Saturday, July 11, 2015

College FB '14 Dread News - Bowl Review (Part 1)

It's better than nothing - I guess; but as far as I'm concerned, the new 4-team College Football Playoff that concluded the 2014 season still falls way short when it comes to crowning a true champion. It just doesn't make any sense to me to have only 4 teams in it. There currently are 5 major conferences in the FBS of Division 1, so that means by simple math that every year the best team from one of those conferences automatically can't be included. And if two teams from one conference are good enough to be selected? Well then the champion of two of those conferences won't be playing for the title. I mean, to have a real playoff shouldn't you at least include all of the teams that are capable of winning it all? You certainly don't get that with four. I believe eight teams would be adequate, but what I'd really like to see is a 16-team playoff. That way, just like in basketball, every team in the FBS would know when they begin preseason practice that they had a chance to be playing for the championship and that they wouldn't be excluded from consideration for the playoffs just because they're a member of a certain conference.

Hopefully the excitement generated by the three playoff games this season will convince College Football's decision makers that having more playoff games would create even more interest and excitement. The inaugural College Football Playoff created the most excitement for Ohio State fans, who enjoyed watching the Buckeyes roll to the title by defeating Alabama and then Oregon - even though they were playing with their third string quarterback.
I always like to include a photo with at least one player with dreads in a shot of the post-game celebration; but that's kind of hard to do with Ohio State, so I settled for one with Coach Meyer and star RB Ezekiel Elliott (above) with the trophy after a 42-20 victory over Oregon on Jan. 12. My enjoyment of the playoff games, however, was slightly less than that of Buckeye Nation. It was diminished a bit because in all three of them there just weren't a lot of dreads to be seen.

Probably the most challenging thing in doing this blog is knowing when players first begin to grow dreads. I can't welcome someone to the house unless I can see he has dreads; and in football, for players just starting their dreads, I can't see that unless they have their helmets off. So sometimes it takes quite a while (more than a whole season in some cases) before I find out someone has dreads. One of those times was in the first semifinal game, between Florida State and Oregon. I was caught by surprise when the only player to make the dread stars list was wearing a green Oregon uniform. Actually I have to blame myself for dropping the ball on freshman WR Darren Carrington. I saw his photo on the Ducks' website early in the season; and even though it shows him with what might be the beginning of partial dreads, I completely ignored that and put him on the list of players with no dreads. Oops!

In the 7 years I've been doing this blog I can't remember anyone for Oregon ever making the dread stars list, so Carrington is probably the first. My discovery of his dreads came a couple of days after the game, when I saw I video (link below) of an interview of him just after the end of his best game of the season. Carrington (photo on left, celebrating at the end of the game) and his teammates had plenty to celebrate after whipping Florida State 59-20, ending the Seminoles' 29-game winning streak. Actually it was a close game in the 1st half. FSU trailed just 18-13 at halftime but turned the ball over 4 times in the 3rd quarter, with the Ducks converting all four of them into touchdowns to build a 52-20 lead.

Fumbling twice in the same game certainly doesn't automatically disqualify you from making the dread stars list. But in this case, when those two fumbles were a couple of the most important plays of the game - a pair of crucial momentum changers - it does. So despite gaining 127 total yards, including 103 yards rushing on only 15 carries, freshman RB Dalvin Cook was not included on the bowl games dread stars list. Fresh off his outstanding performances in FSU's win in the ACC championship game, Cook figured to make a big impact in the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately for Seminoles fans it was a negative big impact. After the 'Noles had driven from their own 20-yard line to the Oregon 41 in just 4 plays to begin the 2nd half, Cook fumbled on the 5th play of the drive. Actually the ball never hit the ground, it was stolen right out of Cook's hands by LB Derrick Malone. The Ducks cashed in the turnover, driving 69 yards to up their lead to 25-13. Later in the 3rd Cook ran after the catch for an 11-yard gain to the FSU 46 on 3rd and 5 but fumbled again - stripped by S Erick Dargan (photo below). And two plays later Carrington, who less than 3 minutes earlier had a 56-yard TD catch, scored again on a 30-yard reception to make the score 39-20. The Seminoles didn't stop there, turning the ball over on their next two possessions too, and the rout was on.
Junior CB Ronald Darby, the only starter with sick dreads on either team finished with 6 tackles (3-3) but did not get credit for a PBU on 4th and 5 in the 1st quarter (photo below) because the pass had already deflected off the hands of WR Byron Marshall before he was hit by Darby. Junior LB Terrance Smith had 2 tackles (1-1) for FSU, and freshman WR Ermon Lane had 2 catches for 22 yards for FSU. Smith, who made my all-America with dreads team, made Seminoles fans very happy a week after the game when he decided to return for his senior season. Darby, however, entered the NFL Draft (which turned out to be a wise choice).
Other than Carrington the only player with dreads who contributed for Oregon was senior RB and special teams ace Ayele Forde, who finished with 3 tackles (3-0) and 1 FF - all on kickoff returns. Unfortunately for both Forde and Carrington it turned out to be their final game of the season. They both failed a surprise drug test given after the game and therefore were suspended for the championship game.

While the Rose Bowl was over before the 3rd quarter was over, the other semifinal went down to the final play ......
You know, I was feeling really crummy after watching Ohio State so easily (by 59 points) defeat Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship game. But that feeling went away after seeing the Buckeyes put up points almost at will against Alabama and Oregon too - the teams ranked #1 and #2. After starting slowly against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl (no touchdowns on their first 4 possessions), the Buckeyes ripped off a 36-7 run - capped by an 85-yard TD run by Elliott that made the score 42-28 with 3:24 remaining - and then held on to win 42-35, intercepting a Hail Mary in the end zone on the final play.
Sophomore RB Derrick Henry made the dread stars list in the Sugar Bowl for the 2nd straight year. Unfortunately for Derrick the Crimson Tide lost both times. Henry scored the first TD of the game on a 25-yard run (photo above) in the 1st quarter - two plays after Elliott fumbled at the OSU 37-yard line - and the Tide went on to build a 21-6 lead midway through the 2nd quarter. But then they scored just once (and had two turnovers, including a pick 6) on their next 7 possessions as OSU took control.

