The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is a fantastic showcase for some of the best college football recruits in the country, and the 2015 edition will feature some incredible talents on both sides of the ball.
While some of those competing in the game have already committed to programs for the 2015 season, others will use the game as a platform to make their decision. That is an added wrinkle that makes the bowl even more entertaining than it already is from a gameplay perspective.
Along with a full rundown of the East and West rosters for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, here is a closer look at the players who will make the biggest impacts.
Players to Watch
While offensive linemen don't always receive as much attention as skill-position players, that isn't the case when it comes to tackle Martez Ivey.
Ivey is the No. 1-ranked 2015 recruit by 247Sports, and he has yet to decide where he will attend school. He was initially supposed to make that announcement at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but that is no longer the case, per Allen Trieu of Scout.com:
The bowl gives Ivey one more opportunity to show teams what he can do although it is already quite obvious that any program in the country would love to have him.
According to Jamie Newberg of Scout.com, he is the state of Florida's top recruit—if not the very best in the entire nation:
With that in mind, the University of Florida is naturally in the running to land him, per 247Sports.
Ivey is a physical specimen at 6'6" and 270 pounds, and he will have a chance to test himself against some of the very best pass-rushers in the nation.
He is going to be a prized recruit for whichever program ultimately secures him, but the U.S. Army All-American Bowl will say a lot about what can be expected of him next season.
Perhaps the best prospect playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl who has already made a college choice is defensive tackle Trenton Thompson.
According to 247Sports, he is the No. 2 recruit in the nation and has committed to playing for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2015 and beyond.
Per ESPN.com's Gerry Hamilton, the Albany, Georgia, native is thrilled about the opportunity to suit up for the Dawgs.
Georgia, they were my first offer. They were the first coaches that came down to see me and showed me the most love. Georgia has great coaches, and I have good relationships with them. The fan base has also showed a lot of love, and I also think that in the classroom Georgia can help me be the best student I can be.
It remains to be seen how Thompson will perform in the All-American Bowl, but Jason Howell of Rivals.com has already been impressed with his work in drills:
Thompson was a dominant force at Westover High School at 6'4" and 292 pounds, and one can only assume that he will have his way with the opposition in Saturday's game.
Even though Thompson doesn't necessarily need to impress anyone after already committing to Georgia, he has a chance to increase the substantial hype surrounding him even more.
Pass-rushers are always at a premium at every level of football, and CeCe Jefferson is undoubtedly one of the best in the class of 2015.
He is ranked as the No. 5 overall player and No. 2 defensive end by 247Sports, and he is still mulling over potential colleges.
While nothing is official, Barton Simmons of 247Sports is reporting that the Floridian is leaning toward Ole Miss currently:
Landing him would be a major coup for the Rebels, especially since another stud defensive lineman in Robert Nkemdiche is already on the team.
As pointed out by Rusty Mansell of 247Sports, Ole Miss and every other program will get a good look at just how prepared Jefferson is when he goes up against Ivey in the All-American Bowl:
Jefferson and Ivey could battle each other for years depending upon where each of them end up going to school, and there is no doubt that they will be the spotlighted matchup of Saturday's game.
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In a season where the inaugural College Football Playoff created an entirely different atmosphere, it's only fitting that the semifinal results have overturned the long-established hegemonies from the BCS era. With Oregon and Ohio State, fans will get to see the perennial bridesmaid face off against a powerhouse that has suddenly taken the underdog role.
It seems probable that, if the BCS were still in existence, Alabama and Florida State would have met for the national title, so the playoff has already validated its purpose and worthiness. The championship game will simply serve as the cherry on top, pitting two of the nation's most complete teams that likely would never have gotten their shot in the BCS era.
Though Oregon has opened up as a considerable favorite, the Buckeyes possess the type of front seven talent and rushing game that could stymie the Ducks. Third-stringer Cardale Jones has now come through on two massive stages, seemingly answering whatever questions may still exist at the quarterback position.
The quarterback battle is just one angle to this game, as there are several fascinating subplots. With the semifinals in the rear-view mirror, here are the storylines that have emerged as the most intriguing in the lead-up to Arlington on Jan. 12.
