2014 Bowl Mania: Day 3 Recap

December 24, 2014

I’ve already begun to realize that keeping up with all of these bowl games is going to be very difficult if I’m to continue publishing both a preview and a recap.

It’s a fun problem to have, though. All it means is that there is plenty of college football to enjoy.

Let’s take a second look at the action that transpired on December 23rd.

Game Analysis

Boca Raton Bowl

Result: Marshall 52, Northern Illinois 23

Boy, was I wrong in my prediction for this one. Marshall came out and looked like a completely different team than the one that had played the second half of the regular season. Rakeem Cato had a terrific game in his final collegiate start and the Thundering Herd actually looked faster than the majority of Northern Illinois players. This is worth noting since Conference USA is generally pretty even with the MAC when it comes to athletes.

Clearly, C-USA made a statement in this one against the MAC champion. This was domination on both sides of the ball by Marshall.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Result: Navy 17, San Diego State 16

Despite four turnovers and just 271 total yards offensively, the Midshipmen found a way to sneak past a San Diego State team that looked like it was ready to break this one wide open for most of the game. A missed 34-yard field goal by Donny Hageman was the decider, but Navy should be commended for keeping it close and setting itself up to kick the game winner with just 1:30 to play. San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey did not disappoint, rushing for 112 yards and adding 42 yards receiving as well.

This wasn’t the prettiest game, but Navy’s grittiness has won the academy games in the past and it was enough again in this one. The victory also avenged a 35-14 defeat to the Aztecs in the same bowl in 2010.

Conference Trends

Stock Down – Mid-American Conference

To say that the MAC’s stock is plummeting after Northern Illinois’ loss would not be an overstatement. The best the conference had to offer went out and got whipped by a Marshall team that played one of the weakest schedules in the nation this season. No one was going around touting the MAC as an underrated conference heading into the bowl season, but after a 1-2 start things aren’t looking good at all.

When you look significantly slower than a Conference USA squad, things probably aren’t going well.

Top Individual Performances

Rakeem Cato, Marshall quarterback

As if the senior needed to add any more records to his collegiate campaign to validate his greatness, Cato tied an NCAA record for career touchdown passes in this game. By throwing for three scores and 281 yards with an impressive 67.6% completion rate, Cato made one final argument for why NFL teams should at least take a look at the undersized signal caller.

Even an average performance by Cato probably would have been enough to propel the Thundering Herd past the Huskies, but that isn’t how this man operates. He left it all on the field and Marshall will sorely miss his productivity moving forward.

Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State running back

Even in a loss, Pumphrey proved why was the most talented player that stepped foot on the field at Qualcomm Stadium last night. Darting around and by opposing defenders last night, it’s a wonder that the sophomore didn’t break a run longer than 14 yards. He isn’t the biggest back in the game, but he might be the quickest.

In a game with seven total turnovers and several dropped passes by his teammates, Pumphrey was one of the few players in this game whose performance wasn’t ugly.

– K. Becks

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