That left us with the two O's - Oregon and Ohio State - in the championship game, the Ducks and the Bucks, two teams with very few players with dreads. And with Carrington and Forde not playing, that made the game almost completely dread free - a big letdown from last year's BCS title game between Auburn and Florida State. Ohio State has only 3 players with dreads on their roster - all freshmen - and the only one who plays at all is S Erick Smith (#1 in photo on right, tackling WR Christion Jones on a kickoff return in the 1st quarter after RB Altee Tenpenny (#28) failed to block him well enough - his only tackle in the Sugar Bowl). Smith recorded 0 tackles against Oregon.

The Ducks struck first. But after driving 75 yards in 11 plays for a TD on their opening possession, the Ducks, who had scored at least 42 points in 9 straight games, only scored one more TD on their other 12 possessions the rest of the game. Trailing 21-20 after kicking a FG with 6:39 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Oregon didn't drive past their own 41-yard line on any of their 4 possessions in the 4th quarter. After rushing for 230 yards and 2 TD vs. Alabama, Elliott - playing with his jersey untucked and his belly showing (photo on left), which is supposed to be illegal but is allowed when you get an officiating crew that is uninterested in enforcing some of the NCAA's sillier rules - ran for 246 yards and 4 TD in the title game. Those kinds of performances will put him at the top of the preseason list of candidates for the 2015 Heisman. And you get the feeling you just might be seeing Elliott and the rest of his teammates in the title game next season too.

As few dreads as there were in the final four, there wouldn't have been any more if TCU and/or Baylor had been in it; but a lack of dreads doesn't mean the Horned Frogs and Bears didn't deserve to be selected. They did. But with only 4 teams allowed in the playoffs, somebody's going to get snubbed. And that somebody was TCU and Baylor, who both were 11-1 and tied for the Big 12 championship. After his team was crushed by TCU 42-3 in the Peach Bowl, Mississippi Coach Freeze said, "TCU is a very good team ..... They certainly could compete with any of the four in it, there's no question in my mind." But unfortunately there will always be question if they could have beaten any of the four because they didn't get a chance to. Just think, if the Horned Frogs hadn't blown that 21-point lead in the 4th quarter at Baylor in Week 7, then your national champion Ohio State Buckeyes wouldn't even have been in the playoffs. Once again I say (and I promise this will be the last time - for now), four ain't enough!
Anyway ..... while scanning the TCU sideline, you could go through a whole lot of players before finding anybody with dreads. But there is one very good player with dreads for the Frogs - although his dreads aren't yet long enough to be clearly seen. Junior WR Kolby Listenbee, whose dreads you could see just fine while he competed in the recent NCAA national championship track & field meet (he finished 7th in the 100 final and anchored TCU to 2nd place in the 4x100 relay final), had a say in two of the Horned Frogs' 6 touchdowns against Ole Miss. After the Rebels turned the ball on the 3rd play of their opening drive, Listenbee caught a backwards pass near the left sideline on the Frogs' 2nd offensive snap and turned and threw a forward pass and hit RB Aaron Green deep for a 31-yard TD for the first points of the game. Then on TCU's first possession of the 2nd half Listenbee made a highlight reel catch for a 35-yard TD to make the score 35-0. Kolby (photo above, being tackled by S Tony Conner after a 2-yard gain on a reverse in the 2nd quarter) didn't quite do enough to make the dread stars list, finishing with 3 catches for 44 yards.
Half of the Rebels' total yards were accounted for by players with dreads, but that's not saying much because the Rebs gained a mere 129 yards all afternoon. In his best game of the season freshman WR Markell Pack finished with 4 catches for 55 yards; and sophomore WR Quincy Adeboyejo had 1 catch for 10 yards. Sick sophomore DE Fadol Brown had 5 tackles (3-2) for the Mississippi defense, including a stop of Green after a 3-yard gain (photo below) in the 1st quarter; junior S Trae Elston, too late to make the tackle on Green's 15-yard TD run 7 plays later that made the score 14-0 (photo above), finished with 3 tackles (3-0).
About 24 hours later Baylor didn't fare as well as TCU in their bowl game, collapsing in the 4th quarter of a 42-41 loss to Michigan State in what was the highest-scoring Cotton Bowl game ever. The 71,464 in attendance didn't see very many players with dreads; but they did get to see something you don't see every day - a TD scored by a player weighing 390 pounds (!). When TE LaQuan McGowan - left uncovered by the Michigan State defense - scored on an 18-yard reception (photo below), it might have set the NCAA record for the heaviest player to ever take one to the house. That TD upped Baylor's lead to 41-21 with 4:03 to go in the 3rd quarter, and the rout was on ..... Uh, no, it was not on. Once the game reached the 4th quarter the Bears did very little right: failing to recover an onside kickoff following an MSU TD, missing one FG attempt and having another one blocked, and giving up three touchdowns, the last of which came with 17 seconds remaining.
The Baylor offense achieved the kind of balance offensive coordinators dream of - not! The Bears' 583 total yards consisted of minus 20 yards rushing and 603 yards passing. No doubt it was a rough day for the MSU secondary, including all-America junior CB Trae Waynes. Waynes, who had an INT in last season's Rose Bowl, just missed on a chance for a pick on a deep pass intended for star WR Antwan Goodley (left photo below) in the 1st quarter. But Goodley got the better of Trae on a drive midway through the 2nd quarter, beating him but dropping a pass in the end zone on 2nd and goal and beating him again on the next play for an 8-yard reception that nearly was a 9-yard TD (right photo below). Waynes finished the afternoon with 3 tackles (3-0) and 1 PBU and was not responsible for the coverage on any of Baylor's three long TD passes.

