2014 Bowl Mania: Day 5 Recap

December 27, 2014
By K. Becks

With the bowl season in full swing now, it’s getting harder and harder to publish these recaps in a timely manner.

I’ll do my best to publish them before the afternoon in the future.

Let’s take a second look at the action from December 26th.

Game Analysis

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl

Result: Louisiana Tech 35, Illinois 18

If you didn’t watch this game, you’d think from the final score that the Bulldogs had won this game comfortably. And while the last few minutes of this contest was all Louisiana Tech, the Illini put a scare into the Conference USA runner-up for most of the game. Illinois outgained the Bulldogs by 90 yards and began to convert third downs in the third quarter, something that both teams struggled with early. But a 70-yard reception by Carlos Henderson in the middle of the fourth quarter led to a Kenneth Dixon touchdown that put Louisiana Tech up by 10 points and essentially sealed the deal.

Two big plays by Louisiana Tech helped the Bulldogs immensely. Without those lapses by the Illini, this game could have turned out much differently.

Quick Lane Bowl

Result: Rutgers 40, North Carolina 21

Unlike the Heart of Dallas Bowl, this game actually looks closer on the final scoreboard than it was in reality. Rutgers dominated the Tar Heels on both sides of the ball, gashing North Carolina’s porous run defense with two true freshman running backs and holding Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams to under 250 total yards.

The athleticism of North Carolina never really showed up in this game and quarterback Gary Nova had one of the best games of his career for Rutgers. It was a strong showing for the Big Ten after Illinois wasn’t able to take care of business earlier in this afternoon.

Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl

Result: North Carolina State 34, Central Florida 27

The Knights put up a valiant effort, but in the end the young Wolfpack was just a bit too much for the AAC co-champions. N.C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett showed a lot of poise and maturity in this game, taking what UCF’s defense was giving him and using his athleticism to buy time in the pocket. Coupled with the tough running of Shadrach Thorton, the Wolfpack were able to wear down the Knights defense.

This is a very young N.C. State squad, especially on defense. If I were to take a stab at which teams will benefit most from a bowl win this season, the Wolfpack would be near the top of that list.

Conference Trends

N/A

There was plenty of action around the country on Friday, but no conference was either too good or too bad to cause a trend. North Carolina State kept the ACC from receiving a “Stock Down” grade after North Carolina’s poor showing in Detroit. Rutgers looked good in a win, but Illinois was unable to take care of a Louisiana Tech team from outside a Power 5 conference. And the AAC would be trending down were it not for a close win by Memphis over BYU on December 22.

Chances are that some trends will emerge after five games on Saturday.

Top Individual Performances

Houston Bates, Louisiana Tech defensive end

It’s not often in a game where the winning team scores 35 points that a defensive player is the most valuable asset to that team. But without Bates, whose 4.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss were just part of the beating that the Louisiana Tech defense applied to Illinois quarterback Reilly O’Toole, the Bulldogs may have given up much more than 18 points in this game.

The senior’s final game should be even more special because of the team that he beat. Bates played for the Illini for three seasons before transferring to Louisiana Tech in his final year of eligibility.

Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State quarterback

Fans in Raleigh should be excited that this guy will be returning to campus for the 2015 season. Brissett was not bothered by Central Florida’s stingy defense, avoiding the rush countless times and finding his receivers with apparent ease. His athleticism in particular was something that the Knights had not seen from many quarterbacks in the AAC.

The stats were not overwhelming: 15 for 26 passing for 262 yards and one touchdown, 31 yards rushing on 14 attempts. But if you watched the game, it was clear just how important Brissett was to keeping Wolfpack drives alive.

- K. Becks

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