LSU Wins BCS, USC Voted No. 1 By AP
by Mike Mitchell
LSU surprised most of the nation's prognosticators and capped the 2003 bowl season with a 21-14 upset of Oklahoma in the BCS title game in the Sugar Bowl on Sunday night (January 4).
The Tigers were voted number one in the Coaches Poll and claimed their first championship since 1958. USC was voted number one in the AP Poll.
The final Congrove Computer Rankings rank Southern California number one, followed by LSU and Oklahoma. The Sooners were the computer's preseason pick to win the national title.
|How the conferences fared in bowl games:
|Through Sugar Bowl on 1/4
LSU entered the game with the nation's best scoring defense and allowed the Tigers to build a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter. But Oklahoma had its chances to rally and cut the margin to 21-14 with 11:01 still left in the game.
A late drive took the Sooners to the LSU 12 before a fourth down Jason White pass to Mark Clayton was incomplete. Oklahoma got the ball back with just over two minutes left but that series ended on a sack near midfield.
Freshman Justin Vincent was named the most valuable player for his 117 yards rushing and 1 touchdown.
Skyler Green opened the scoring with a 24-yard burst around the right end on LSU's second possession of the game. The Tigers marched to the Oklahoma one-yard line on their opening drive but QB Matt Mauck fumbled the ball. The Sooners gave it back when Jason White was picked off by Corey Webster two plays later and LSU was back in business at the Oklahoma 32.
The Sooners tied the game in the second quarter after blocking an LSU punt and recovering the ball at the one. But LSU regained the lead at 14-7 by marching 80 yards on the ensuing possession and capping the drive with Vincent's 18-yard touchdown run through the middle of the Oklahoma defense.
LSU scored again on the second play after intermission when Jason White was intercepted for a second time. This one was grabbed by Marcus Spears and taken 20 yards to the endzone for a 21-7 cushion.
LSU was driving again when Mauck was intercepted by Brodney Pool who returned it 50 yards to the Tiger 30 to set up Oklahoma's final touchdown.
Sooner quarterback Jason White, who won the Heisman Trophy despite a rough outing in their Big 12 Championship game loss to Kansas State, completed just 13-of-37 passes for 104 yards with no touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The LSU defense held Oklahoma's potent offense to a net of just 137 yards.
In other bowl games:
P.J. Daniels rushed for 307 yards and four touchdowns, three within a 10-minute span in the second half, to help Georgia Tech blow open a close game and rout Tulsa 52-10 in the Humanitarian Bowl.
It was certainly not the type of finish the Golden Hurricane were looking for after completing a one-season turnaround that saw their record improve from 1-11 in 2002 to 8-5 this year. The loss ended a five-game winning streak and dropped Tulsa to 4-7 in bowl games.
Georgia Tech was one of four teams that gained entry to a bowl game with a 6-6 record and the only such team to win. The Yellow Jackets improved their bowl record to 21-11 in their seventh consecutive postseason appearance.
Three times Ohio State staved off Kansas State comeback attempts to win the Fiesta Bowl 35-28 on Friday night as the Big 10 runners-up knocked off the Big 12 champions.
The Buckeyes jumped out to a 21-0 lead only to see Kansas State narrow the gap to 21-14. But Ohio State went on another spurt to seemingly put the game away at 35-14. As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast". The Wildcats rallied again and victory wasn't secured for the Buckeyes until they batted away a "Hail Mary" pass on the final play of the game.
Kansas State finished a 15-game marathon season with an 11-4 mark while Ohio State ascended to 11-2. The Wildcats are 6-6 in bowl games. Ohio State is 16-19.
Eli Manning guided Mississippi to a 31-28 Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State on Friday (January 2) as the Rebels (10-3) secured their first 10-win season since 1971.
Mississippi spotted Oklahoma State a 14-7 lead in the second quarter before reeling off 24 unanswered points for a 31-14 lead. The Rebels then held off a Cowboys rally that fell short when Ole Miss ran out the last 4:38 of the game.