The first of the 40 touchdowns scored by players with dreads in this season's bowls came on the opening drive of the very first bowl game, although nobody at the Superdome probably realized it because the dreads of Louisiana-Lafayette sophomore WR C.J. Bates are too short to be seen when his helmet is on. Bates' 17-yard catch on 3rd and 9 for his 1st career TD completed a 77-yard drive and gave the Ragin Cajuns an early lead over Nevada in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 20. Shockingly it was the only TD scored all game as ULL went on to win 16-3. Bates' dreads were on display during the celebration after the game (photo below). The four fingers C.J. (#21) is holding up are for the four years in a row the Ragin Cajuns now have won the New Orleans Bowl, the first team to ever win the same bowl in 4 consecutive seasons.
Senior CB Corey Trim had a team high 8 tackles (7-1) for ULL, including 1 TFL, and had a big PBU on 4th down in the 4th quarter. Freshman LB T.J. Posey added 6 tackles (5-1), and junior WR Al Riles had 3 catches for 23 yards. Bates' TD was the only time he touched the ball. For Nevada junior LB Bryan Lane had a game high 9 tackles (5-4), with 2 TFL; senior S Nigel Haikins had 6 tackles (3-3), including a stop of RB Alonzo Harris after a 13-yard gain (photo below) on the opening drive, and 1 PBU; and junior DE Lenny Jones had 4 tackles (4-0), one of which was a sack in the 3rd quarter on which he got both a FF and the FR. The 3 points scored by the Wolfpack marks the first time in 6 years they were held without a TD in a game.
Unlike Darren Carrington at Oregon, I suspected all season that North Carolina State sophomore WR Johnathan Alston had dreads. But even though the photo of him on the team's website shows him with reduced short dreads, I wanted visual proof. And that was hard to come by; because in the few photos and videos I had seen of him during the season, when you looked at him from the rear, there wasn't even the slightest hint of dreads being there. But after noticing that he had a TD catch in the St. Petersburg Bowl, I went to a video of the whole game, and ESPN was nice enough to show a shot of him on the bench without his helmet on after the TD, at last giving me the confirmation I needed. If you'd like to see that shot, click on the link below. The dreads are at the 49:31 mark and again at 50:06; the TD is at 48:15.
Alston's 37-yard TD catch - courtesy of a blown coverage by the UCF defense - with 9:05 remaining in the 2nd quarter gave the Wolfpack a 14-10 lead and put them ahead to stay in their 34-27 win over the Knights. Johnathan finished with 3 catches for 58 yards. Sick S Dravious Wright had 5 tackles (3-2), but sick senior RB Tony Creecy had no carries in his final game for N.C. State. Senior S Clayton Geathers had 14 tackles (7-7) and a half TFL in his final game for UCF, including a TD-saving stop of WR Bo Hines on a 45-yard reception in the 2nd quarter. That's Geathers closing in on Hines (photo above) before knocking him out of bounds at the 4-yard line. N.C. State ended up settling for a FG 4 plays later to make the score 17-10. Senior CB Jordan Ozerities had 6 tackles (2-4) and 1 PBU in his final game for the Knights; and junior WR Breshad Perriman, also playing in his final game in a UCF uniform (before moving on to the NFL) made the dread stars list for the 3rd time this season.
Fans certainly got their money's worth in a couple of the brand new bowl games debuting this postseason - especially if they hung around to the very end. A wild game between BYU and Memphis at the first ever Miami Beach Bowl had an even wilder finish, as a brawl involving several players from both teams broke out (photo above) shortly after Memphis clinched a 55-48 victory with an interception on BYU's possession in the 2nd overtime, Most of the players were just watching the fight; but if you take a look at the video of it (link below), there were more than a few participants in the hostilities. You see skirmishes take place in football all the time, but this one seemed a lot more intense than usual.
Memphis (9-3), co-champs of the AAC and playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2008, got contributions from several players with dreads. Senior WR Keiwone Malone nearly made the dread stars list, finishing with 41 yards rushing on 2 carries along with 6 catches for 75 yards and 2 TD - including the 5-yard TD catch (photo above) on 4th and 4 with 45 seconds remaining which sent the game into overtime. Earlier Malone got the scoring started with a 33-yard TD catch on the Tigers' 3rd offensive snap of the game. Senior LB Derek Howard got his 1st career INT (photo below) to set up a short TD drive in the 2nd quarter and also had 2 tackles (1-1). Also playing their final game in a Memphis uniform , senior CB Andrew Gaines finished with 7 tackles (6-1), 1 PBU, and 1 FR; senior CB Bakari Hollier had 4 tackles (4-0); and senior DT Terry Redden had 3 tackles (2-1). Freshman RB Jarvis Cooper added 18 yards rushing on 5 carries for the Tigers.
You could hardly blame fans at the first ever Bahamas Bowl if they had left early to get started on their Christmas Eve festivities. There was no need to stay, it seemed, with Western Kentucky leading Central Michigan 49-14 heading into the 4th quarter. But then CMU scored a TD with 11:37 remaining, and one with 8:03 to play, and then another - on a 10-yard reception by senior WR Courtney Williams, his 2nd TD of the game - with 3:06 to go, and then one more to make it 49-42 with 1:09 on the clock. The Chippewas failed to recover their onside kickoff but got the ball back with 1 second to go after WKU punted. Now you might think it would be impossible to score from your own 25-yard line with just 1 second on the clock.
But on this day, the impossible became reality: . Senior TE Deon Butler's flip to Williams just before he was tackled (photo on right) was the second of the three laterals, with star WR Titus Davis finishing the 75-yard play by taking the ball the final 15 yards to the house for his 4th TD of the day.

