By Casey Keefe
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As crazy as it sounds – although I did predict it in my season preview – the University of Connecticut has won the Big East conference and clinched their first ever BCS bowl berth. With everything at stake, playing in the biggest game in school history, the Huskies knocked off the South Florida Bulls 19-16 thanks to Dave Teggart’s go-ahead 52 yard field goal with 17 seconds left. Next up for Randy Edsall’s club is the Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl.
It’s unfathomable to think how far Connecticut football has come. This is a program that has been in the FBS for less than a decade, yet they now have 2 Big East championships, 5 bowl appearances (4 in a row) and an ever-impressive BCS birth under their belts. Randy Edsall is well on his way to pulling a “Jim Calhoun” and building the program from scratch – from chump to champs.
The Huskies beat South Florida with good old-fashioned defense, timely offense (including 6 huge third down conversions) and Dave Teggart…yes, Dave Teggart. It wasn’t so long ago that Teggart seemed to be a Matt Nuzie clone, but Dave has quickly turned things around. He’s been one of UConn’s MVP’s this season and was invaluable in the win over the Bulls, connecting on all four of his field goal tries including a key 50 yarder, and then the game winner from 52.
South Florida was playing without starting quarterback B.J. Daniels who is still slowed by injury. In stepped Bobby Eveld who was actually drafted by the New York Mets as a catcher in the 50th round of this year’s MLB draft. Eveld was disgraceful for much of the day (he’d fit right in with the Mets), but he did help engineer a fourth quarter comeback that saw USF climb back from 10 down to tie the game thanks largely in part for an extremely rare and unfortunate Jordan Todman fumble.
After kicker Maikon Bonani tied the game up 16-16, Zach Frazier and the Huskies took over with just 1:16 to work with. The tough and grizzled yet much-criticized Frazier completed two huge passes, an 18 yard strike to Kashif Moore and a 7 yarder to Michael Smith. All of a sudden, Teggart was in range for the game winning 52 yarder which he nailed with just 17 seconds remaining. Eveld and the Bulls never stood a chance after that. The Gatorade was poured on Edsall’s head as he raised his arms in triumph. UConn had done it. They had sealed up a spot in the BCS – something that was thought to be impossible just a few years ago.
After starting the season 3-4 and 0-2 in the Big East the Huskies reeled off 5 straight wins using a repetitive hard-nosed formula. Frazier isn’t going to set the stat sheet on fire, but he knows his role and never tries to do too much. Jordan Todman is the most underrated player in the country and runs behind one of the best offensive lines in the nation – And the Huskies have a defense that may bend at times, but never breaks, and will force you into mistakes and make you pay every time.
There are a lot of similarities with how Edsall is building this football program compared to what Calhoun did with the basketball program. Who knows how the Huskies will do come New Year’s Day against the mighty Oklahoma Sooners, but they have a fighting chance, no one can deny that… One thing however is for certain – Randy Edsall has this team heading in the right direction…and they’re heading into that direction at a fascinating pace.
Auburn 56 South Carolina 17: Yes, you read that score right. The Tigers of Auburn hung 56 points on South Carolina, the most points ever scored in the SEC title game. The 39 point margin was also a record. Two things came of this game… Auburn clinched a spot in the BCS championship game, and Cam Newton won the Heisman.
Newton was his usual brilliant self, accounting for 408 total yards and 6 touchdowns. He joined Tim Tebow as the only quarterback in SEC history to pass for 20 touchdowns and run for 20 touchdowns in the same season. Newton and the Tigers embarrassed the Gamecocks defense, hitting on big play after big play, totaling 589 yards and converting 9 of the 12 third down’s they faced.
Equally as impressive, Auburn’s defense effectively shut down Stephen Garcia, Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore. They finally showed the ability to start fast and not dig themselves an early hole. Before Steve Spurrier could even blink it was 21-7 – And when Newton hit Darvin Adams with a 51 yard Hail Mary touchdown to end the first half it was all over.
