Top-five bowl games of the 2015 postseason...so far
The 2015 bowl season might go down as the year of the blowout.
The average margin of victory through the New Year’s Six games has been 16.3 points, with just a dozen games being decided by one score or less. The SEC, for example, has won six of the eight games its played so far by an average score of 28.0 points.
Fortunately, not every game has been a one-sided affair. Here are the five best bowl games of the 2015 season to date.
5. Pinstripe Bowl: Duke 44, Indiana 41 – You can almost hear the fans from the movie “Major League” barking from the bleachers, this time at Yankee Stadium. “It’s too high, it’s too high!” The Pinstripe Bowl between Duke and Indiana was settled in overtime after a Griffin Oakes game-tying, 38-yard field goal attempt appeared to sail over the top of the upright — and thusly called “no good” — giving the win to the Blue Devils. It was the first bowl victory for Duke since 1961, while extending the Hoosiers’ bowl drought to 24 years.
The Blue Devils’ Shaun Wilson was the offensive star in a contest that saw a whopping 1,203 total yards, scoring on an 85-yard run and a 98-yard kick-return touchdown for 282 all-purpose yards. Not to be outdone, Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk (163 passing yards) added a 73-yard touchdown run of his own. Nate Sudfeld threw for 389 yards in the loss and a guy named Alex Rodriguez scored on a 10-yard run for Indiana, which finishes the year with a 6-7 record.
4. Independence Bowl: Virginia Tech 55, Tulsa 52 – Virginia Tech had to fend off a pesky Tulsa squad in Shreveport’s Independence Bowl. The Golden Hurricane scored 15 points in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter, shrinking the Hokies’ lead to just three points, even though they had led by 24 earlier in the half. Tech’s Isaiah Ford earned the game’s MVP honors with 227 receiving yards and a touchdown as the Hokies eked out a 55-52 win in the highest-scoring game of the postseason. Tulsa’s Josh Atkinson (139 receiving yards) and Keyarris Garrett (137 yards) each passed the 100-yard mark through the air and added a touchdown. Frank Beamer’s birds, however, held onto the win in the final game of the coach’s great 29-year, 238-win career in Blacksburg.
3. Las Vegas Bowl: Utah 35 vs. BYU 28 – Raise your hand if you also tuned out the Las Vegas Bowl off after Utah jumped out to a 35-0 first quarter lead. Nothing is safe in Sin City, however, as BYU did what they do best and mounted a furious comeback. The Cougars’ 28 unanswered points — including two late touchdowns in the fourth quarter — and 315 passing yards from BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum weren’t enough to overcome their turnover-riddled first quarter. It might sound strange, but defense was the name of the game in this one, as Utah used two pick-six touchdowns and set up all 35 of their points off of turnovers. BYU, conversely, shut out the Utes offense over the game’s final three quarters.
2. Holiday Bowl: Wisconsin 23 vs. USC 21 – Wisconsin placekicker Rafael Gaglianone put the Badgers up for good 23-21 in a see-saw battle with Southern California in the Holiday Bowl, courtesy of a late, 29-yard field goal. For the Badgers, the win was the first-ever against the Trojans in seven attempts dating back to 1953. The play (or plays, for that matter) of the game, however, belonged to Jack Cichy. The Wisconsin linebacker, who sat out the first half, dropped USC quarterback Cody Kessler for a sack on three consecutive plays in the third quarter. Kessler (221 yards, TD) failed to lead a comeback on his final two drives, as freshly-minted Trojan head coach Clay Helton — who coached the USC as an interim coach in the team’s 2013 bowl win — saw his postseason record fall to 1-1.
1. Arizona Bowl: Nevada 28 vs. Colorado State 23 – Who said there are too many bowl games? The inaugural Arizona Bowl proved exciting as Nevada nipped Colorado State in Tucson. Running back James Butler bailed out the Wolf Pack, reaching the end zone on a 4-yard run with 1:06 remaining for the game-winner. The Rams erased a nine-point lead in the second half, pulling ahead with 3:40 left to play on a 38-yard Wyatt Bryan field goal. But Nevada quickly responded, thanks to Butler, who rushed for 36 of the 72 yards the Wolf Pack needed to reach the end zone for their first postseason win since the 2011 Fight Hunger Bowl. Butler finished with 189 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Rashard Higgins almost certainly closed out his career with Colorado State with 129 yards, setting the Rams’ all-time receiving mark (3,648 yards) in the process.