In the description of the video it says "The craziest ending to a bowl game ...."; but as we all know, that wasn't the end. Before you could say .... overtime, the Chippewas decided to go for 2 instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game. And when their pass on the 2-point conversion was incomplete, their comeback had fallen short. WKU, which had upset Marshall 67-66 in their final game of the regular season, won by 1 again, 49-48. Butler who was credited with 11 yards on the final TD, finished with 4 catches for 69 yards in his final game. Williams, who advanced the ball 2 yards before lateraling to Davis, had 3 catches for 70 yards, including a 30-yard TD in the 2nd quarter. Junior DT Bryan Shorter had 3 tackles (2-1) for the Hilltoppers; and sick senior LB Terran Williams had 0 tackles and 1 PBU. Williams probably would have had more stats had he not exited his final game in a WKU uniform with 5:29 remaining in the 1st quarter after being ejected for deliberately trying to maim the quarterback after he threw a pass.
There were also house calls by players with dreads in the other two inaugural bowl games.
With 29 players from Florida on their roster the first ever Boca Raton Bowl was like a home game for Marshall - not that they wanted to be there. Had the Thundering Herd not stumbled against Western Kentucky (they were favored by 24 points at home against WKU in Week 14) they would have been 13-0 in the regular season and likely would have gone to one of the big-money New Year's 6 bowl games. Instead the CUSA champs settled for a matchup with MAC champ Northern Illinois in a Dec. 23 game at FAU's new stadium and wound up trouncing the Huskies 52-23.

NIU scored first midway through the 1st quarter but didn't get to enjoy the lead for very long. That's because immediately after they scored, junior WR DeAndre Reaves took the ensuing kickoff return 93 yards to the house (photo above). It was the 1st TD of the season for Reaves, who then didn't touch the ball again for the rest of the evening.
Freshman WR Angelo Jean-Louis touched the ball twice. Three plays after making a 15-yard reception to convert a 3rd and 10, Jean-Louis finished a 68-yard drive with an 11-yard TD catch (photo above) to increase the Herd's lead to 38-20 late in the 3rd. Junior S Taj Letman led Marshall with 11 tackles (9-2) and had 1 PBU. Sophomore S Tiquan Lang had 9 tackles (5-4) and 1 TFL. Sophomore DE Gary Thompson had 4 tackles (2-2), 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, and 1 PBU. Senior LB Cortez Carter had 3 tackles (0-3) in his final game for Marshall. And senior CB Darryl Roberts had 3 tackles (3-0) and 1 TFL in his final game before (a bit) surprisingly being selected in the NFL Draft. Good luck, Darryl! 
In the first ever Camellia Bowl at Montgomery, AL, after blowing a 27-14 lead in the 4th quarter, Bowling Green scored on a 78-yard pass with 1:04 remaining to defeat South Alabama 33-28. BG led 14-0 midway through the 1st quarter when senior RB Kendall Houston got the Jaguars on the board, taking his 2nd carry of the game 44 yards to the house (photo above) for South Alabama's first-ever TD in a bowl game. It also was the longest run of his career for Houston, who finished with 5 carries for 53 yards.
Junior RB Travis Greene played with two bands around his dreads (photo above), but that was better than the reduced dreads look he had for most of the games this season. He also had a cast on his left wrist but managed to carry 20 times without fumbling, finishing with 41 yards and 2 TD rushing. Junior DE Jimmie Gipson had a season high 8 tackles (2-6), including 1.5 TFL, for USA. Senior LB D.J. Lynch had 2 tackles (2-0) for Bowling Green in his final game before hopefully moving on to the NFL.

While Central Michigan came up short in their comeback bid, the Houston Cougars did not, turning what looked like would be a dismal defeat into victory with a fantastic 4th quarter. Trailing 31-6 early in the 4th, Houston scored touchdowns on 4 straight drives then held on to beat Pittsburgh 35-34 in the Armed Forces Bowl at Ft. Worth. The comeback from a 25-point deficit is the largest 4th quarter comeback in any bowl game ever. Pittsburgh led 34-13 after kicking a FG with 6:14 to go, but incredibly the Panthers were trailing the next time their offense took the field. The Cougars scored a TD with 3:41 to go, recovered an onside kickoff, scored with 1:58 to play, recovered another onside kick, and scored again with 59 seconds to go and got the 2-point conversion to take the lead. The Panthers had enough time to get into FG range on their final drive, but on 3rd and 10 from midfield star WR Tyler Boyd dropped a near perfect pass at the UH 23-yard line with :07 remaining, allowing the Cougars to hang on.
Normally 4 catches for 85 yards are not enough to make the dread stars list; but I'll make an exception this time because junior WR Deontay Greenberry's 4 catches all played a huge role in the UH comeback. Greenberry's first reception was a 14-yarder to the 8-yard line to convert a 3rd and 14. The Cougars got the TD on the next play to pull within 31-13. His next catch was an 8-yard TD catch with 3:41 to go to make it 34-20. Then with the Cougars trailing 34-27, Deontay began the game-winning 57-yard drive with a 38-yard reception to the Pitt 19 and ended it 3 plays later with a 25-yard TD catch (photo above) on 3rd and 16, making it 34-33 with :59 on the clock. Greenberry was open again for the catch on the 2-point conversion (photo below) to complete the improbable rally. The Cougars ended up gaining 293 (of their 486) total yards in the 4th quarter. If you're having a hard time believing what you just read, maybe you'll believe it if you see it:
It turned out to be Greenberry's farewell performance in a Houston uniform - he's hoping to be playing on Sundays this fall. But the Cougars still should have at least a few TD scored by players with dreads next season, as junior RB Ryan Jackson will be back. Jackson had 50 total yards on just 5 touches against Pitt. Sick junior S Trevon Stewart added 6 tackles (4-2) for the Cougars. Freshman CB Avonte Maddox had 5 tackles (5-0) for the Panthers.
I was disheartened when I first turned on the Birmingham Bowl after it was already in progress on Jan. 3 and saw that #25 for East Carolina did not have dreads. I feared that senior RB Breon Allen had cut off his dreads. But then I was very relieved a little later when I found out that it was RB Chris Hairston (photo above) in the #25 jersey usually worn by Allen. It was a bittersweet feeling a relief, however, because the reason Hairston was wearing it was that Allen couldn't. Hairston was honoring Allen by wearing his jersey after Breon, who led the Pirates with 869 yards rushing this season, injured his knee in practice 3 days before the game and had to miss his final game for ECU. Over on the other sideline Florida junior RB Matt Jones was in his #24 jersey as usual, but he too was unable to play due to a shoulder injury. Wow, no Allen and no Jones; so no touchdowns by players with dreads, right?
Wrong! Making his 1st career TD catch and scoring the last of the 40 TD by players with dreads in the bowl games was freshman WR Brandon Powell - a 13-yard reception on 3rd and 5 (photo above) that capped an 80-yard drive and upped the Gators lead to 21-7 midway through the 2nd quarter. Despite picking up more than twice as many 1st downs as Florida (32-15) and outgaining the Gators 536-339 in total yards, East Carolina found a way to lose 28-20. Sophomore WR Davon Grayson had 2 catches for 36 yards for the Pirates, making him the leader in total yards for the game among players with dreads. Sophomore DT Fred Presley contributed 4 tackles (3-1), including 1 sack, and 1 FR on defense for ECU.

