PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  USC Trojans head coach Clay Helton and quarterback Sam Darnold #14 react after defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions 52-49 to win the 2017 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 2, 2017 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

USC QB Sam Darnold, Houston DL Ed Oliver headline FWAA Freshman All-America Team

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USC quarterback Sam Darnold and Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver were the stars of the FWAA’s Freshman All-America Team for the 2016 season, and Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and USC head coach Clay Helton shared the award for First Year Coach of the Year.

The FWAA’s Freshman All-America Team, announced today, includes 20 true freshmen including Oliver, Ohio State running back Mike Weber, Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill and Florida State defensive lineman Brian Burns.

Fuente is coming off his first season as the head coach at Virginia Tech after a successful stint as head coach at Memphis, with an ACC Coastal Division championship and appearance in the ACC Championship Game. Helton overcame a rough start to coach USC into a top 10 finish and a Rose Bowl victory over Big Ten champion Penn State. Both have been head coaches before, of course, but the FWAA First Year Coach of the Year is open to any coach in his first full season as a head coach at his current school.

OFFENSE

  • QB Sam Darnold, USC
  • RB Mike Weber, Ohio State
  • RB Benny Snell, Kentucky
  • RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
  • WR Ammon Richards, Miami
  • WR Demetris Robinson, California
  • WR Ty Lee, Middle Tennessee
  • TE Isaac Nautta, Georgia
  • OL Michael Jordan, Ohio State
  • OL Jawaan Taylor, Florida
  • OL Ryan Bates, Penn State
  • OL Thomas Shoaf, BYU
  • OL Ben Bredeson, Michigan
  • AP Donnie Corley, Michigan State

DEFENSE

  • DL Ed Oliver, Houston
  • DL Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
  • DL Brian Burns, Florida State
  • DL Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State
  • DL Reggie Walker, Kansas State
  • LB Logan Wilson, Wyoming
  • LB Troy Dye, Oregon
  • LB Leo Lewis, Mississippi State
  • LB Josiah Tauaefa, UTSA
  • LB David Reese, Florida
  • DB Xavier Crawford, Oregon State
  • DB Javon Hagan, Ohio
  • DB Taylor Rapp, Washington
  • DB Jessie Bates, Wake Forest
  • DB Clifton Duck, Appalachian State

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia
  • P Tom Sheldon, North Carolina
  • KR Tony Pollard, Memphis
  • PR Malik McGue, Army

Rainbow Warriors roll in Hawaii Bowl win over Middle Tennessee

Hawaii wide receiver Ammon Barker, left, runs with the football for a first down after catching a pass on a fake-punt play against Middle Tennessee during the third quarter of the Hawaii Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
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Being home for the holidays sounded pretty good for Hawaii, as few things could compare to having a bowl game win as a nice present under the tree.

The Rainbow Warriors continued their hot play down the stretch and used a couple of Middle Tennessee turnovers to capture a 52-35 Hawaii Bowl win in a wild one on Saturday night.

After the Blue Raiders jumped out to a 14-0 lead just a few minutes into the first quarter, the home team decided to wake up and join the postseason party, turning three first half takeaways into three touchdowns and come roaring into the lead. Quarterback Dru Brown threw for 274 yards and four scores on the night overall (and added another rushing) as the offense threw a little bit of everything at their opponents to keep them on their heels.

Warriors running back Diocemy Saint Juste also had one of his best outings in a Hawaii uniform, rushing for 170 yards on 25 carries and helping power the team over the 500 yards of total offense mark.

As good as the offense was though, it was the defense for the home team that really helped them regain momentum with a fumble recovery in the red zone and a pair of interceptions in the first half, one of which was returned for a 68-yard pick six.

Despite those issues holding onto the ball, MTSU was still able to move down the field fairly effectively. Quarterback Brent Stockstill returned to action for the first time in nearly two months since breaking his collar bone and would have had a pretty nice game if it weren’t for those turnovers, throwing for 432 yards and four touchdowns. Richie James was the target of most of his passes (nine catches for 175 yards, two scores) while I’Tavius Mathers was contained fairly well with just 57 yards on the ground.

But none of that trio could get the Blue Raiders over the hump after a big early hole. Although they threatened down the stretch, ultimately Hawaii had an answer at every turn to capture the program’s first bowl victory in a decade, dating back to a blowout win of Arizona State on this same date and game back in 2006.

That puts the Warriors back at .500 for the season and caps off an impressive turnaround for first-year head coach Nick Rolovich after the team had just seven wins the past two seasons combined coming into 2016.

Louisiana Tech tops Navy in wild Armed Forces Bowl shootout

Louisiana Tech wide receiver Trent Taylor (5) runs for a touchdown after a catch past Navy cornerback Jarid Ryan (9) and linebacker Brandon Jones (3) during first half of the Armed Forces Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Louisiana Tech and Navy have opposite approaches to offense… but they both agreed to score plenty of points on Friday.

The Bulldogs managed to put up just a tad more in the Armed Forces Bowl and won 48-45 in an fun postseason shootout on Friday.

Quarterback Ryan Higgins kicked off the scoring for Tech back in the first quarter with a rushing touchdown but did most of his damage with his arm, passing for 409 yards and four scores. Tailbacks Jarred Craft and Boston Scott both added a combined 96 yards on the ground while the latter also found the end zone.

Receiver Trent Taylor — FBS’s third-leading receiver coming into today — closed his career out in style with yet another remarkable performance for the senior. He finished the bowl game with 12 catches for 233 yards and two touchdown receptions and was a tough cover despite some mucky conditions in Fort Worth, Texas. Fellow wideout Carlos Henderson also chipped in with another 129 yards and two touchdowns.