Mississippi has now won 6 of their last 7 bowl games and is 19-12 all-time in the postseason. Oklahoma State (9-4) fell to 10-6.
Also on Friday, Clemson rolled over Tennessee 27-14 to finish the season 9-4 and head to the off-season on a four-game winning streak. Their fortunes have turned dramatically since Tommy Bowden's team beat his dad, Bobby's, Florida State team. Entering that game on November 8, it looked like the Tigers were on the way to firing their coach, in jeopardy of missing the postseason altogether and finishing with a sub-.500 record.
Tennessee (10-3) continuously shot itself in the foot with foolish and expensive penalties that included two "pass interference" calls, two "unsportsmanlike conduct" penalties and two more for "roughing the quarterback".
Clemson coughed up nearly 400 yards passing to Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen but choked off the Volunteer running game which only managed 38 yards.
Clemson evened its bowl record at 13-13. Tennessee is 23-20 after back-to-back losses in the Peach Bowl (they lost 30-3 to Maryland last year).
USC almost certainly won the AP National Championship on New Year's Day with a 28-14 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl, leaving Oklahoma and LSU to decide the BCS Championship when they play in the Sugar Bowl on Sunday night.
Michigan (10-3) became just the second team all season to hold Southern California (12-1) to fewer than 31 points. No one had held them under 43 since Cal's 34-31 triple-overtime upset win over the Trojans.
USC improved its bowl record to 26-16 behind a relentless defense. The Wolverines slipped to 18-17 in their 29th consecutive bowl appearance.
Later on New Year's night, Xavier Beitia pushed a 39-yard field goal wide right with 5:30 to play and Miami held on for a fifth straight win over Florida State, 16-14, in the Orange Bowl. When the two teams meet at the start of next season it will be the third time they have squared off in 9 games, but the first time their game will count in the ACC standings.
The Seminoles (10-3) bowl record dropped to 19-10-2 as they lost consecutive postseason games for the first time since 1979/1980. FSU went from 1982 to 1996 without losing a bowl game (13-0-1) but is just 3-5 since then.
Miami finished 11-2 and is 35-3 in three seasons under Larry Coker. The Hurricanes' bowl record is now 15-12.
Purdue fell behind 24-0 to Georgia in the first half, then rallied to force overtime before falling 34-27 in the Capital One Bowl (formerly the Citrus Bowl) on New Year's Day.
The Bulldogs were attempting to run out the clock when Purdue forced a fumble and took over on the Georgia 34-yard line with 1:14 remaining. That set up a 44-yard field goal to tie the game.
In overtime, Georgia got the ball first and scored. Purdue's possession came down to a fourth-down pass that was intercepted in the end zone.
The Boilermakers closed out the season with a 9-4 record and dropped to 7-5 in bowl games. Georgia ended the season with a 10-3 mark and is now 20-15-3 in postseason play. Bulldog head coach Mark Richt is 32-8 in three seasons as the head coach in Athens.
The Gator Bowl game between West Virginia and Maryland was a rematch of a regular season contest - and both resulted in Terrapin romps. Maryland won the bowl game 41-7 after winning the regular season affair 34-7.
The victory gave the Terrapins their fifth straight win and tenth in their last eleven games as they finished the season at 10-3. Maryland has three consecutive 10-win seasons since Ralph Friedgen arrived in College Park as the head coach. They have also won their last two bowl games to raise that record to 8-10-2.
West Virginia's loss makes them the fourth Big East team to end the year with an 8-5 record. The Mountaineers are now 9-14 in the postseason. Since snapping an eight-game bowl losing streak with a win over Mississippi in the 2000 Music City Bowl, West Virginia has lost two straight.
Iowa got its first win in a major bowl since the 1959 Rose Bowl (defeated California) when the Hawkeyes drubbed Florida 37-17 at the Outback Bowl in Tampa on New Year's Day.
The loss gave Iowa back-to-back to-win seasons with a 10-2 mark for 2003, and sent Florida to its second consecutive 8-5 record under Ron Zook.