While the supposedly powerful SEC West struggled in their bowl games, going 2-5 (notice that all 7 teams were bowl eligible), the less-heralded SEC East went 5-0. Joining South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida in the win column were Missouri and Tennessee, both of whom defeated teams from the Big 10 West.
Nobody with dreads touched the ball on offense in the Citrus Bowl (formerly known as Capital One Bowl); but unless you tuned in late and missed the first 4 minutes of the game, you saw a trio of players with dreads make plays on defense.
On the 2nd play from scrimmage sick senior S Derrick Wells of Minnesota picked off his 1st INT of the season (left and right photos above). But 4 plays later Missouri got the ball back when star senior DE Markus Golden got credit for a FF as he and DE Shane Ray sacked QB Mitch Leidner (photo on right). The ensuing Missouri drive lasted just 4 plays, however, coming to an end when a deep pass was picked off in the end zone by junior CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (photo below), his 5th INT of the season. Once they decided to start hanging onto the ball the Tigers proved to be the better team, winning 33-17. Golden, playing his final game in the Missouri black and gold before moving on to the NFL, was named the game's MVP. Junior LB De'Vondre Campbell and sophomore LB Jack Lynn had 4 tackles (3-1) each for the Gophers, with one of Lynn's tackles being a sack.
Tennessee, making their first appearance in a bowl game since 2010, had no trouble defeating Iowa 45-28 in the TaxSlayer (formerly known as Gator) Bowl (it was 42-7 after 3 quarters). The Volunteers scored touchdowns on 5 of their 6 possessions in the 1st half, the last of which was by junior WR Von Pearson, who beat the coverage by LB Bo Bower on 1st and 10 and made a 19-yard reception (photo below) to make the score 35-7 with 21 seconds remaining until halftime. Pearson finished with 7 catches for 75 yards and 2 carries for 8 yards rushing. Although Iowa rallied late, the Vols' lead remained safe enough that seldom-used senior RB Deanthonie Summerhill saw some action in his final game, finishing with 9 yards on 4 carries (but not picking up the 1st down on 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1) on a possession that began with 3:25 to play.
Sophomore LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin nearly made the dread stars list, finishing with 13 tackles (5-8), one of which was a TFL, and also getting credit for a QB hurry as he caused Jake Rudock to throw away a pass on 3rd and 9 (photo below) late in the 1st quarter. Junior LB Curt Maggitt contributed 5 tackles (4-1) and 1 TFL for UT, while junior S Brian Randolph (2-0), senior DT Jordan Williams (1-1), and freshman DT Jakob Johnson (2-0) all had 2 tackles. Randolph also had 1 PBU and 1 FR.
After a fast start, the West Virginia offense struggled late, and the frustration reached the boiling point for a couple of their players with dreads in a 45-37 loss to Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl. The Mountaineers went three-and-out on their first possession then scored the next 5 times they had the ball, the last of those being a 49-yard TD catch by star senior WR Kevin White, who beat CB Deshazor Everett on a go route (photo below) to give WVU a 27-21 lead with 11:56 remaining in the 2nd quarter. But then the Mountaineers went quiet, getting only 3 points out of their next 8 possessions.
Trailing 45-30 early in the 4th, G Marquis Lucas was fortunate not to be ejected from the game after swinging at A&M DT Alonzo Williams not once but twice in retaliation after Wiliams had shoved him after the whistle. Offsetting penalties were called. Then on the next play White, finally with the ball in his hands and trying to make a play after the previous 4 passes thrown to him all were incomplete, broke several tackles on the run after the catch on 3rd and 10 before being stripped of the ball, ending the drive. After White had gone back to the sideline, some idiot in the crowd yelled something down to the WVU bench, to which White responded by showing that person his raised middle finger, lol. If you'd like to see it, the 2-play sequence starts on the 2:20:45 mark of this video:
White capped his tremendous season by making the dread stars list one last time. Sophomore DT Christian Brown had 7 tackles (5-2) for the WVU D. Senior WR Malcome Kennedy barely missed the dread stars list in his final game in a Texas A&M uniform, finishing with 7 catches for 82 yards, including 2 TD along with a key 21-yard reception on 3rd and 3 with 2:16 to play that allowed the Aggies to keep the ball and run out the clock. Freshman WR Speedy Noil racked up 96 all-purpose yards for A&M, including 2 catches for 24 yards and a 30-yard kickoff return. Junior RB Brandon Williams fumbled away his 1st carry of the game and did not get another. Sophomore DE Daeshon Hall had 2 tackles (2-0), one of which was a sack.
After all the regular season dust had settled, Boise State was the team emerging as the winner of the coveted lone invitation to one of the major bowls reserved for a team from one of the Little 5 conferences. Upping their record to 11-2 after defeating Fresno State in the MVC championship game, the Broncos faced Pac-12 title game loser Arizona (10-3) in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31 - and they wasted no time going to work, driving 78, 88, and 80 yards on their first 3 possessions, none of which took more than 6 plays, to take a 21-0 lead in less than 10 minutes. On the 4th play after the opening kickoff star junior RB Jay Ajayi broke into the clear on his 1st carry of the afternoon and took it 56 yards to the house (photo above).
Ajayi also finished the 3rd drive, scoring from 16 yards out on a Statue of Liberty play. Then after Arizona made it 21-7 but turned the ball over on the first play of their next drive, Ajayi scored his 3rd TD of the game on a 1-yard run on 3rd and goal (photo above) to finish a 22-yard drive. Officials ruled (and it was upheld by replay review) Jay touched the pylon with the ball before any part of his body landed out of bounds. At that point it looked like Ajayi was heading for a record-setting game. But after taking the 28-7 lead, the Broncos offense sputtered from then on, managing just 1 FG and turning the ball over twice (including a fumble by Ajayi) on their final 11 possessions. But thanks to a crucial pick 6 late in the 3rd quarter that made the score 38-20, Boise State was able to hold on for the win 38-30.


