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Oregon blew a 31-point lead in its bowl game. How'd that happen, and now what?

The final day of bowl season included two shootouts and two solid finishes to up-and-down SEC seasons. Here's something to know from each. Catch up here!

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation 2015 Bowl Calendar

1. TCU came back from 31 points down

You either watched it on Saturday night, or you gave up on the game, went to a movie, and found out when you got out: TCU spotted Oregon a 31-0 halftime lead, flipped the script and forced overtime, then won after three overtime periods, 47-41. It was as crazy as it sounded.

There's a point in seemingly every basketball blowout loss when your opponent, likely at home and already winning, nails some ridiculous 30-foot bank shot as the shot clock expires. That is the moment when you know your team officially has no chance. Fate has plans for you.

TCU dealt with the football equivalent. Already down 28-0 and desperate for a spark, the Horned Frogs' Ian Wheeler blocked an Oregon punt, only to watch it flutter into the hands of Oregon's DeForest Buckner, who advanced it for a first down.

That was that, right? No way to come back from a demoralizing moment like that. But Gary Patterson teams don't stop trying to find advantages, and thanks to tenacity and a couple of key Oregon injuries (and a Patterson shirt change), the Frogs found those in the second half.

  • First half (plays-yards): Oregon 53-376 (7.1 per play), TCU 33-142 (4.3)
  • Second half and OT: TCU 61-403 (6.6), Oregon 30-43 (1.4)

Oregon's offense failed so quickly — punting on all four full possessions of the second half and losing a fumble on a kickoff, while going three-and-out four times — that TCU was able to wear a shaky Oregon defense out. The Frogs played keep-away, holding onto the ball for 22 minutes in the third and fourth quarters.

On paper, this played out like you would assume a 31-point comeback would. The positive impact for TCU is pretty obvious.

But what does it mean for Oregon? Thankfully, it doesn't have to mean very much. Let's walk through how this comeback came about.

An excellent quarterback and his center left the game, and nobody could reliably complete a snap ...

We can make this about "choking," and we can say ridiculous things like "Yall think im joking, im not id for real FIRE everybody at oregon after tonight..."

But if you have to blow a giant lead, you might as well do it because your backup center and backup quarterback can't complete a snap. That is something more likely to wreck a game than an entire season.

The Heisman does not go to the country's most valuable player. If it did, Alabama's Derrick Henry, with that absurd defense in his back pocket, wouldn't have taken the award. But if we did have such an award to give, Vernon Adams would have one hell of a case.

Oregon lost four games, and Adams was only on the field at the end of one (at Michigan State, when he was trying to lead a comeback with a broken hand). The senior EWU transfer had a 179 passer rating, and he was 13-for-19 for 197 yards against TCU. But then he took a hard hit and left the game with a head injury. Hegarty, the center, left too.

Faulty snaps wrecked multiple drives. A tiring defense got no rest, which increased odds of failure. Everything snowballed.

You can write part of this off as a freak confluence of injuries. This would be more comforting if Adams and Hegarty weren't seniors. Oregon has an entire offseason to prepare for life without them, and the Ducks won't go 0-12 next fall because of back QB-center exchanges, but Adams' time in Eugene is already over.

... and Oregon's defense showed up.

The Ducks entered with an abysmal No. 88 ranking in Def. S&P+. Don Pellum's defense has a bend-don't-break design, but gives up too many big plays and stinks at stiffening in the red zone.

Oregon's defense was so bad that it convinced us Jeff Lockie was a bad quarterback. That's a heck of a magic trick. Lockie is represented an obvious step backwards from Adams, but he still completed 62 percent of his passes for the season. In the four regular-season games when he was at the helm, Oregon averaged 40 points per game. He's not nearly as bad as his reputation.

In Oregon's four losses, the defense allowed an average of 46 points. That's unforgivable.

When longtime coordinator Nick Aliotti retired following 2013, Pellum engineered temporary improvement. The Ducks had fallen to 55th in Def. S&P+ in Aliotti's final season but ranked a respectable 28th in 2014. That was good enough for Oregon to ride an awesome offense to the national title game.

Because the offense is usually quite good, Oregon doesn't need an elite defense to win. But ... 88th is too low. It would be a surprise if head coach Mark Helfrich doesn't make a coordinator change. It was reasonable before the Alamo Bowl; to quell bad feelings, it might be a necessity afterward.

