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KD Cannon a thorn in Boise State’s side as Baylor takes Cactus Bowl

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Bowl games can often be completely separate animals from the regular season, and no one will prove that phenomenon more true this winter than Baylor. A team that arrived in Phoenix on a 6-game losing streak played like the Big 12 title contender many expected it to be, beating Boise State 31-12 in the Cactus Bowl.

Baylor playing like Baylor again started with getting the ball in the hands of the type of player that dominated games during the Bears’ salad days — wide receiver KD Cannon. The junior caught 14 passes for 226 yards and two crucial first half touchdowns — a 30-yarder to open the scoring in the first quarter and a 68-yard connection to stretch the lead to 14-3 with 12:14 to play in the half.

In addition to not covering Cannon, Boise State was undone by Brett Rypien‘s inability to hold on to the football inside scoring territory. The Broncos’ quarterback tossed first half two interceptions inside Baylor’s 5-yard line and lost a fumble at the Bears’ 16, ending any hopes of a comeback early in the fourth quarter. Rypien’s second pick came inside the end zone and led to an, ahem, controversial 99-yard drive for the Bears’ final score of the half.

Baylor was initially stopped at its own 21 but received new life when Drew Galitz drew a running into the kicker flag, a 5-yard penalty on a 4th-and-4, despite ESPN replays showing clearly no Boise State player actually touched Galitz. The flag stood, though, and JaMychal Hasty ended the 15-play march with a 5-yard scoring dash with 4:19 to play in the half.

Boise State added a second Tyler Rausa field goal, a 26-yard chip shot, to close the first half and opened the second half with a 13-play drive that ended on a turnover on downs when Bryan Harsin eschewed a third field goal try in favor of a fourth-and-goal pass that was broken up by defensive back Ryan Reid. Baylor answered with an un-Baylor-like 21-play drive culminating in a 34-yard Chris Callahan field goal at the 3:19 mark of the third quarter.

Baylor (7-6) closed the door for good after Rypien’s fumble with a 12-play, 71-yard drive that closed with a Zach Smith 14-yard scoring strike to Ishmael Zamora with 10:03 remaining. Smith played the best game of his young career, completing 28-of-39 passes for 375 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Terence Williams, receiving a full work load after Shock Linwood chose to stay home, toted 25 carries for 103 yards.

Rypien (31-of-50 for an even 300 yards) added a cosmetic score when he hit Cedrick Wilson for a 28-yard score with 1:20 to play. His 2-point pass was, fittingly, intercepted.

Playing in the final game of his Boise State careerJeremy McNichols posted a quiet night of 19 carries for 46 yards with five grabs for 24 more yards.

The loss for Boise State (10-3) was a rare one in a metropolitan area that hosted many of the orange and blue’s greatest moments over the past decade. The Broncos are 3-0 in Fiesta Bowls played at University of Phoenix Stadium in nearby Glendale, while Tuesday night’s loss came at Phoenix’s Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Houston adds Dak Prescott’s college QB coach as OC

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Dak Prescott has been one of the breakout stars of the 2016 NFL season.  One of his collegiate mentors, as it turns out, is moving up the coaching ladder as well.

Tuesday afternoon, Houston announced that new head coach Major Applewhite has added Brian Johnson as his offensive coordinator.  Johnson will also serve as the Cougars’ quarterbacks coach.

The latter was Johnson’s role at Mississippi State the past three seasons, the first two of which coincided with Prescott’s last two seasons with the Bulldogs.

“He was unbelievable and I’m very thankful to have him as a coach. Once I got the offense down, he took me to another level and his knowledge of the game was invaluable,” a statement attributed to the Dallas Cowboys quarterback began. “It meant a lot to have someone who has played at such a high level be able to teach you. You look at the success he had with his undefeated season at Utah and you know he can back up what he is teaching. He’s also a great guy who pushes you to be a better person in the community and academically. I’m very proud of him.”

Prior to his time at MSU, Johnson spent four seasons as an assistant at his alma mater Utah.  In 2012 at the age of 24 he was named as the Utes’ coordinator, becoming the youngest FBS assistant to ever hold that title.

Rainbow Warriors roll in Hawaii Bowl win over Middle Tennessee

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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.