Navy quarterback Zach Abey did all he could to deliver a victory but ended up just a little short operating the triple-option and was knocked out of the game with an injury with just four minutes to go in the game. The third-stringer made his second start and threw for 159 yards and a touchdown while topping the century mark on the ground with 114 yards rushing and two more scores.

The Midshipmen wound up with over 450 yards of offense and averaged over seven yards a play for the game but simply couldn’t come up with enough stops on the defensive end to capture the win.

Instead it was the Bulldogs who emerged victorious in a high-scoring affair between the runners-up of the American and Conference USA that was certainly one of the better bowl games so far this year.

Old Dominion caps first 10-win FBS season with Bahamas Bowl victory over EMU

RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 17: David Washington #10 of the Old Dominion Monarchs hands off to Ray Lawry #33 against the NC State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
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Old Dominion (10-3) checked off a few items on the season-long to-do list for the still young FBS program. On Saturday, with a 24-20 victory over Eastern Michigan (7-6) in the Bahamas Bowl, Old Dominion capped the first 10-win season in program history since moving up the FBS and Conference USA with its first bowl victory in its first bowl game in program history. Old Dominion quarterback David Washington passed for three touchdowns and Ray Lawry rushed for 133 yards on the ground in the win for the Monarchs.

Eastern Michigan had their chances on offense against Old Dominion, but racking up 470 yards and owning the lead in time of possession was put to waste against Old Dominion. Settling for a field goal in the fourth quarter from the two-yard line and punting the ball on a fourth and eight from the Old Dominion 48-yard line with under six minutes to play gave the Monarchs a chance to put the game on ice. Eagles quarterback Brogan Roback passed for 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns to lead the Eastern Michigan offense, bringing a disappointing close to an otherwise remarkable season for the Eastern Michigan program.

Old Dominion never trailed in the game. After taking a 10-0 lead into halftime, Old Dominion had to fend off Eastern Michigan in the second half. The Eagles tied the game at 17-17 late in the third quarter but could only score a field goal while Old Dominion tacked on a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The game-winning score came on a five-yard touchdown pass from Washington to Jonathan Duhart.

At the moment, the MAC is still looking for its first bowl victory of the season after dropping to 0-3. Conference USA improved its record to 3-2 this bowl season with the Old Dominion win. Conference USA now owns bowl victories against the American Athletic Conference (Western Kentucky over Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl), MAC and Sun Belt Conference (Southern Mississippi over Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl). The lone loss of the bowl season so far came against the Mountain West Conference, with UTSA coming up three points shy against New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl. Conference USA can even its record against the Mountain West in the Hawaii Bowl when Middle Tennessee takes on Hawaii.

Old Dominion’s 2017 season kicks off on September 2 at home against Albany. The Monarchs will also host North Carolina and play at Virginia Tech in back-to-back weeks in September before diving into Conference USA play.

Eastern Michigan will get the 2017 season underway on September 2 at home against Charlotte. The Eagles also play three non-conference game son the road against Rutgers, Kentucky and Army next season.

Anthony Wales runs Western Kentucky past Memphis in Boca Raton Bowl

Western Kentucky running back Anthony Wales finds a gap between Memphis defenders during the Boca Raton Bowl NCAA college football game Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016, in Boca Raton, Fla. (Adam Sacasa/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
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The Boca Raton Bowl boiled down, essentially, to one statistic: the ability of Memphis to stop the run. The Tigers ranked a respectable 44th in the country in rushing defense over their eight victories… and a dreadful 125th in their four losses, allowing an average of 372 yards and five touchdowns on 6.7 yards per carry.

Memphis couldn’t stop the run on Tuesday night, and Western Kentucky had its way with the Tigers, ending the best 2-year run in program history with a 51-31 victory.

Playing in his final collegiate game, Anthony Wales recorded the best night of his career. The senior rushed 35 times for a career-high 245 yards and three touchdowns, essentially breaking open what was a tight, 21-17 game himself. Wales’s first scoring dash came at the end of the first half put WKU up by 11 — Memphis would climb no closer than 13 the rest of the night —  his second score pushed the game into blowout territory and his final score, a 1-yard jaunt around right end with 2:18 remaining, ended any hope of a Memphis comeback.

Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White, playing back home in South Florida, was hyper-efficient as usual. White came into the night averaging 10.4 yards per attempt — which would be the most in FBS over the past three years if not for Baker Mayfield‘s 11.1 average — and improved upon that absurd number by completing 20-of-30 passes for 336 yards (that’s 11.2 yards per attempt) with three touchdowns against one interception. And White actually threw four touchdowns but had this beauty taken away by scoring technicality.

That’s offensive tackle Forrest Lamp finding the end zone on what was scored a 9-yard run, giving WKU a 14-10 lead it would not relinquish.

Memphis (8-5) struggled to run the ball, averaging only 2.5 yards on 31 carries, but Riley Ferguson still got his, completing 25-of-43 passes for 372 yards with four touchdowns and one pick.

The win closes a 2-year run under head coach Jeff Brohm — who has already left for Purdue; Nick Holt served as interim head coach on Tuesday — in which the Hilltoppers (11-3) posted a 23-5 overall record, a 17-1 mark against Conference USA competition, two C-USA titles and two bowl victories over American opponents. Those five losses: to No. 5 LSU in 2015, to No. 1 Alabama earlier this season, and losses of three, one, and three points.

What comes next will fall on the shoulders of new head coach Mike Sanford. Considering the trajectory of this program from Willie Taggart to Bobby Petrino to Brohm and now to Sanford, whatever comes next should still be pretty darn good.