Difference in yards per play for Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl when Curt Phillips was quarterback. The Badgers averaged a robust 6.7 yards per play with starter Joel Stave behind center, even though Stave himself wasn't performing at an incredible level -- nine-for-13, 80 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and one sack (5.2 yards per pass attempt). But after he was stuck by South Carolina's Victor Hampton and came out of the game a few plays later, things fell apart for Wisconsin.
Wisconsin's final four drives: 21 plays, 88 yards (4.2 per play), three turnovers, and a turnover on downs. Phillips, who did captain the Badgers to the Big Ten title in 2012 after another Stave injury, completed just seven of 12 passes for 37 yards and was picked off twice. A kick return touchdown kept the Badgers in the game, but South Carolina scored with six minutes left to make the score 34-24, and the Badgers had no answer.
There's nothing saying Wisconsin would have won with Stave -- South Carolina was a much better team in close-and-late situations than Wisconsin in 2013 -- but without him, there was evidently no chance.
Yards gained on this play.
Stanford gained 84 yards on its first eight rushes of the game, including a mean Tyler Gaffney touchdown run and a 47-yard Gaffney rumble down the sideline. But not even including sacks, the Cardinal's final 26 carries of the game gained just 87 yards. Stanford's offense scored 10 points in the first quarter, then scored just three in the final three (the defense, meanwhile, scored seven).
State's offense did enough to overcome the early drought and defensive touchdown -- Connor Cook completed 22 of 36 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns, albeit with four sacks and a pick-six -- and the defense took it from there. Stanford's final eight drives: punt, punt (three-and-out), interception, turnover on downs, punt (three-and-out), punt (three-and-out), and a turnover on downs capped by the stuff above. What a season for this State defense.
Yards per play for Nebraska in Gator Bowl. That's pretty mediocre overall, but it tells absolutely none of the story for the Huskers in this game. They averaged just 3.6 yards per play over 58 plays ... and 99 yards per play on this one.
Aside from that play, Nebraska quarterbacks were five-for-15 for 64 yards and a sack. Running back Ameer Abdullah did gain 122 yards, but it took him 27 carries. The Georgia defense, so glitchy and maligned in 2013, was keeping the Dawgs in the game for once (with help from a sloppy playing surface, probably), accounting for an offense that kept coming up short (seven trips inside Nebraska's 40: one touchdown, four field goals, two turnovers on downs). But the defense basically made all of its mistakes in a single play -- blown coverage, poor tackling, and a 99-yard Quincy Enunwa touchdown that eventually made the difference in a 24-19 win.
By the way? Hell of a play call, Tim Beck. Hell of a play call. Nobody would have blamed him for calling a dive into the line, punting, and hoping the defense could keep making stops. He had other ideas.
Georgia wins in 2013. Considering the injuries and extreme youth at linebacker and in the secondary, that's not terrible.
But even with those justifiable issues, the Dawgs lost four games by five or fewer points, all while less than full strength. And even their only bigger loss -- 41-26 to Missouri -- was a two-point game in the fourth quarter. It's impossible not to think about what-ifs here, knowing how close Georgia came to a great season with half of its second-string offense in at all times.
Still, those are the breaks. And at this point, Georgia fans have to be relieved a bit just to be able to turn the page and look toward 2014.
Congrats, Georgia, on your season finally ending.— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) January 1, 2014
Baylor penalties in a 52-42 Fiesta Bowl loss to UCF. The Bears were heavily penalized all season, and from a statistical standpoint, penalties don't actually have much correlation to wins and losses -- they often reveal an aggressive mindset that pays off at times despite the lost yardage.
But Baylor's penalties on Wednesday night were not of the aggressiveness variety. Nine were procedural (seven false starts, one illegal shift, one illegal formation), and four were defensive pass interference calls.
On defenses like Baylor's and Michigan State's, we see a flaunting style of defense, with lots of contact and clutches and grabs and a we-dare-you-to-call-us-for-this-every-time-we-do-it attitude. But while Michigan State is talented enough to get away with physical play, Baylor was trying to get away with it with defensive backs who seemed a step slow. Defensive back K.J. Morton was called for two pass interference penalties and burned on big gains a couple of times, and UCF's deep, solid receiving corps torched Baylor's secondary as the game wore on.
Baylor's offensive shakiness, while not as costly as defensive ineptitude, was a little jarring to watch. UCF was effective in the secondary, seemingly taking away quarterback Bryce Petty's first read more often than not, but the false starts revealed simple timing issues that never should have been a concern. Not the best way for Baylor to end an incredible season.
Percent of UNLV's total yardage that came on its opening drive. The Rebels drove 95 yards in eight plays (with help from a 15-yard personal foul penalty) to take a 7-0 lead in the Heart of Dallas Bowl; quarterback Caleb Herring completed six of six passes for 64 yards and a touchdown. UNLV found holes to poke at each level of a stout North Texas defense.