The QB Battle
In terms of recognition, a massive chasm exists between consensus Heisman winner Marcus Mariota and the callow Cardale Jones. Mariota and Jones do possess some stylistic similarities, as both are dual-threats who force defenses to use spy defenders, thus creating throwing lanes.
However, that's where the similarities largely end. The 6'5", 250-pound Jones is bigger than many NFL linebackers, and his "12-gauge" nickname embodies the cannon arm that has opened up Ohio State's vertical passing game. Though presumptive first overall pick Mariota has received lots of scouting love, Jones is starting to generate some hype himself:
Conversely, the Oregon offense is predicated on packaged plays that create defined short to intermediate reads for Mariota. While he does have the arm strength to gun one down the seams, and the speed to punish defenses with option keepers, the Ducks offense hums best when Mariota gets his playmakers the ball in space:
Thus, we should see a fascinating contrast between Oregon's up-tempo high-percentage passing game and the explosive big-play bombs from Jones and the Buckeyes. The opposing defenses can't simply scheme around these passing tendencies because of the mobility both quarterbacks provide, making for significant headaches on both sides.
Oregon Running Game vs. OSU D-Line
Mariota is a significant component of the Ducks' rushing attack as well. But Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner are the headliners of the ground game, as Oregon just compiled an absurd 301 rushing yards against a rangy and uber-athletic Florida State defense. However, Ohio State has the same level of athletes as the Seminoles, and it should provide much tougher sledding.
The defensive line trio of Joey Bosa, Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington is arguably the best in the nation, and they're backed up by a strong linebacker unit that includes Darren Lee (two sacks and three TFL vs. Alabama). Excluding a 25-yard Derrick Henry touchdown scamper, the Buckeyes held the Crimson Tide to 4.4 yards per carry, well below their 5.1 season average or Oregon's 5.5 average.
Oregon's running game has been incredibly prolific this season, but stopping them isn't unprecedented. Arizona held the Ducks to 3.5 yards per carry in their October upset at Eugene, while Washington State held them to 4.1 per attempt in a seesaw contest they ended up losing 38-31.
Conversely, Ohio State hasn't faced a spread up-tempo attack like Oregon's this season, and as the Seminoles illustrated, the results can be catastrophic when a defense is clearly shell-shocked. This is likely the game's most important matchup, as the underdog Buckeyes must demonstrate better containment and assignment discipline than Florida State did to have a chance at the upset.
The Turnover Battle
In addition, the most prominent disparity between these teams relates to turnovers. Ohio State's plus-10 turnover margin ranks 15th in the country, but they also had three turnovers against the Tide. Oregon has given away the ball just 10 times and possesses a plus-20 turnover margin, both of which are the best marks in the nation.
Otherwise, both offenses are extremely balanced. According to Football Outsiders' FEI-plus ratings, Oregon and Ohio State boasted the second- and fourth-best offenses in the country during the regular season. They're extremely balanced, as both averaged over 5.5 yards per carry and 9.0 yards per attempt. Quite simply, it doesn't appear as if either can be stopped on a per-play basis.
Thus, big plays look like the best hope for both defenses. Ohio State actually forced more turnovers than Oregon (32 to 30), as only three teams exceeded the Buckeyes' 24 interceptions on the season. This is a significant strength-on-strength matchup, as these were the two playoff teams to have a positive turnover differential.
As the Seminoles learned, the combination of a sudden possession change and Oregon's lightning-fast offense can snowball into disaster very quickly. Of course, a pick-six also propelled the Buckeyes' upset over Alabama. With the talent margin so thin, the team that wins this battle will hold a substantial edge.
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New Year's Day may have been a significant day for college football, but January 3 will be no less important. On Saturday, myriad top prospects from around the country will compete in the Army All-American Bowl.
Among those top prospects, Martez Ivey is the biggest name, as the No. 1 player in the 247Sports Composite Rankings. Several other top offensive linemen will be in attendance, including Clemson commit Mitch Hyatt and future USC tackle Chuma Edoga.
Many of the top defensive players like Trent Thompson and Kahlil McKenzie will also be on the field to test the linemen. Before the game officially kicks off, here's a look at the TV info and best recruits in the showcase game.
