1. 82 carries
The end of Baylor's regular season would have had anyone at a loss. It's one thing to lose your starting quarterback. It's another to lose your backup. It's another to ask your third-stringer, a part-time receiver, to throw passes in an incredible rainstorm (against TCU). It's another to lose that third-stringer and ask a full-time receiver to take snaps.
Even Alabama, with that amazing defense, would struggle to win with its fourth-string quarterback.
Give Art Briles a few weeks to come up with something, and, well, he'll come up with something. Against North Carolina in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Baylor committed to the run in a way that nobody (especially UNC defensive coordinator Gene Chizik) could have imagined.
Everybody but big LaQuan McGowan took a snap behind center, it seemed, and five players combined to rush 82 times for 651 yards. Four of those players also threw at least one pass. This was relentless, and North Carolina had no answer. After stopping Baylor on downs on the opening possession, the Heels allowed seven touchdowns in nine drives, and only made stops via missed field goal and an interception at the UNC 9. Every Baylor drive except the clock killer at the end advanced inside UNC's 40.
This created immense pressure on the UNC offense, and while the Heels gained 487 yards, a couple of sketchy early possessions did them in. They fell behind by 11 points in the second quarter, cut the lead to four in the third, got the ball back with a chance to take the lead but went three-and-out, and that was that.
Baylor scored, UNC fumbled, and Johnny Jefferson raced 80 yards to put the Bears up 42-24 and all but ice the game.
Baylor cruised, 49-38, putting together one of the most jarring feats imaginable: Rushing for 600 yards in a bowl a year after passing for 600 yards in a bowl, both records.
This was a strange performance that probably has no bearing on much of anything. Next year, Baylor will be playing with actual quarterbacks, after all. But wow, was it a feat. And it was a hell of a way for an offensive line with four seniors (including the great Spencer Drango) to go out.
2. A disappointing 212 yards
Admit it: You thought LSU's Leonard Fournette would rush for 300 against Texas Tech. As impressive as it was watching Baylor's Jefferson race for 299, you didn't think it was going to be the largest total of the day. Alas, Fournette gained 212 in 29 carries, a paltry 7.3 per rush.
If nothing else, Fournette can blame his teammates. He was stuck at 29 carries in part because of D.J. Chark's 79-yard touchdown on an end-around. Brandon Harris and backup RB Derrius Guice also stole some thunder with seven carries for 80 yards. LSU still rushed for 384 yards at 9.6 yards per carry -- about what we expected against the world's worst run defense -- but Fournette didn't get a chance to shoulder as much of the load.
Oh well. With LSU up 21-20, Fournette raced 43 yards for a touchdown -- maybe the easiest 43 of his career -- and the rout was on.
LSU would score 35 of the game's final 42 points in a 56-27 blowout, holding an awesome Tech offense to only 4.9 yards per play.
That last number is impressive, by the way. Texas Tech entered the game ranking first in Off. S&P+ (and an atrocious 118th in Def. S&P+) and had only once been held under 5 yards per play all year and only twice been held under 6.1.
As he demonstrated, Tech's Patrick Mahomes is one hell of a passer, but LSU harassed him to the tune of six sacks (4.5 combined from Kendell Beckwith and Davon Godchaux) and countless hurries in 62 pass attempts. Mahomes and Tech kept trying to fight back, but the Red Raiders' two-off, one-on pattern -- they basically went punt-punt-TD all night -- wasn't nearly enough.
3. 6 touchdowns, also overshadowed
Before runners stole the show, Jared Goff was Tuesday's headliner. The Cal quarterback, almost certainly in his final game for Sonny Dykes before moving on to the pros, went out on one hell of a high note in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Despite missing a couple of open throws, Goff went 6 for 9 for 114 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter, and it just took off from there. 40 yards to Maurice Harris. 24 to Kenny Lawler. 55 to Bryce Treggs. 44 to Darius Powe. 41 to Treggs. 25 to Lawler. Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown.
The final damage: 25 for 37, 467 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions, one sack. Air Force's pass rush, so strong all season, couldn't get a finger on Goff.
To its credit, Air Force's offense kept plugging away (and Cal's defense kept letting it). The Falcons kept scoring to keep Cal's lead within two possessions, but the only effect was putting Goff back on the field. Three Air Force turnovers gave Cal all the cushion it needed, and the Bears ended up cruising, 55-36.
The Cal offense will undergo a makeover, with not only Goff but most of a senior-heavy receiving corps likely departing. And the fact that four of the top six tacklers are also seniors might be cause for alarm.
But after going 4-20 in 2012-13, bouncing back to five wins in 2014, then eight in 2015, this was a way to leave a legacy. Now we'll see if the next cycle of Dykes recruits can match.
4. Plus-187 yards, minus-5 points
It's difficult to outgain an opponent by 187 yards and lose, but Colorado State pulled that off against Nevada in a de facto ninth conference game in the Arizona Bowl.
CSU gained 532 yards but a.) suffered the game's only turnover (a fumble that led to a Nevada field goal), b.) allowed a kick return touchdown late in the first half, and c.) managed only 23 points in seven scoring opportunities (3.3 per chance). That'll do it.
Nevada also wasn't particularly good at finishing drives -- six scoring opportunities, 22 points (3.7 per chance) -- but a. and b. still made the difference. CSU kicked a field goal to cut Nevada's lead to 13-10, but Elijah Mitchell raced 96 yards down the right sideline on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Wolf Pack a 19-10 lead.
CSU took a late lead, 23-22, on a 38-yard field goal with 3:40 left, but the game's other deciding factor took over: James Butler. The sophomore running back had rushes of 15 and 13 yards to set up a 4-yard touchdown with 1:06 left. He finished with 24 carries and 189 yards, and a late defensive stand (and an error by a CSU receiver) gave the Wolf Pack the win despite only six completed passes.
This wasn't a replicable winning formula, but it gave Nevada a seventh win for the second straight year and fourth in five seasons. That Nevada hasn't won more than seven games in a season since Colin Kaepernick's final season is a bit disconcerting, but going 7-6 while you try to find direction is better than going 4-8.
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