’ streak of scoring in games to 436. — Scarborough
In his final game as coach at Jackson State, Deion Sanders failed to complete an undefeated season as NC Central upset the Tigers 41-34 in a wild overtime finish. Shedeur Sanders threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Travis Hunter with no time left to send the game to overtime. But it was NC Central’s Davius Richard who did the scoring in the extra period. NC Central reached 10 wins, the third team in program history to reach double-digit wins in a season. NC Central had 276 yards rushing. Richard had 177 passing yards, 97 rushing yards and 3 total touchdowns. But all eyes were on Jackson State and what would happen as Deion Sanders exits for Colorado. It was a back-and-forth game throughout. Shedeur Sanders finishes the season with 46 total touchdowns. With one chance left to send the game into a second overtime, he threw an incompletion to end the game. Jackson State finishes 12-1, the most wins in a season in program history. — Andrea Adelson
Louisville claimed the Keg of Nails trophy in the renewal of its rivalry with the Bearcats, using a dominant defense and run game to win 24-7 — its first bowl victory since 2019. The game featured two interim coaches — Kerry Coombs at Cincinnati for Luke Fickell (who left for Wisconsin) and Deion Branch for Louisville, after Scott Satterfield left to replace Fickell. Satterfield was not at the game, instead hosting recruits in Cincinnati. But his former team played hard without him, and its aggressive defense — No. 2 in the nation in sacks — made play after play, making it a long day for Cincinnati quarterback Evan Prater. Louisville, playing without quarterback Malik Cunningham (opt out) was far from perfect on offense but had a season-high 287 yards on the ground — getting 100-yard rushing performances each from reserve running backs Maurice Turner and Jawhar Jordan. — Adelson
Friday, Dec. 16
UAB LB Reynard Ellis makes the game-saving tackle at the 2-yard line to secure the victory for the Blazers in a 24-20 thriller vs. the RedHawks.
Junior running back Jermaine Brown Jr.’s big day led the way as UAB secured a 24-20 victory over Miami (Ohio), giving incoming head coach Trent Dilfer some momentum to build off heading into 2023. Brown ran 24 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns to help the Blazers win without the services of FBS-leading rusher DeWayne McBride, who opted out of the game. Brown’s fourth-down touchdown run with 1:33 left in the game put UAB in front to stay — the game’s fourth lead change in the second half. Despite losing the turnover battle (3-0), UAB pulled out the victory with the help of six players combining for four sacks.
Duluth Trading Cure Bowl: No. 24 Troy 18, No. 25 UTSA 12
What a finish for Troy first-year head coach Jon Sumrall, closing out a 12-2 season by scoring 18 unanswered points to beat UTSA on Friday for the Trojans’ 11th straight win. Troy had just 153 total yards and did not cross midfield in the first half, but five takeaways — including two interceptions and a forced fumble on UTSA quarterback Frank Harris, who was sixth in the FBS in passing coming into the game — was too much to overcome for the Roadrunners. The Trojans became the first team to win a bowl game with less than 175 yards of offense since UCLA in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl against New Mexico. — Dave Wilson