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
When: Saturday, Jan. 3 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Any discussion about the top prospects in the country begins with Ivey, a physically imposing offensive lineman. Though it initially appeared he would be announcing his decision on his commitment at the Army All-American Bowl, he has decided to move the plans back.
Ivey made the news official with Blake Alderman of Rivals.com earlier this week:
Rather than announcing his decision during the game, Ivey gets a chance to prove that he's still the No. 1 player in the country. The showcase bowl gives him the spotlight in front of a national audience—similar to what he will have at a Division I college.
Even with the delay for Ivey, many still believe he will ultimately wind up with Florida. Kevin Flaherty of 247Sports offered his take on Ivey's eventual decision:
So where is Ivey going to play his college ball? It appears the answer to that question lies in Gainesville, Fla. The Gators have long been a favorite of Ivey’s, and his 247Sports Crystal Ball reflects that, with 80 percent of his 59 predictions going the Gators’ way. ...
It also appears that the firing of Will Muschamp hasn’t affected Ivey’s process that much — of the five Crystal Ball picks made after Muschamp’s dismissal, four have him headed to Florida. That’s still 80 percent.
One prospect potentially opposing Ivey will be CeCe Jefferson, who is also still uncommitted. A 6'2", 275-pound prospect, Jefferson still has a wide-ranging list of programs he's shown interest in.
The 2015 recruit is listed with a nine in the closing speed, athleticism and pursuit categories. Heading into the game on Saturday, Barton Simmons of 247Sports also notes which SEC team is at the top of his list:
Along with the big men in the trenches, several skill position players will also be showing out during the huge game. One of those top prospects is Devonaire Clarington, a 4-Star tight end with several teams still on his list.
Unlike Ivey, Clarington has announced he will make his commitment official on Saturday:
The crop of prospects runs deep in the Army All-American Bowl and the importance can't be overstated. Each program looking to build toward the future will be hoping to hear its name called by one of these talented players in San Antonio.
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Admittedly, this just doesn’t feel right.
College football fans witnessed two incredible playoff games on Jan. 1 and four other New Year’s Six bowls between some of the best and most high-profile teams in the country. The fact that Toledo and Arkansas State square off Jan. 4 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN isn’t really fair for two teams who deserve to be in the spotlight a bit more.
Had this game been slotted before the playoff games, like most of the smaller bowls, as something of an appetizer, it may have elicited more attention. Still, college football fans who tune in will witness a clash between two relatively evenly matched squads in a game that could come down to the final minutes.
Here is a look at the essential information for the contest.
2015 GoDaddy Bowl
Matchup: Toledo vs. Arkansas State
Date: Sunday, Jan. 4
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Spread: Toledo -3.5 (via Odds Shark, as of Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET)
If there is one team in the country that should be confident heading to the GoDaddy Bowl, it is Arkansas State. The Red Wolves have won the past two games here and are looking for a third straight GoDaddy Bowl championship with a win over Toledo.
If they are going to accomplish that, they will have to find a way to stop dynamic running back Kareem Hunt, who eclipsed the 100-yard barrier in every game he played this year. He was third in the country with an average of 151.1 rushing yards per game and found the end zone on the ground 11 times in nine contests.
Throw in quarterback Logan Woodside’s 2,087 passing yards, and Toledo has a lot working in its favor on offense.
Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson discussed the matchup, per STATS LLC, via ESPN.com: "Toledo has an outstanding football team. There's no doubt that it will be a huge challenge for our defense. Offensively, we've got to keep them off the field. So both sides have to work together, and we know we're up against a good challenge."
Toledo was 17th in the nation in rushing yards per game behind Hunt and Terry Swanson, who added 732 yards of his own, and it finished 30th in the nation in scoring. It will look to push the tempo early and often, especially against an Arkansas State defense that was an abysmal 93rd in the country against the run.
This just isn’t a favorable matchup for the Red Wolves defense that allowed 37, 45 and 35 points in the last three games.
