How the New Year’s bowl games went down
There were five huge games on display for college football fans to enjoy on Tuesday as the New Year’s Six bowl games went down.
The action started with a spirited battle between Iowa and Mississippi State that got off to a slow start but turned into quite the exciting finish. It ended when Texas and Georgia took the field in New Orleans Monday night.
Here’s a look at everything we learned as the first day of 2019 also marked the end of college football’s 2018 season, minus the title game next week.
Nick Easley ends his career in style
A couple of years ago, Easley joined Iowa as a transfer out of Iowa Western Community College. On Tuesday, in his final game at the collegiate level, he had the best game of his career with the Hawkeyes.
The senior came into the Outback Bowl with 390 yards and three touchdowns receiving on the year. In his bowl game, he tallied eight catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
A game that started out looking like a one-sided snooze fest in which Iowa couldn’t do a darn thing on offense quickly turned into a win for the Hawkeyes once quarterback Nate Stanley got into a groove with Easley. It was the epitome of going out on top for No. 84.
Joe Burrow was The Undertaker
UCF did a really good job jumping out to an early lead. Playing without star quarterback McKenzie Milton, they went up 14-3 in the first quarter after Brandon Moore picked off Joe Burrow and returned it 93 yards to the house.
At that point, it really seemed like the Knights were going to take LSU behind the woodshed. Especially because, on the return, Burrow got absolutely laid out on a clean, yet vicious block (watch here) and seemed to be a bit out of it. Then, not long afterward, he took another huge shot.
A lesser mortal might have been done for, but big hits only served to do one thing, however — Burrow was suddenly awake, and better than ever. The LSU quarterback had the game of his life, passing for 394 yards with four touchdowns, each one seemingly better than the last. His amazing play under center sparked a win as the Tigers beat the Knights 40-32.
LSU was without many of its starters on defense, including pretty much the entire roster of cornerbacks. If not for Burrow’s career day they almost certainly would have lost.
Trace McSorley is a living legend
During Tuesday’s game against Kentucky, McSorley exited with what was reported as a broken foot that was supposedly going to mean his career at Penn State was over. He was clearly hobbling around on the sideline, so it was easy to believe he really was going to be saying goodbye to his college career without having a chance to atone for a brutal start.
Then, the senior quarterback willed himself back onto the field and nearly pulled off a comeback for the ages. Though he was certainly hobbled and in a high degree of pain, he engineered three straight scoring drives in the fourth quarter. If not for some awful late-game decisions by his coach (more on that shortly) he might have won the game.
All told, McSorley capped off his career with a 321-yard, three-touchdown performance that once again encapsulated his warrior’s mentality and never-say-die spirit. He’s a legend, and it’s going to be weird watching college football next year without him on the field.
James Franklin’s late-game decisions doomed PSU
Flawed thinking and poor decision-making cost the Nittany Lions a shot at pulling off an epic comeback. James Franklin got conservative right at a spot when being aggressive was the only logical move. Then, after failing the initial test he doubled down, dooming Penn State to a loss.
Here’s what went down. After McSorley led back-to-back touchdown-scoring drives in the fourth quarter, Penn State’s defense once again gave him a chance to put points on the board. With roughly half the fourth quarter remaining, McSorley led a 12-play, 61-yard drive deep into Wildcats territory. Facing 4th-and-7 from Kentucky’s 14-yard line, down by six points, Franklin called his field goal unit onto the field.
That’s bad enough. The Nittany Lions were still down by three points after the kick. Then, when Kentucky was on offense, Franklin didn’t call a single timeout until after there was less than two minutes on the clock. By this point, more than two minutes had ticked off the clock.
When Penn State finally got the ball back, there was one second left on the clock. Game over. And it’s all due to some awful decisions by the head coach, who got absolutely roasted by fans an analysts alike on Twitter for the loss.
Once again, Kentucky found a way
The Wildcats have been bucking conventional wisdom all year long. They did it again on Tuesday. Despite a lackluster offensive attack, they eked out a three-point win over one of the more high-powered offenses in the nation.
Of course, as they’ve done throughout 2018, the Wildcats were dynamic on defense. Josh Allen had a monster game, tallying three sacks and helping shut down the run. Afterward, he also made quite the bold claim about his NFL draft stock.
The offense revolved around Benny Snell Jr., who had 144 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while breaking Kentucky’s all-time rushing record. The Wildcats also got a huge boost with an ankle-breaking special-teams touchdown by Lynn Bowden Jr. to break out with the lead early.
It’s not a flashy approach, but Kentucky capped off a 10-win season in a New Year’s Six bowl game against one of the most prominent programs in the nation.
Dwayne Haskins is ready for the NFL
As a redshirt sophomore, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins could easily decide to stick around for another season with the Buckeyes in 2019. He’s not yet decided about what he’ll do and has a couple more weeks following the Rose Bowl to either declare for the 2019 NFL Draft or remain at school.
The 21-year-old really has nothing left to prove at the collegiate level, however, unless he wants to come back and try to lead the Buckeyes to a title next year.
He capped his remarkable 2018 season off in style against Washington. Going against a defense that’s been outstanding all year long, he completed 25-of-37 passes for 251 yards with three gorgeous first-half touchdowns and no interceptions. He ended his season with 50 — FIFTY! — touchdown throws.
Should Haskins declare for the draft, he’d have a fantastic chance to be the first quarterback taken. Blessed with a cannon for an arm and some really fantastic touch for such a young player, he also is very accurate and has the type of size plus athleticism teams covet.
Georgia wasn’t prepared for the Sugar Bowl
On Saturday as Oklahoma and Clemson were battling in the College Football Playoff semifinals, players from Ohio State and Georgia took to Twitter. They did so to mock the way both other schools got beaten by their opponents, but at least the Buckeyes showed up for their Rose Bowl match.
The same cannot be said for the Dawgs. From the start of the Sugar Bowl, the Longhorns had all the energy and passion in this game. Meanwhile, a series of awful blunders highlighted Georgia’s first half, and by halftime Texas was up 20-7.
The second half provided more of the same until Georgia finally woke up late. Texas ended up winning 28-21, humbling the Bulldogs in a major way.
Listen, credit goes to the Longhorns for showing up huge. They deserved everything they got on Tuesday night in the Sugar Bowl, winning their 10th game of the season in the process.
However, there’s no doubt that Georgia showed up small on the big stage. After all the hubbub coming out of Athens from Kirby Smart and his players about how this team deserved to be in the playoff, it was an embarrassing way to go out.