This was an extremely impressive performance by the Tigers. They now turn their attention to the Oregon Ducks who will no doubt provide a tougher test than the Gamecocks did. Luckily for Auburn though, they have about 6 months to prepare for the big game.
Oregon 37 Oregon State 20: To no one’s surprise, the Ducks took care of business against their in-state rival in the 114th installment of The Civil War. They rolled up 491 yards, including an astounding 346 on the ground. The Beavers knew what was coming, they just couldn’t stop it.
LaMichael James rushed for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns which helped him break the Pac 10 sophomore rushing record (1,682 yards). Kenjon Barner pitched in with 133 yards on the ground to go along with a score of his own. Quarterback Darron Thomas didn’t have to do much in this game because the Beavers defense just didn’t have an answer for the run.
Oregon’s defense stepped up once again as they shut down the Beavers biggest weapon, Jacquizz Rodgers, holding him to just 87 yards on 22 carries. State’s offense as a whole was out-of-sync, turning the ball over 4 times including Ryan Katz’s 2 interceptions. State took their shots, but just could not ever move the ball with any consistency. Too many times they were held to field goal attempts.
Oregon who was sporting the ugliest uniforms in the history of competitive athletics clinched a spot in the BCS title game where they will meet the aforementioned Auburn Tigers. Oregon State on the other hand is shut out of the bowl season for the first time in 9 years.
Oklahoma 23 Nebraska 20: The only thing standing in the Cornhuskers way of being one of the truly elite teams in the nation is themselves. They proved that again on Saturday night. They committed 4 dumb turnovers which helped the Sooners come back from 17 down to win the Big 12 championship.
No team collapses quite like Nebraska, and it’s all self-inflicted. They lost their second Big 12 title game in a row. Oklahoma on the other hand finished the season strong and will find themselves in the Fiesta Bowl come January 1st thanks to Landry Jones (342 yards, TD) who keeps tearing defenses apart.
Truth be told, Nebraska got what they had coming to them. No team as bipolar as them should ever be allowed to play in a BCS game. Plus, it’s good to see them end their Big 12 stay on a losing note. Good riddance.
Virginia Tech 44 Florida State 33: Who would have thought after the Hokies lost at home to James Madison, falling to 0-2 on the season, that they’d end up winning 11 straight games and would represent the ACC in the BCS? We knew they had the talent, but to turn the season around the way they did is nothing short of amazing.
Tyrod Taylor proved why he’s the best player in the conference as he accounted for 267 yards and 4 touchdowns to help Tech take down the Seminoles. We expected to see Christian Ponder at quarterback for Florida State, but he wasn’t healthy enough to go, so Jimbo Fisher gave the nod to E.J. Manuel.
As mediocre as Manuel was, this game cannot be put on him. The blame should fall on Florida State’s defense which just simply could not slow down Taylor and the Hokies. Wide receiver Danny Coale killed them all night as he got loose for 143 yards and a score on his 6 receptions.
This was Tech’s third ACC title in the past 4 seasons. With the win – the final score not being indicative of how the game truly played out – Frank Beamer’s squad secured a spot in the Orange Bowl where they will take on Stanford.
BCS Bowl Schedule…
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin (11-1) vs. TCU (12-0)
Fiesta Bowl: Connecticut (8-4) vs. Oklahoma (11-2)
Orange Bowl: Stanford (11-1) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2)
Sugar Bowl: Arkansas (10-2) vs. Ohio State (11-1)
National Championship Game: Auburn (13-0) vs. Oregon (12-0)
Check back tomorrow for my final Tuesday Top 10… And make sure to keep coming back to Casey’s Call throughout the entire bowl season for my complete college football coverage that you know and love…
Questions? Comments? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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- Auburn, Oregon Give BCS Title Game New Look (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- No. 9 Oklahoma To Face UConn In Fiesta Bowl (newyork.cbslocal.com)