2014 Bowl Mania: Day 4 Recap

December 25, 2014
By K. Becks

Merry Christmas everyone!

Normally I don’t publish anything on Christmas Day, but with little else to do and no food on the table yet, what better way to pass the time?

Yesterday was one of my favorite days for college football and for the first time that I can remember we got double the action with two games on Christmas Eve.

In case you missed it, let’s take a look at the action from December 24th.

Game Analysis

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

Result: Western Kentucky 49, Central Michigan 48

This game overtakes the Miami Beach Bowl as the most exciting bowl game of the season thus far. What looked like a complete blowout by halftime (Western Kentucky lead 49-14) turned into a mad scramble for the end zone on the final play of regulation. Central Michigan’s 34 unanswered points in the fourth quarter were aided heavily by quarterback Cooper Rush, who broke an NCAA record for most passing touchdowns in a bowl game with seven. That is a particularly interesting statistic because Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty had been stuck at five passing touchdowns since halftime.

In the end, the Hilltoppers survived after Central Michigan opted to try to end the game in regulation with a two-point conversion that would have been the game winner. Why not, right? If you come back from down 35 and convert a Hail Mary with three laterals, anything seems possible. For the record, I’m not sure that the third pitch wasn’t a forward lateral, but it doesn’t matter now.

Hawaiʻi Bowl

Result: Rice 30, Fresno State 6

It would have been difficult to match the intensity and excitement from the first game of the day, but this one didn’t even come close. Rice was the dominant team for four quarters, obliterating Fresno State’s pass defense for 326 yards and three touchdowns en route to an easy victory that was pretty much secured by the beginning of the final 15 minutes.

Perhaps next time the Bulldogs get invited to the Hawaii Bowl there will be some resistance by fans tired of seeing this type of result. This is the second time in three years that Fresno State has gone out to the island and gotten smoked by a Conference USA opponent.

Conference Trends

Stock Up – Conference USA

The rebuilt league is now 3-1 in bowl games so far and has looked dominant in all of them with the exception of its one loss (UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl) and the fourth quarter in the Bahamas Bowl. Granted, the three wins have come against opponents from the MAC and Mountain West Conference, which are a combined 3-7 thus far.

Unfortunately, we won’t get a chance to see how C-USA would have looked against tougher competition, as the league’s last bowl game is on December 26 when Louisiana Tech takes on a middling Illinois squad from the Big Ten. Still, the Conference USA has made a case for why it should be considered the best from the “Group of 5″ conferences.

Top Individual Performances

Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky quarterback

Central Michigan’s Cooper Rush may have the record for most touchdown passes in a bowl game, but chances are Doughty would have kept pace and at least shared the record had the Hilltoppers felt they needed him to do so. Most of the redshirt senior’s work was done in the first half, and boy was it a half to remember. Five touchdown passes and 486 yards through the air were made to look downright simple, as Doughty completed nearly 75 percent of the passes he attempted.

Most of the memories from this game will revolve around the crazy final play and fourth quarter comeback by the Chippewas, but Doughty was the true MVP of this game and could have shattered records if Western Kentucky had been more apt to throw the ball in the second half.

Driphus Jackson, Rice quarterback

Carving through the Fresno State defense appeared easy for Jackson, who found three different receivers in the end zone in Honolulu and added 41 rushing yards on 13 carries for good measure. Rice was in control for most of the game and this was thanks in large part to the effort by Jackson.

The redshirt junior saved his best performance for last, as last night was the first time all season that Jackson combined for at least 300 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. Rice should be a team to watch out for in 2015 with this guy leading the charge offensively.

- K. Becks

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