Mike Herndon of AL.com talked about Hunt’s meaning to the Toledo program and his overall season:
Hunt's signing has proven to be a bonanza for the Rockets. With what Campbell describes as a "unique" blend of power and quickness, Hunt topped the 100-yard mark in every game he played this season, including a season-high of 265 in a 27-20 win over Bowling Green on Nov. 19. He's rushed for 1,360 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Rockets (8-4) despite missing three games with a high ankle sprain, and his 151.1 yards per game place him third in the Football Bowl Subdivision behind only All-American's Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin and Tevin Coleman of Indiana.
If Arkansas State hopes to win against Hunt and company, it will have to outscore Toledo with its offense.
The Red Wolves were 22nd in the country in scoring offense and put up at least 27 points in every game since September. The rushing attack finished 24th in the nation thanks to running back Michael Gordon and dual-threat quarterback Fredi Knighten.
Gordon tallied 1,064 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, while Knighten added 775 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns to go with his 2,874 passing yards and 19 touchdown tosses.
Toledo will counter with a defense that allowed more than 20 points in only one of the last four games.
Still, nobody is going to mistake the Toledo defense that finished 86th in the country in points allowed per game for the Legion of Boom of the Seattle Seahawks, but it at least played well down the stretch. In this matchup of two dynamic offenses against vulnerable defenses, that could be enough to garner a critical stop or two in the fourth quarter.
That may be all the Rockets need to come away with a victory, especially with Hunt controlling the clock against Arkansas State’s porous run defense. Look for a Toledo win in an exciting back-and-forth shootout.
Prediction: Toledo 38, Arkansas State 34
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In an All-Star game, making yourself look good is more important than the final score.
The Under Armour All-American Game saw Team Highlight come through with a dominant victory over Team Armour with a score of 46-6. Still, the true story of the game is the individual performances of some key players.
This showcase featured plenty of high-profile players on both teams like defensive linemen Terry Beckner Jr. and Byron Cowart, quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Brandon Wimbush or skill players like Calvin Ridley and George Campbell. However, a few lesser-known players showcased their ability in this showdown.
Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State
Although he didn't have the biggest impact in the game, Deondre Francois might have turned the most heads with his performance.
In a game with plenty of talent at quarterback, the Florida State commit had some of the best throws on a great drive in the first half. Derek Tyson of ESPN liked what he saw on a throw to Francois' future teammate:
After throwing a touchdown pass to Garrett Williams, Mike Farrell of Rivals.com was impressed:
According to 247 Sports, Francois is the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the 2015 class. However, this performance showed that he is much more upside than most were expecting.
If he can continue to improve, Seminoles fans will quickly be able to forget about Jameis Winston.
Ronald Jones, RB, USC
It was a big day for running back Ronald Jones, who started the game by committing to USC on national television:
He then gave Trojans fans a lot to be excited about with a 58-yard touchdown that showcased his burst and ability to turn up the field. Adam Friedman of Rivals.com noted the strong play:
This was by far the best play of the day for Jones, but the type of talent his showed means that big moments like this could happen at any time. USC has lacked a dynamic running back at this level in recent years, but this is someone who can make a big difference on offense and special teams.
With good size (6'0", 185 lbs.) and speed, Jones could be one of the top true freshmen in the nation next season.
Daylon Mack, DT, Undecided
Christian Wilkins might have had the biggest play for a defensive lineman with a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. However, the best defensive player of the game was clearly Daylon Mack.
The defensive tackle was in the offensive backfield virtually the entire game, getting tackles for loss all day while disrupting plays where he didn't make the tackle.
Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee had a short reaction while watching him play:
Meanwhile, Raymond Summerlin of Rotoworld sees a bright future for the young player:
The Texas native appears to be staying local with his college choices, considering Texas A&M, TCU and Texas, according to 247 Sports. No matter where he lands, he should be able to make an impact early in his college career.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.
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In a game which had the looks of a blowout early, the Oklahoma State Cowboys were able to hang on and defeat the Washington Huskies by a score of 30-22 in the 2015 Cactus Bowl.
Freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph went 17-of-26 for 299 yards and two touchdowns. The signal-caller in particular got into a nice rhythm early. He had full command of the offense and looked decisive throwing the ball down the field.
Washington must've forgot about the game time, because the Huskies didn't come to play until the second half. It was a very disappointing effort across the board, and one which I'm sure will stick in the craw of head coach Chris Petersen for the duration of the offseason.