Senior DE Vic Beasley had 5 tackles (5-0), including 3 TFL and 1 sack, in his final game in a Clemson uniform before moving on to the NFL to help the Tigers rout Oklahoma 40-6 in the Russell Athletic Bowl ..... Senior WR Chris Conley had 4 catches for 80 yards and 1 TD, and senior LB Ramik Wilson had 8 tackles (4-4), 1 sack, and 1 PBU for Georgia in a 37-14 win over Louisville in the Belk Bowl; Conley and Wilson will still be teammates next season after both being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs ..... Senior CB Josh Shaw had a busy night on a tough night for the USC defense (525 total yards allowed) in his final game before moving on to the NFL, finishing with a team-leading 9 tackles (8-1) in a 45-42 win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl ..... Senior WR Kaelin Clay (photo on right) had 4 catches for 63 yards in his final game for Utah before moving on to the NFL as the Utes spanked Colorado State 45-10; junior RB Dee Hart (photo on left below) had a disappointing end to a great season in his only year with CSU, finishing with 21 yards rushing on only 7 carries ..... Sick sophomore RB Alex Collins (I'm not including a photo of him because his dreads were reduced) rushed for 76 yards on 17 carries, and junior WR Keon Hatcher had 4 catches for 41 yards, including a 5-yard TD, as Arkansas whipped Texas 31-7 in the Texas Bowl ..... 
Sophomore LB Alex Lyons had a team high 8 tackles (8-0), including 2 TFL and 1 sack and also a key stop of QB Brian Burrell for no gain on 3rd and 1 (photo below) in the 2nd quarter, to help Rice defeat Fresno State 30-6 in the Hawaii Bowl ..... Junior LB Shaq Thompson - a 3-time selection on my all-America with dreads team - had 10 tackles (7-3) and a half TFL in his final game in a Washington uniform before moving on to the NFL, but the Huskies lost to Oklahoma State 30-22 in the Cactus (formerly known as the Buffalo Wild Wings) Bowl ..... Junior LB Devon Brant had a game high 10 tackles (9-1) in his final game for Western Michigan in a 38-24 loss to Air Force in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl; Devon is transferring to FCS power Coastal Carolina for his senior season ..... And junior WR Larry Clark had 3 catches for a game high 45 yards receiving in his final game for San Diego State, but the Aztecs lost at home to Navy 17-16 in the Poinsettia Bowl; Clark as well as starting C Lenicio Noble sadly were both dismissed from the team due to violation of team rules just before the start of spring practice.

