Saturday college football bowl recaps: Comebacks are fun, and so is near-perfection

USA TODAY Sports

One of the final busy days of the 2012 college football season had plenty to offer. Texas and Michigan State ride late comebacks to wins in the Alamo and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowls, respectively, Syracuse grinds out an easy win over West Virginia in the snow, Rice looks damn good after a quarterback change, and Arizona State looks nearly perfect in fighting hunger.

1,700.

Once or twice per season, Texas' track-star receiver would put on a show that would make you wonder why he doesn't have All-American production. He carried twice for 80 yards and caught two passes for 102 yards against Ole Miss in September. He caught five passes for 129 yards versus Baylor and carried seven times for 97 yards versus Kansas and Texas Tech in 2011. He caught seven passes versus Iowa State and six versus UCLA in 2010. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Texas A&M in 2009. But each time, Goodwin would then disappear for a few games at a time.

He went out in style against Oregon State at the Alamo Bowl on Saturday night; in just six touches, he gained 132 yards and scored twice. He rushed once for a 64-yard touchdown and caught four of five passes for 68 yards. With 2:24 left in the game, he ran a picture-perfect stop-and-go route and scored the game-winning 36-yard touchdown.

264. Total yards for Syracuse running back Prince-Tyson Gulley. Gulley was a bit of an all-or-nothing threat for The 'Cuse in 2012, but he was in all mode at Yankee Stadium, rushing 25 times for 208 yards, catching five of six targets for 56 yards, and scoring three touchdowns. A combination of the WVU defense and snowy conditions conspired to slow down Syracuse's passing game -- Ryan Nassib averaged just 4.7 yards per pass attempt and completed just four of nine passes to stars Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales for 30 yards -- but the Mountaineers, and the slippery field, had no answers for the Syracuse run game. Gulley went off, scoring on runs of 33 and 67 yards, and powerful Jerome Smith added 157 yards in 30 carries. Syracuse built an early lead, then solidified it in a run-heavy, explosive third quarter (23 points, 229 yards).

204. Yards gained by TCU in the first half of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The Horned Frogs utilized quarterback Trevone Boykin frequently in the running game, averaged 6.6 yards per play, and took a 13-0 lead into halftime. Unfortunately for them, they gained just 84 yards (3.0 per play) in the second half.

126. Receiving yards for WVU's Stedman Bailey in just seven targets (and seven catches). The junior, who has already announced his intention to go pro, went out with a lovely game in New York. The problem: Geno Smith passes not aimed at Bailey went just 9-for-17 for 71 yards. Syracuse completely negated the impact of Tavon Austin (12 carries for 54 yards; three targets, two catches, 21 yards) and held J.D. Woods to 41 receiving yards. The Orange let Bailey have his fun, tackled well, completely stopped everything else WVU tried to do, and pulled away for a 38-14 win. Without a healthy number of big plays, WVU had to attempt slower, more plodding drives, and in snowy conditions, the Mountaineers couldn't do it. They advanced inside Syracuse's 40-yard line five times but scored just twice, missing two field goals and punting once. With Syracuse's running game going crazy, the Mountaineers had no margin for error on their scoring opportunities. They made quite a few errors.

26. Sack rate on pass attempts by Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz. He attempted to throw 38 times, but he only got the pass off 28 times. Texas brought him down 10 times, and in a bowl season full of incredible defensive end performances (SMU's Margus Hunt, BYU's Ziggy Ansah, San Jose State's Travis Johnson), Texas' Alex Okafor is now the leader in the clubhouse with this stat line: 6.5 tackles, five tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble.

Okafor had plenty of help, of course: Kendall Thompson had two sacks, Reggie Wilson had one, Cedric Reed had 0.5 sacks and four hurries. But he was almost solely responsible for keeping Texas in the game while the Longhorns' offense scuffled around, and on one of the youngest teams in the country (you probably heard on about 16 different occasions last night that Texas and TCU each played a nation-leading 16 true freshmen), two seniors dragged Texas to its ninth win of the season.

