College football bowl recaps: The fierce Baylor D and those poor Blue Devils

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

San Jose State scored 10 late points to win the Military Bowl, Cincinnati scored 14 even later points to win the Belk Bowl, and Baylor didn't need to worry about scoring late in its Holiday Bowl domination of UCLA. It was a fun, weird day of football. Let's summarize.

0. FBS seasons that have ended with San Jose State in the Top 25. That number will change to 1 when this year's final polls are released. Despite the loss of head coach Mike MacIntyre, the Spartans finished strong against Bowling Green, wrapping up an 11-2 campaign with a 29-20 win.

8.8. Average yards per pass attempt for San Jose State quarterback David Fales versus a pretty good Bowling Green pass defense. BGSU completely negated the SJSU ground game (De'Leon Eskridge gained 33 yards in 13 carries, 11 of which came on his final carry), but the Falcons just had no answer for the passing game. SJSU's star receiver, Noel Grigsby, caught nine of 11 passes for 134 yards (he also drew a 15-yard pass interference penalty on a 12th target), but Fales also found Jabari Carr and Chandler Jones 13 of 16 times for another 123 yards. The Spartans were efficient, both in averaging 5.8 yards per play and in scoring on all five trips inside Bowling Green's 40 (three touchdowns, two field goals) despite the running issues. The Military Bowl was on Fales' shoulders, and he came through.

9. Duke trips inside Cincinnati's 40-yard line. On average, you should be scoring at least about four points per trip, otherwise you are blowing some serious opportunities. Duke did score three touchdowns and kick two field goals, but the Blue Devils also missed a field goal and committed three turnovers. Average points per trip: 3.0. And really, it's even worse than that. Duke twice lost fumbles inside Cincinnati's 5, and their third turnover was an interception returned for a touchdown. And two of those three turnovers happened in the final two minutes of the game. That's how you go from what looks like a seven-point win to a 14-point loss in the blink of an eye.

The Blue Devils did so much right on Thursday -- they averaged 5.3 yards per play and did an incredible job of keeping Cincinnati's offense off of the field (total plays: Duke 89, Cincinnati 53), but their mistakes were not only damaging, but deadly. And Cincinnati took full advantage.

9, also: Yards gained in Cincinnati quarterback Brendan Kay's first nine pass attempts. The Bearcats went rather conservative early, content to bring Duke's defense near the line of scrimmage in the hopes of burning the Blue Devils later on. It almost backfired -- Duke tackled well, forced three early punts, and built an early 16-0 lead -- but it didn't. In his final 16 passes of the evening, Kay completed 11 ... for 323 yards and four touchdowns. Cincinnati found space over the top, and kept finding it late; with 44 seconds remaining, in a tie-game following Duke's second lost fumble deep in Cincy territory, Kay found big tight end (!) Travis Kelce deep for an incredible 83-yard touchdown.

For the game, Kelce, receiver Anthony McClung and utility man R.D. Abernathy combined to catch 11 of 12 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns. Impressive.

17.2. Cincinnati's net punting average over five punts. A first-quarter blocked punt by Duke dug the Bearcats into a 16-0 hole, and some solid punt returns by Duke's Jamison Crowder set the Blue Devils up to win the field position battle. Punting was an adventure all day, actually. In the Military Bowl, Bowling Green blocked a punt, had one blocked for a safety, and shanked two for under 20 yards. BGSU averaged 24.8 net yards per punt, and San Jose State averaged just 29.0 yards. Baylor, meanwhile, averaged just 23.2 yards thanks to a nice Shaquelle Evans return; of course, it didn't hurt the Bears too much -- they were too busy rushing for 306 yards to care.

38. Total yards gained by UCLA's Johnathan Franklin in 18 touches (14 carries, four pass targets). Baylor quarterback Nick Florence, meanwhile, gained 47 yards in 16 non-sack carries. That was, to say the least, not what UCLA needed. The Bruins were consistently forced into passing downs, and the always aggressive (and rarely effective) Baylor defense teed off. Quarterback Brett Hundley was sacked six times in 56 pass attempts and was harassed on seemingly every pass. When former Kansas State defensive coordinator (and SMU head coach) Phil Bennett took the reins of the Baylor D two years ago, this was what he envisioned: a fast, exciting, big-play defense that stresses opponents, already forced to keep up with the prolific Baylor offense, into deadly mistakes. The Oregon defense, in other words. But most of the time, the Bears have just gotten burned a lot. In San Diego, however, the Bears played a nearly perfect game.

(Here's where I remind you that bowl performances are not predictive of any future successes or failures. Just because Baylor's defense looked great on Thursday, doesn't mean the Bears are suddenly a great defensive team. But we have at least seen proof of the D's capabilities. So that's something.)

236. Combined rushing yards for Baylor backs Lache Seastrunk (138 and a touchdown) and Glasco Martin (98 and three touchdowns). In the Holiday Bowl, Team A attempted 65 rushes and 15 passes, while Team B attempted 58 passes and 22 rushes. Based on reputation, I assume almost everybody would have assumed that UCLA was Team A and Baylor was Team B. But Art Briles' Baylor offense is built to take advantage of whatever weaknesses it finds, and with an early lead the Bears were more than content to pound away with Seastrunk and Martin, who averaged 6.4 yards per carry (7.6 in the first half), and use the pass as almost a change-of-pace. Nick Florence targeted stars Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese just six times, but he completed four of those six passes for 136 yards and a touchdown.

Everything worked for Baylor, in other words. The Bears built an early lead, teed off on Franklin and Hundley, went up by 25 at halftime, and coasted. It wasn't supposed to be that easy, but sure looked like it was supposed to be that easy. Motivation means everything in a bowl game, and Baylor had far, far more of it than UCLA. The Bears finish 2012 having won five of six games to finish 8-5, while UCLA, just minutes from a Rose Bowl bid on November 30, finishes with three straight losses and a 9-5 record.

In the end, the 2012 season was successful for both teams -- UCLA not only withstood a coaching change, but improved in the process, while Baylor won eight games following the departures of their best player (Robert Griffin III) and receiver (Kendall Wright) of all-time. But the teams' respective seasons certainly ended with different tones.

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