When Illinois State took possession after a punt with 2:22 remaining and trailing by only 2 in the FCS championship game, I could just feel it: North Dakota State's 3-year reign as champion was about to be over. The Redbirds were going to drive down inside the 5-yard line and kick a FG on the last play of the game and win 24-23. But as unconventional as it may have been, the Bison came up with the solution to their predicament, and 2:22 later it was them celebrating, not ISU, after winning their 4th championship in a row - the first time ever a Division 1-AA/FCS team has four-peated. Although they surely would prefer to have stopped ISU and won 23-21, they didn't. But Plan B got the job done just as effectively - even if did nearly scare Bison fans to death. The Redbirds drove 80 yards for a TD after that punt, but they did it so quickly that the Bison got the ball back with 1:38 to play - and that turned out to be more than enough time them to go 78 yards in 6 plays and score a TD with :37 on the clock to win it 29-27. And so it was junior CB Jordan Champion (#5 in photo below, and with a name like that he's certainly on the right team) and friends holding up four fingers and enjoying yet another a confetti shower after the game.    
Going back to where we left off in my Week 15 report .....
After they won consecutive games on the road against Jacksonville State and Villanova, I thought this would be the year Sam Houston State would finally get the monkey off their back and beat North Dakota State State. I thought they were ready to do it. They were on a roll, and NDSU looked beatable after giving up 32 points to Coastal Carolina in the quarterfinals. But instead it was more of the same for the Bearkats and their fans, more pain and frustration endured at the hands of NDSU, as the Bison ended their dreams for the 3rd time in the last 4 seasons - and this one by the largest margin yet. After losing to NDSU 17-6 and 39-13 in the championship games concluding the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the Bearkats were done in again by the Bison 35-3 in the first semifinal at Fargo on Dec. 19.
It was close for a half; but after the Bearkats failed to cash in a turnover on NDSU's first possession of the 2nd half, the Bison got their offense in gear, driving 90, 55, 87, and 53 yards for touchdowns on their next 4 possessions to make it a rout. Champion, the only starter with dreads for NDSU, finished with 7 tackles (3-4), including 1 TFL and also including a TD-saving stop of WR Gerald Thomas after getting beat deep on 3rd and 10 (photo above) on the first play of the 2nd quarter. Champion caught Thomas at the 11-yard line (for a gain of 39), and 4 plays later the Bearkats settled for a FG to make the score 7-3. The Bearkats missed a FG at the end of a 9-play drive on their next possession and then never threatened to score again the rest of the night.
Most disappointing for me (and probably him too) was that sophomore RB Jalen Overstreet got only 1 carry all game. After being tackled by Champion (photo above) at the NDSU 29-yard line for a gain of 6 on 1st and 10 (three plays before the missed FG), Overstreet didn't touch the ball again until making a garbage time 14-yard reception on the last play of the game. Overstreet, who transferred down to SHSU after being dismissed from the team at Texas (since he already redshirted at Texas in 2012 he would have had to sit out the 2014 season and lost a year of eligibility if he had transferred to another FBS school), finished the season with 729 yards rushing on only 106 carries. And now that starting RB Keshawn Hill has graduated, Jalen could be in for a very big year in 2015. And the same goes for the Bearkats. Almost all of their starters will be back, so it's going to be huge disappointment if they're not raising the trophy at the end of next season.
In semifinal #2 the next afternoon top-seeded New Hampshire led 18-6 late in the 3rd quarter but couldn't hold on, losing at home to Illinois State 21-18. Maybe it would have been a different outcome if star WR R.J. Harris hadn't left the game in the 4th quarter due to a concussion, but we'll never know. After ISU finally figured out the UNH defense, the Wildcats needed to get something done on offense, and not having their top weapon on offense on the field for the final drive certainly hurt.
The Redbirds finished an 84-yard drive with a TD early in the 4th then went 89 yards in 9 plays for a TD to go ahead 21-18 with 7:55 remaining. Then after the Wildcats were stopped on 4th and 3 from the ISU 46 with 4:08 to go, they never got the ball back. The Redbirds converted a 3rd and 5 and then a 4th and 1 on the ensuing drive to run out the clock.
Sophomore LB DeVaughn Cholette, one of very few players with dreads on either team, had 1 tackle (1-0) for UNH and also was involved in a big play late in the 1st quarter. On 1st and goal from the 9-yard line QB Tre Roberson was hit by Cholette and S Daniel Rowe (photo on left) at the 3, and as he tried to break the tackle Cholette grabbed his legs and held him up, allowing LB Akil Anderson to arrive in time and hit Roberson and cause him to fumble. UNH recovered, keeping the score at 7-3. DeVaughn should have been given credit for a half tackle on the play but was not.
Thankfully there were not four but twenty-four teams entered when the FCS playoffs began in Week 14. And of the 23 games played 10 were won by teams from the Missouri Valley Football Conference. All five MFVC members in the tournament won at least one game; and of the three of them that didn't reach the championship game, two were eliminated by conference opponents, as Northern Iowa and South Dakota State both fell in round 2, to Illinois State and North Dakota State respectively. With the ten teams in the league playing an 8-game conference schedule, that means obviously each team 'misses' one team on their schedule during the regular season. By the luck of this season's schedule Illinois State and North Dakota State missed each other. So when the Redbirds and Bison (who tied for the MVFC crown at 7-1) faced off in Frisco, TX on Jan. 10, it was their first meeting, and conference bragging rights were at stake as well as the national championship.

The Bison led 10-7 at halftime and upped that to 20-7 in the 3rd quarter; but then just like in the semifinals, the Redbirds' offense suddenly became unstoppable. An 8-play, 66-yard drive got ISU to within 20-14 late in the 3rd quarter. And after NDSU answered with a FG, the Redbirds went 84 yards in 6 plays to make it 23-21 with 8:05 remaining in the 4th. The Bison then took nearly 6 minutes off the clock on their ensuing possession but could not drive even into FG range. And when they punted and ISU got the ball with 2:22 to play, the four-peat was in jeopardy. Sure enough the Redbirds went 80 yards right down the field; but when Roberson broke free on 3rd and 1 for a 58-yard TD run on the 5th play of the drive, they actually had scored too soon. ISU went for 2 after the TD trying for a 6-point lead but didn't get it, keeping the score at 27-23. And that turned out to be huge, because after the Bison then came right back with their TD with :37 to go, their extra point was blocked. But with ISU's failed 2-point conversion, NDSU led 29-27 instead of the game being tied at 29. 37 seconds seemed like plenty of time for the Redbirds on their final drive; but finally the Bison defense made a play, intercepting a pass with 13 seconds to go after ISU had advanced from their own 27-yard to their own 44 on the first two plays of the drive.

There were more dreads on the field for the FCS title game than the FBS contest between Oregon and Ohio State, but just barely. Champion recorded 1 tackle (0-1) for NDSU. The sickest dreads were on the head of ISU senior S Tevin Allen, who finished with 6 tackles (6-0), 1 FF, 3 kickoff returns for 49 yards, and 1 facemask penalty. Another violator of the you're-supposed-to-have-your-jersey-tucked-in rule, Allen was walloped by LB Nick DeLuca (#49 in photo above) at the 15-yard line, putting an abrupt end to a 15-yard return after NDSU kicked a FG in the 2nd quarter. Later in the game Tevin stripped the ball from WR Trevor Gebhart (photo below) on a 21-yard catch and run to the ISU 35 on the final play of the 3rd quarter. Luckily for NDSU the ball rolled out of bounds, and they went on to kick a FG 8 plays later.
Will the Bison make it 5 in a row and get one for the thumb next season? Well, they'll certainly be the preseason favorites. But at some point you can't win them all, and I think we'll see them reach that point by next January.


It has happened again. For the third time in the last 4 seasons a player with dreads has scored his only career TD on the very last time he touched the ball in his college career. Following in the footsteps of Arizona State WR George Bell in the 2011 Las Vegas Bowl and Purdue WR Tommie Thomas in the 2013 (2012 season) Heart of Dallas Bowl, Stanford senior RB Ricky Seale took one to the house on the first play of the 4th quarter in the Foster Farms (formerly known as the Fight Hunger) Bowl on Dec. 30. Unlike Bell and Thomas, whose touchdowns came in garbage time of blowout defeats, Seale got his in garbage time of a victory, as the Cardinal whipped Maryland 45-21.