This piece will take a look at game grades for both teams throughout the contest. It will also address game analysis for the position units.
A full box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com.
Washington Huskies Game Analysis
The passing game was nonexistent in the first half. Cyler Miles looked like he had trouble gripping the football at times, because his throws had very little velocity on them. On the day, Miles went 25-of-38 for 268 yards.
Fortunately for Washington, both Jaydon Mickens and Kasen Williams stepped up and made big plays. Mickens was easily the most dynamic option for the Huskies, and should be going forward into next year. His quickness and agility on the perimeter posed problems for OSU. Mickens led the team with seven receptions for 82 yards.
Williams also flashed in his final game as a collegiate player. He was able to break tackles and accrue solid yards after the catch.
With that said, Miles generally did have problems throwing the football. It will be something to look at heading into the offseason, especially with Jake Browning heading to Seattle. With the complement of receivers on the roster, the passing game should be far more explosive than it is.
It was actually a pretty decent showing by the extremely young secondary. At times, Washington had three true freshmen manning the back end of the defense.
Early on, OSU had no trouble throwing the football. This was, in large part, down to the lack of pressure being brought by the front seven. The defensive backs were left out on an island, and as a result, were tasked with defending in one-on-one situations.
Outside of the long 47-yard touchdown to Brandon Sheperd and the 48-yard rumble by James Castleman, it was a solid showing. Sidney Jones IV in particular was very competitive, and has the look of a good Pac-12 corner down the line.
Budda Baker's one-handed interception was also extremely impressive.
The offensive line never was able to get much of a push. Credit to OSU for plugging the lanes between the tackles with both stunts and blitzes. While Washington didn't run up the middle very well, it did run somewhat well on the edge.
Dwayne Washington led the team with 42 yards on 13 carries, and the Huskies as a whole got 101 yards on 25 carries. With Miles struggling to throw the football, it would've made sense to try and establish the ground game more.
Featuring Miles and his legs (which could be his best attribute) also would've made sense. The longest run came via Mickens, who scampered for a 31-yard touchdown on a reverse.
The actual rushing numbers for OSU aren't overly eye-popping. The front seven held the Cowboys to a 3.1 yards per rush average. However, the tackling was not very good. Especially in the first half, Cowboys receivers and rushers were breaking tackles with regularity.
Additionally, the team got next to no pressure on Rudolph. There was more of an emphasis in the second half in getting after the quarterback and making him uncomfortable, but this facet of the game simply was lacking early on.
One positive did come early in the first half, when the duo of Cory Littleton and Danny Shelton forced a fumble.
It was a mixed bag for the Huskies tonight. Had it not been for the 95-yard kickoff return for touchdown by Ross, the grade would've been substantially lower.
Ross' touchdown was able to ignite the rally and give Washington some tangible momentum heading into the final quarter. Yet again, the display of brilliance shows why Ross needs to be utilized in some form or fashion on offense.
The usually reliable kicker Cameron Van Winkle missed a 43-yard field goal, and a botched handling of a punt return led to a fumble recovery by the Pokes. OSU was then able to cash in the turnover for a field goal.
Why wasn't Washington ready to play? Forget the schematic parts of the game momentarily. With more than a month to prepare for the game, it was perplexing as to why the Huskies played with no emotion or energy for the first half. That falls directly upon the coaching staff's shoulders.
From a game perspective, the offense had no rhythm or tempo in the first half. The plays were inspiring and certainly did not play to the strengths of the personnel.
Defensively, conventional wisdom suggests getting after a freshman quarterback with pressure. Instead, UW opted to rely upon its front four without wanting to blitz. As a result, Rudolph sat in the pocket comfortably and threw the ball all over the field.
The adjustment of bringing pressure wasn't made until the second half. At that point, it was too little, too late.
Oklahoma State Cowboys Game Analysis
As previously mentioned, Rudolph had a nice command of the offense. He was decisive with his throws and rarely looked rattled. The Rock Hill, South Carolina native finished 17-of-26 for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Rudolph was accurate on throws to all parts of the field and spread the ball out well amongst his receivers.