Turnovers help Rainbow Warriors take halftime lead in the Hawaii Bowl

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In the first few minutes of the Hawaii Bowl, Middle Tennessee was off to a dream start after spending their postseason vacation on the islands. Then the team got into the Christmas spirit and decided to start gifting their opponents points and turnovers.

As a result, Hawaii turned three turnovers into three scores and managed to storm back from an early deficit to take a 35-21 lead into halftime of their hometown bowl game.

Blue Raiders quarterback Brent Stockstill returned to action for the first time since early November when he suffered a broken collarbone, but had an up-and-down first two quarters. He finished with 255 yards and two touchdown passes when all was said and done but was also responsible for two interceptions and a fumble as he looked a tad rusty when the game speed started to pick up.

That first fumble set the Rainbow Warriors up in the red zone and signal-caller Dru Brown capitalized on it by needing just one play to find the end zone. Stockstill was intercepted the next drive and it didn’t take long before Steven Lakalaka punched it in to take advantage of another short field. Diocemy Saint Juste powered the next scoring drive that resulted in an touchdown and then the defense got on the board with a 68 yard pick-six to completely flip the momentum to the home team.

MTSU did get something going just before halftime but it’s pretty clear they’ll need to take care of the ball better if they want to dig themselves out of this deficit and head home from the islands with a victory. Given the fight that Hawaii showed in storming back however, it’s pretty clear there should be some late night fun set for the second half in Saturday’s only bowl game.

Nearly 15 years later, NCAA refusing to retroactively count bowl stats remains baffling

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San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey set the all-time career rushing record on Saturday by eclipsing Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne in a victory over Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl. Or did he?

Pumphrey ended his career with an all-time total of 6,405 rushing yards, cementing himself in first place on the all-time rushing leaders list. Dayne finished his college career with 6,397 rushing yards, but that total does not include Dayne’s rushing total from the bowl games he played. If you include Dayne’s postseason rushing totals, including three bowl games with 200+ rushing yards, Dayne finished his career with 7,125 rushing yards, a point the former Badgers Heisman Trophy winner was quick to note in a congratulatory tweet.

So why do we count Pumphrey’s postseason stats but not Dayne’s?

The simple answer is the NCAA is probably too lazy to do some research to go back in time and retroactively count bowl stats for teams and players.

In 2002, the NCAA made the decision to start counting bowl game stats with the official records for regular season performance. The decision was made to make college football record-keeping consistent with how records are held for other NCAA sports, where postseason results are counted on top of regular season stats.

“Each sport we compile statistics in, that’s the way it’s done,” Gary Johnson, senior assistant director of statistics at the NCAA, said in 2002. “We’re basically bringing football in line.”

The NCAA began tracking and officially recording stats in 1937. At the time, only a small handful of bowl games existed, so there was no need seen to keep track of bowl stats in the same fashion. As time went on and more teams were given opportunities to play in a postseason bowl game, it was determined that there was a new need to keep track of bowl stats since it affected more than just a small handful of programs. Some conferences, like the Big Ten, had already taken the initiative to keep bowl game stats on the record, but the NCAA was slow to adapt (surprise, surprise). The problem is the NCAA decided to not go back and make bowl game stats from before 2002 a part of the record books. Why?

That’s a good question, especially since in 2002 Purdue sports information director Tom Schott expressed his desire to see the NCAA choose to go back and do juts that at some point.

“I think it’s doable,” Schott said. “I can understand them not wanting to go back right now. I hope at some point they go back.”

Here we are in 2016, and approaching 2017, and no initiative has been made to dig into the archives to adjust the records accordingly. And because of the decision not to retroactively count bowl game stats before 2002, we have a new all-time rushing leader on the record books, much to the dismay of the Wisconsin faithful.

If altering the record books is a way to preserve the history of the game as it was seen and recorded for decades, that defeats the purpose of keeping track of history. Football stats may be trivial to most, but the NCAA is making a very simple decision not to preserve the history of the game as it actually occurred out of pure laziness. To suddenly change the way history is recorded when such an obvious option to better preserve it exists without taking the measure to do so is silly. To me, the solution is simple. Either count all the bowl game stats or none of them. Either way is fine, so long as it is consistent.

It’s time to have somebody at the NCAA correct this blatant inaccuracy with the official record books. Until they do, the NCAA is devaluing the significance of their own individual records.