Even when Oregon was making stops, TCU was playing a role. The Frogs were playing without their own starting quarterback, Trevone Boykin, and backup Bram Kohlhausen struggled early. His first five attempts netted five yards, and he was 10-for-20 at halftime. An illegal block and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty killed two promising drives.

In the second half, Oregon had no answer. The Ducks couldn't generate pressure on Kohlhausen, who had time to take shots. He completed 18 of 25 passes after halftime, and despite cramping, was able to use his legs in an improved running game.

Oregon isn't getting back to the finals until this defense improves. The Ducks recruit too well to rank outside of, say, the Def. S&P+ top 50.

The Ducks will move on, but Saturday illustrated their biggest concerns: quarterback, offensive line, and, most of all by far, defense. The skill positions are accounted for, and new offensive coordinator Matt Lubick will do fine, at least as long as he throws "Heavy Right 36 Awful Snap on two" out of the playbook.

But that defense simply has to improve back to general mediocrity.


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2. 2016 already for Arizona State

If you click on the Schedule link on Arizona State's football home page, it takes you to the Sun Devils' 2016 schedule. Sure, every team's home page will do that soon. But to my knowledge, no other school flipped the switch from 2015 to 2016 the moment after 2015 ended.

You can't blame ASU for wanting to move on. Ranked 15th in the preseason AP poll, the Sun Devils never looked the part. They got whipped by Texas A&M and USC in September, three games in a row in conference play, and entered the Cactus Bowl a mere 6-6 and 61st in S&P+. And then ... this.

West Virginia's Skyler Howard threw two interceptions and took two sacks, proof that ASU's non-stop attacking occasionally paid off. But that only accounts for four of 53 pass attempts. In the other 49, Howard completed 28 passes for 532 yards and five touchdowns.

ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici tried his damnedest to match — 29-for-52, 418 yards, four scores, no picks or sacks — but thanks to poor scoreboard management and a 15-yard touchdown from Howard to David Sills with 2:19 left, WVU came away a 43-42 winner.

3. Arkansas' 8.4 yards per play

Arkansas was far superior to Kansas State in the regular season and was projected to win the Liberty Bowl comfortably.

KSU began each half perfectly — in the first half, the Wildcats picked off a pass, then drove 27 for the first score; in the second, they drove 74 in four plays and scored on a 48-yard pass to fullback Winston Dimel (who also scored the game-opening TD).

Outside of those six minutes, Arkansas outscored the Wildcats 45-9 and allowed 141 yards in 39 plays. The Hogs averaged 8.4 yards per play and scored with ease. In his final Arkansas game, Brandon Allen completed 20 of 26 passes. Junior running back Alex Collins rushed 23 times for 185 yards.

Kansas State wasn't good in 2015. The Wildcats will be quite a bit more experienced in 2016, and assuming Bill Snyder doesn't retire, he'll have a chance to field another decent team.

As soon as Bret Bielema figures out how to get his team playing well in September, look out. The Hogs know how to close a season. They won three of four to finish 2014 and six of seven to close 2015.

4. 2-3 remaining years of eligibility all over Georgia's box score

If you're playing in a meaningless bowl, with a staff made almost entirely of interim coaches, you might as well a) win and b) win with underclassmen playing key roles.

Though seniors Malcolm Mitchell (five catches, 114 yards) and Keith Marshall (14 carries, 62 yards) did their part, Georgia rode to a 24-17 TaxSlayer Bowl win over Penn State because of youngsters.

Sophomore Sony Michel rushed 20 times for 85 yards, and freshman Terry Godwin both caught and threw touchdown passes. Sophomore defensive back Malkom Parrish and freshman linebacker Roquan Smith each had 1.5 tackles for loss. Sophomore defensive back Dominick Sanders had a pick, a break-up, and a TFL. Freshman defensive back Rico McGraw broke up two passes.

We could point out Georgia nearly managed to blow a 24-3 lead to a backup quarterback (PSU's Trace McSorley went 14-for-27 after Christian Hackenberg left because of injury), or that 20 carries for 85 yards isn't very good, even against a good PSU defense.

But still, with Georgia's staff getting overhauled and Hackenberg destined to go pro regardless of whether he's ready (he's not), this was not a game for drawing conclusions. All you want from a game like this is reason to be hopeful, and Georgia got a little.

Heck, with McSorley, freshman running back Saquon Barkley (82 rushing and receiving yards), and especially sophomore receivers Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton (11 catches, 204 yards), so did Penn State.

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