The passing attack for next year looks incredibly bright. In addition to Rudolph, receivers Brandon Sheperd and James Washington were both dynamic. Sheperd led the Pokes with five grabs for 98 yards and a touchdown. Washington's one-handed 28-yard touchdown displayed why he's the future at the position for OSU.
Oh, and James Castleman's 48-yard rumble was a thing of beauty. Just to let you all know, he's OSU's 6'2", 300-pound starting defensive tackle.
The secondary did a nice job of jockeying with UW receivers early in the contest. Perhaps most impressively, the secondary (and entire defense as a whole) tackled extremely well. Most of Washington's quick-throw offense is predicated upon making the first man miss in space. OSU simply didn't allow this to happen.
In the second half, Washington's tempo did give the secondary some issues. Mickens in particular was able to make some plays down the field. However, it was a strong showing by the unit across the board. The longest pass play for Washington only went for 23 yards.
Corner Kevin Peterson iced the game away with an interception in the final moments of the contest.
Desmond Roland was the unsung hero Friday night for the Pokes.
He was the workhorse for the offense, getting the tough yards and proving stability in backfield. Roland finished with 123 yards on 32 carries. His ability to carry the ball effectively was key in taking pressure off of his freshman signal-caller.
An added wrinkle featured Castleman as a runner. Positioning himself as the wildcat quarterback, the starting defensive tackle was able to punch it in from a yard out to give OSU its first touchdown of the contest.
OSU did a fantastic job of plugging the holes up front. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer called timely blitzes and stunts, which forced UW to try and bounce most of its runs to the perimeter.
Linebacker Seth Jacobs was also a stud on Friday night. He was everywhere on the field, flying around making tackle after tackle. Jacobs has the looks of a future All-Big 12 performer before his career is over. The unit was solid, allowing only 101 yards rushing on 25 carries.
Much like Washington, it was not the greatest effort by the special teams unit.
The good: Kicker Ben Grogan converted on three field-goal attempts. Punter Kip Smith was excellent in switching field position and pinning Washington within its 10-yard line on multiple occasions. The coverage unit also was able to pick up a fumble on a muffed punt attempt by Washington.
The bad: The coverage unit also allowed a 96-yard touchdown on a kickoff. Grogan also missed a 27-yard field goal, which would've put the Pokes up 11 with under a minute to play. Instead, it offered Washington a chance to tie the game.
Unlike Chris Petersen, credit to Mike Gundy for having his team prepared to play. There was no question OSU was the most energetic, physical football team for the first half. The underdog mentality suited the Cowboys just fine in this contest.
Also credit Gundy and his staff for devising a complete game plan on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Cowboys completely shut down Washington in the first half. The Huskies looked like a high school team in comparison.
Offensively, Gundy did the smart thing by relying upon the run game early. This opened up things in the passing game for his freshman quarterback, and the offense as a whole functioned quite well.
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Washington mounted a ferocious second-half comeback, but it was too little, too late for the Huskies. They fell, 30-22, to the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl Friday night at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.
Washington quarterback Cyler Miles finished 25-of-38 for 268 yards, one touchdown and an interception. That turnover proved extremely costly, coming on the Huskies' final drive of the game as they attempted to tie it in the final seconds.
Miles' opposite number, Mason Rudolph, picked up his second career victory, throwing for 299 yards, two TDs and an interception on 17-of-26 passing. Desmond Roland provided the freshman with plenty of help, rushing for 123 yards on 32 carries.
Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman singled out the Oklahoma State offensive line for opening up holes for Roland against a tough Washington front seven:
This is the ninth year in a row that Oklahoma State qualified for a bowl game. The Cowboys needed a victory over rival Oklahoma in their final game to get here, but they made it nonetheless.
It's an unparalleled streak of success for the school, and one that head coach Mike Gundy knows not only helps on the recruiting trail but also allows more inexperienced players to gain invaluable time on the practice field, per The Seattle Times' Adam Jude:
But the streak is important for us to have those practices, which we did over the last three weeks. Those 12 practices are very important for us to develop the younger players, the guys that we've talked about and you've talked about in the press, that are first year players. They were told two weeks ago that they’re now essentially second year players because they've got a season under their belt. But those practices are really important. I think it’s vital for us to continue to develop our program and work to get better.