But then those holes closed. Herring completed just 16 of his final 35 passes for 132 yards, and UNLV gained just 162 yards in 60 plays (2.7 per play) the rest of the way. The Rebels' defense held North Texas in check for quite a while -- it was 7-7 at half and just 14-7 North Texas heading into the fourth quarter -- but eventually gave out.
Like South Carolina-Wisconsin, the team that was better in the fourth quarter throughout the season was much, much better in the fourth quarter of this game. The Mean Green scored 22 points, Brelan Chancellor (nine targets, six catches, 74 yards; seven carries, 47 yards) scored twice, and North Texas pulled away to win its first January 1 bowl game, 36-14.
Passing yards for UCF quarterback Blake Bortles in the first quarter and a half of the Fiesta Bowl. The first-round Draft prospect completed just three of his first nine passes for 55 yards and two picks, and Baylor was getting enough pressure on the junior to force some inaccurate passes. UCF took an early 14-0 lead because of some strong running from Bortles and running back Storm Johnson, but following Bortles' second interception, Baylor scored to cut the lead to 14-13.
Bortles then completed 17 of his final 22 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns. Rannell Hall caught four of six passes for 113 yards and two scores, UCF turned shorter passes into longer gains, and even though Baylor was able to tie the game at 28-28 in the third quarter, UCF made most of the plays down the stretch, going on a 24-7 run and cruising to a 52-38 win.
David Manning, USA Today
South Carolina's win percentage in games in which Connor Shaw threw at least 10 passes. Shaw slowly succeeded Stephen Garcia in 2011 and battled injuries at times in both 2012 and 2013, and while he was often banged up, when he was good enough to throw, the Gamecocks were a pretty incredible team. They went 26-5 with Shaw leading the way, and he departs Columbia with 6,074 passing yards (and a 65 percent completion rate), 1,683 rushing yards, 56 passing touchdowns, 17 rushing touchdowns, and 16 interceptions.
Granted, Shaw had some help. Bruce Ellington and Shaq Roland both made incredible catches on Wednesday (and Ellington has made them all year), but all great quarterbacks have help. At times, Shaw perfected the art of only looking great when he had to (and then almost always ending up great), but a) that's not the worst trait in the world, and b) he was great for almost the entire game against a very good Wisconsin defense: 22-for-25, 312 yards, 11.7 yards per pass attempt, 15 carries, 55 yards, and five touchdowns -- three passing, one rushing, one receiving.
He completed the final nine passes of his career for 154 yards, and South Carolina has its third consecutive 11-win season because of it.
Rushing yards for LSU's Jeremy Hill on three Tiger scoring drives against Iowa in the Outback Bowl. For most of the game, Iowa's defense held up as expected. LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings completed just seven of 19 passes for 82 yards, an interception, and four sacks and averaged just 2.1 yards per pass attempt overall, 0.9 if you take away one crazy catch by Odell Beckham, Jr.
Meanwhile, in LSU's non-scoring drives, Hill carried 17 times for just 51 yards. But when LSU found an edge, it found an edge. Hill rushed for 42 yards on the game's first play and set up a short Jennings touchdown run with five carries for 60 yards on the drive. Following a muffed punt by Iowa, Hill capped a short scoring drive with two carries for 18 yards. And with the game still in doubt, Hill rushed for 87 yards on four carries, scoring on a mean, 37-yard touchdown run to push LSU's lead to 21-7 with 2:02 remaining.
For the game, Hill's numbers were incredible -- 28 carries, 216 yards, two touchdowns -- but perhaps even more importantly for LSU, his damage was concentrated. LSU didn't have many scoring opportunities, but not only did Hill help to create the ones the Tigers had, but he finished two of them in the end zone as well. In a game in which LSU's defense controlled Iowa's offense as expected, that was enough.
Miles between Atlanta and East Lansing. But over the last month, that distance has shrunk figuratively.
Weeks ago, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio name-dropped Atlanta rapper Rich Homie Quan in a post-game interview following the Big Ten title game. The internet predictably reacted in giddy fashion.
Yadda yadda yadda ... one thing leads to another ... and one of the first celebration pictures we got following the Rose Bowl was of Dantonio and Rich Homie Quan celebrating together.
And then we got this.
1. College football brings worlds together.
2. Mark Dantonio is my favorite dork in the world at the moment.
3. Just call East Lansing Atlanta North. I guess that means Altantans will begin burning sofas and the Michigan State baseball team will move to the suburbs.
Stumbles on slippery turf. From Baylor's Bryce petty falling on fourth down in Arizona, to Wisconsin runners sliding down on painted grass in Orlando, to just about every Nebraska and Georgia lineman falling awkwardly at some point in Jacksonville, turf monsters were 12th defenders throughout the country on Wednesday.