With Stanford leading 35-7 late in the 3rd quarter, the Cardinal coaching staff decided it was time to make sure Seale got his 1st TD. After carrying the ball 50 times in his career (49 rushes and 1 reception) with 0 TD coming into his last game, Seale gained 7 yards to the Maryland 40-yard line on his 1st carry of the game. 5 plays later, on 1st and goal from the 4, he got the ball to the 2 on a line plunge then was stopped an inch (literally) short on another line plunge on 2nd down. Adding to the anticipation, Ricky had to wait during the commercial break between quarters; and then finally the 5-foot-9, 203-pounder ran it up the middle and broke the plane (not by much, but who cares) on 3rd down to get the TD that had his teammates just as happy as he was. 

As it turned out, Seale's touchdown also solved a mystery for me, which began while I was searching for photos of former Cardinal DB Alex Carter from Stanford's pro day on Mar. 19. I found the photo on the left thinking it was Carter before quickly realizing it wasn't him. But who was it then? I wasn't going to bother finding out and wouldn't have found out if not for Seale's TD. As I was going through the stats of all the bowl games I noticed that he had scored, and as soon as I checked his photo on the team's website I was like, "Oh, so that's who that is" (in the pro day picture). Both Seale and Carter didn't start growing dreads until this season, something I didn't know until after the season was over. With nobody else on the team with visible dreads, I didn't spend much time watching any Stanford games this season. Carter is getting ready to playoff football on Sundays, but Seale probably won't be carrying the ball anymore. At least he finished on a high note.


1. On 2nd and goal from the 6-yard line midway through 3rd quarter of the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 3 Florida LB Daniel McMillian has a golden chance for an INT after the pass deflects off the hands of East Carolina WR Cam Worthy (#9) ......


2. ..... Uh-oh, time for pushups Daniel! ..... McMillian and his teammates cannot believe it after he blows his golden chance to get his 1st career INT. He made the catch cleanly but lost control of the ball when he hit the ground. At least ECU got only a FG, and not a TD, two plays later, cutting the Gators' lead to 28-17.


3. The force of this collision with S Terrell Richardson (#22) and LB Zeek Bigger sends the dreads of freshman WR Brandon Powell brushing up against his helmet; but Powell hangs on for the 4-yard reception with 9:50 remaining in 4th quarter. Richardson took the worst of this and was sidelined for the rest of the game. Powell finished with 3 catches for 20 yards, including a 13-yard TD, and had a 37-yard kickoff return. Sadly though, when Brandon attains stardom in the seasons ahead, he'll be doing it without dreads. He showed up for spring football with a new look: (give it a minute to fully load)


4. Seven plays after Powell's catch sophomore WR Chris Thompson makes a reception on 2nd and 10, but as he tries to spin out of a tackle he is stripped of the ball by CB Josh Hawkins after what would have been a 5-yard gain. ECU recovered the fumble, keeping the score at 28-20. Thompson had 3 kickoff returns for 72 yards in the game along with this fumble on his only reception.
The Gators' defense took care of business from there, stymieing the Pirates' on their final 2 drives to hang on for the victory. Florida closed out a disappointing season at 7-5. ECU finished 8-5.


5. On 1st and 10 late in 3rd quarter of the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 20 Nevada junior LB Bryan Lane (#25) beats a block and then stops WR Gabe Fuselier of Louisana-Lafayette for a 1-yard loss at the ULL 34-yard line on a screen pass in the slot, as senior S Nigel Haikins (#23) comes to help. The drive ended with a FG 11 plays later, increasing ULL's lead to 13-3. Lane finished the game with 9 tackles (5-4) and 2 TFL. Haikins had 6 tackles (3-3) and 1 PBU in his final game for the Wolfpack.


6. On 4th and 10 from the ULL 35-yard line senior CB Corey Trim jumps the route and breaks up a pass intended for WR Wyatt Demps right at the first down marker with 9:01 remaining in 4th quarter .....


7. ..... Trim has that bittersweet feeling after the play - satisfied that he broke up the pass, but unhappy that he didn't make the INT. Corey, who had a pick 6 in the New Orleans Bowl last season, settled for a PBU this time and led the Ragin Cajuns with 8 tackles (7-1), including 1 TFL. A JC transfer, Trim participated in the last two of the Ragin Cajuns' 4 straight victories in the New Orleans Bowl, this one by the score of 16-3. ULL finished 9-4, Nevada 7-6.


8. Despite lining up giving away a 10-yard cushion when the ball was snapped, Louisville CB Charles Gaines isn't even in the picture as he is beaten deep by 4 yards by Georgia senior WR Chris Conley, who makes the catch at the 5 and takes in in for the first TD of the Belk Bowl on Dec. 30 at Charlotte. Conley's 44-yard TD catch on 2nd and 13 midway through 1st quarter completed the Bulldogs' 90-yard opening drive and was the first of his 4 catches for 80 yards in his last game for the Bulldogs.


9. On the first play after a failed fake punt by Louisville gave Georgia excellent field position, senior CB Terell Floyd gets his 1st INT of the season, picking off a pass intended for WR Malcolm Mitchell at the 3-yard line with 3:22 remaining in 2nd quarter, keeping Georgia's lead at 20-7. Floyd finished with 3 tackles (2-1) and 1 PBU in addition to the INT in his final game in a Louisville uniform. In a battle of 9-3 teams, Georgia outgained Louisville 505-376 in total yards and won easily 37-14.


10. A couple of players who nearly made my dread all-America team duel on this play midway through 3rd quarter of the St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26, as North Carolina State sophomore S Dravious Wright tries to stop UCF junior WR Breshad Perriman after the catch on 2nd and 11. Wright never did get Perriman on the ground but got credit for the tackle anyway when the officials ruled Perriman's forward progress was stopped. The 5-yard gain to the N.C. State 19-yard line was followed by a FG 2 plays later, cutting the Wolfpack lead to 24-13. Wright finished with 5 tackles (3-2), while Perriman made the dread stars list in his final game in a UCF uniform. After building a 34-13 lead in 4th quarter, N.C. State held on to win 34-27 and finish 8-5. UCF finished 9-4.

We're just getting started with the dread gallery portion of this report. For the rest of the photos and the season's final dread stars list, go to Part 2.

No comments:

Post a Comment