Plenty of teams before have used victories in lesser bowls as a jumping-off point in the pursuit of greener pastures, Oklahoma State included. Just look at how the Cowboys parlayed their Alamo Bowl success in 2010 to a Fiesta Bowl victory the following year.
The school looks to have a bright future ahead. ESPN.com's Jake Trotter thinks the rest of the Big 12 is on notice:
On Friday, the Cowboys helped carry the conference flag in a way that few Big 12 schools have so far. Entering the game, the Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences had differing fortunes throughout this year's bowl season, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Although Oklahoma State almost certainly didn't care about preserving the image of the Big 12, the Cowboys helped the conference regain some prestige.
Of course, some will likely wish that they finished the game with the same ferocity with which they started it. OSU dropped 24 points on Washington in the first half, dominating the Huskies on both sides of the ball.
Oklahoma State defensive tackle James Castleman picked up the seldom-seen fat-guy touchdown to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. Castleman took the snap out of the Wildcat and ran it in from a yard out:
Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer joked that between that TD and Bryce Petty's 18-yard touchdown pass to 390-pound offensive guard LaQuan McGowan in the Cotton Bowl Classic, the Big 12 was establishing itself as the pre-eminent home of the fat-guy touchdown:
Wideout James Washington hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass with one hand to double the Cowboys' lead, 14-0, with 16 seconds left in the first quarter.
Three of the Huskies' first four drives ended in three-and-outs. The other resulted in a Cameron Van Winkle missed field goal after Washington started with the ball on the OSU 28-yard line. They mustered no offense to speak of for almost the entirety of the first half.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys padded their lead with a 40-yard field goal from Ben Grogan to start the scoring in the second quarter. Then, 48 seconds from halftime, wide receiver Brandon Sheperd added another touchdown, putting on the brakes as Washington defensive back Kevin King blew by in pursuit, as illustrated by ESPN College Football:
Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman thought the junior might have taken pointers from Tom Cruise before the game:
Oklahoma State couldn't have asked for a better start. The Cowboys outgained Washington 293-113 heading into halftime and prevented the Huskies from converting on a single one of their six third downs.
Rudolph was a bit hit-or-miss. He threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns in the first half but had a fumble and an interception on consecutive drives. OSU was a bit lucky Washington didn't turn either of those turnovers into points.
In order to have any chance at a comeback, the Huskies needed to do something special on their opening drive of the second half. They did exactly that, with wideout Jaydon Mickens taking a reverse 31 yards to the house and trimming the deficit to 17 points, 24-7, with 11:48 left in the third quarter:
Grogan hit another field goal to give Oklahoma State a 27-7 lead, but the Huskies weren't done. On the ensuing kickoff, return man John Ross made a couple of moves and then turned on the afterburners to smoke OSU's coverage team for a 96-yard return touchdown.
Pac-12 Networks attempted to encapsulate Ross' emotions as he headed for paydirt:
That quick TD helped Washington regain some momentum, but the team couldn't break through.
Head coach Chris Petersen gambled on a 4th-and-6 on Oklahoma State's 37-yard line with roughly nine-and-a-half minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys stopped Miles two yards short of the first down.
On the next drive, Grogan split the uprights with his third field goal of the game with a little under six minutes left, putting a major dent in Washington's comeback hopes. Mickens got his second touchdown of the game, this time coming on a 16-yard pass from Miles, but the Huskies still needed another TD and a two-point conversion to tie the game.
Following a missed field goal from Grogan, Washington got the ball on its own 20-yard line with 43 seconds remaining. The odds were against the Huskies from the start of the drive, and Miles' interception resigned them to defeat.
This is Washington's third bowl loss in four seasons. Petersen's obviously a talented coach, though, working wonders with Boise State in the past. The infrastructure is there for the Huskies to climb up the Pac-12 totem pole. It's only a matter of time before they put it all together.
Trotter, meanwhile, penciled in Oklahoma State as a contender to rival Baylor and TCU atop the Big 12 next year:
The 2014 season was always viewed as a bit of a rebuilding year for the team given how many players the Cowboys lost from last season. Making and winning a postseason bowl is a nice accomplishment for this team and a great way to start 2015.
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