Things are a little tense in Austin. A good portion of the fanbase has lost faith in Mack Brown's ability to lead the Longhorns back into the nation's elite class ("Gosh, I feel so sorry for you guys, having to settle for nine-win seasons and all." -- most of the rest of the country), a defense that carried Texas in 2011 was haunted by a black hole at the linebacker position and fell apart to a certain degree, and two rather big-name Longhorns were sent home from San Antonio after sexual assault allegations.

But the season does end with a positive. So there's that.

9. Touchdowns scored by Arizona State on the Sun Devils' first nine drives in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Navy had no answer for anything ASU wanted to do; the Sun Devils gained 557 yards on their first 49 plays, Marion Grice gained 159 yards on 14 carries, Rashad Ross caught four of four passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns, and quarterback Taylor Kelly completed 17 of 19 passes for 268 yards and four scores and rushed seven times for 81 yards and another score. Navy is always undersized and always in danger of getting pushed around a bit on defense. ASU pushed the Midshipmen around, ran around them, ran past them ... they did anything they wanted to do.

Navy showed some early signs of being able to keep up with the ASU offense, but the Midshipmen couldn't turn chances into points. After going three-and-out on their first possession, they advanced inside ASU's 35 and held the ball for double-digit plays on three consecutive possessions. But they turned the ball over on downs once, and they missed a 33-yard field goal; that was all the opening ASU needed to open up a ridiculous, 41-7 lead early in the second half. Navy successfully played keep-away offense, but you still have to score.

7.6. Average yards per play for Rice after Driphus Jackson took over at quarterback. Starter Taylor McHargue struggled for the most part, averaging just 1.9 yards per pass attempt but rushing for 51 yards on eight carries. He suffered a head injury late in the first half and gave way to Jackson, who lit a serious spark in the Rice passing game. The redshirt freshman had completed just 50 percent of his passes in the regular season, but he was 15-for-21 for 264 yards and two scores against Air Force. For good reason, the Falcons weren't necessarily prepared for a vertical passing game featuring the Jackson-to-Jordan Taylor (12 targets, nine catches, 153 yards, three touchdowns) combination, but Rice dominated with it, and the Owls have their second bowl trophy in 59 years because of it.

2. Syracuse safeties. The Orange sacked West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith three times in the game, which resulted in a healthy 11-percent sack rate; but the timing of the sacks was impeccable. Two of the three happened in the WVU end zone, giving life to thousands of "two-run home run!" jokes on Twitter. (That the Orange led, 5-0, at one point was even more joke-friendly.)

2, also. Fumbles recovered by Michigan State with between seven and eight minutes left in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. It won them the game. First, State quarterback Andrew Maxwell was crushed by Davion Pierson on third-and-5; he fumbled at the MSU 36, but lineman Skyler Burkland fell on the ball. TCU kicker Jaden Oberkrom made two field goals of at least 47 yards in the game (including a 53-yarder later in the fourth quarter), so a TCU recovery would have given the Horned Frogs solid odds of stretching a 13-7 lead to 16-7. Instead, State was able to punt; Mike Sadler boomed a 55-yarder, Skye Dawson mishandled it, and State recovered at the TCU 4. Two plays later, Le'Veon Bell scored, and despite gaining just 227 yards (a paltry 3.3 per play), State took a 14-13 lead. TCU would take it back on a bomb by Oberkrom, but MSU would eventually win on a 47-yard field goal by Dan Conroy.

Turnovers and red zone execution haunted Michigan State all season -- the Spartans lost five games by a total of 13 points -- but those very things ended up making the difference in a season-ending win. That, and a little bit of fumbles luck. If TCU recovers either of those fumbles, odds would have been significantly in favor of the Horned Frogs holding on to win.

1. Air Force drives that extended more than 35 yards downfield versus Rice. The Falcons took a 14-7 lead into halftime, in part because of a 35-yard touchdown drive following a Rice fumble. (Rice fumbled three times in the second quarter and lost two, including one inside Air Force's 5 with two seconds left in the half.) But aside from that drive and the nine-play, 66-yard drive that preceded it, the Falcons averaged just 2.8 yards per play. Rice's defensive line was active and effective, and Air Force faced far more second- or third-and-long situations than it would have preferred. As a result, two Air Force quarterbacks (Kale Pearson, Connor Dietz) combined to complete just three of 11 passes for 48 yards and two sacks, and the Falcons were not able to control the clock like they prefer.

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