Iowa's over-all bowl record is 10-8-1. Florida has lost four of their last five bowl games (0-2 under Zook) to drop to 14-17 over-all in postseason play.
Boston College jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter of the San Francisco Bowl and held on for a 35-21 win over Colorado State in the final game of New Year's Eve.
The Eagles provided the Big East with their first bowl win of the 2003 season after Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh had turned up on the short end of their games. The win boosted BC's bowl record to 8-7 and their season mark to 8-5 as they won their fourth straight bowl game and ended the season with three consecutive victories.
CSU suffered its second bowl loss in a row as the Rams fell to 4-6 in postseason play and 7-6 on the season.
Arkansas (9-4) snapped a three-game bowl losing streak and won for just the second time in its last twelve postseason games when the Razorbacks scored a 27-14 triumph over Missouri (8-5) in the Independence Bowl.
Arkansas upped its bowl record to 11-20-3 with the New Year's Eve victory while Missouri declined to 10-12. The Tigers have faced 21 different teams in their 22 bowl appearances. The only team they have opposed twice is Georgia Tech. Despite their geographical proximity, Arkansas and Missouri had not played each other at all since 1963 and had met only three previous times in their history. The other two contests came in 1944 and 1906.
Utah turned a 7-0 lead into a 17-0 Liberty Bowl win over Southern Miss on Wednesday (December 31) by scoring 10 points in the final 3:24 of the game.
The defensive battle was won by the Utes who stopped Southern Miss drives twice in the closing minutes, the last one ending when Morgan Scalley returned a Golden Eagle fumble 74 yards for a touchdown.
Utah (10-2) has won its last three bowl games and is 6-3 in the postseason. Southern Miss (9-4) dropped to 5-9 in bowl games as they lost for the first time in three Liberty Bowl appearances. The Golden Eagles won the 1997 and 1999 Liberty Bowls over Pittsburgh and Colorado State.
Minnesota (10-3) reached 10 wins for the first time since 1905 when Rhys Lloyd kicked the game-winning 42-yard field goal with 23 seconds left to lift the Golden Gophers to a 31-30 Sun Bowl victory on Wednesday (December 31) over Oregon.
The Ducks (8-5) had just gone ahead 30-28 with 4:16 left on Jared Siegel's third field goal of the game but Minnesota rallied on the strength of a patient, run-dominating drive.
The win, which gave Minnesota an over-all bowl record of 4-5, was the first for any Big 10 team in the 2003 bowl season and offered a measure of revenge for the Golden Gophers who fell 24-20 to the Ducks in the 1999 Sun Bowl. Oregon is now 7-11 in its bowl history.
Carnell Williams scored twice, including a fourth quarter touchdown late in the game for insurance, as Auburn became the first SEC team in six attempts to win a Music City Bowl on Wednesday (December 31).
The Tigers' bowl record improved to 16-12-1 with the 28-14 win while the Badgers dropped to 8-7. Wisconsin came into the contest on a four-game bowl winning streak and had won seven of their last eight postseason affairs.
Auburn was tabbed as one of the top teams in the nation in the preseason but only managed an 8-5 record. Wisconsin began the year 6-1 but lost five of their last six games to finish 7-6.
Fresno State on Tuesday night (December 30) managed to do in a bowl game what they had failed to do in six previous regular season meetings - beat UCLA. The Bulldogs used a solid defensive effort in a 17-9 win to lift their final record to 9-5 and push the Bruins below the .500 mark at 6-7, the third team to finish the postseason with a losing record.
Fresno State upped its bowl record to 10-8, capitalizing on its fourth straight Silicon Valley Classic appearance. UCLA managed just 11 first downs in the game, 4 in the first half, as they lost for the fifth time in a row after beginning the season by winning six of their first eight games. The Bruins over-all bowl record is 12-12-1 but they have lost five of their last seven postseason games after winning eight straight bowl games from 1983-1991.
Washington State upset Texas, a 9-point favorite, in the Holiday Bowl on Tuesday night (December 30) in the biggest upset of the bowl season to date.
Both teams finished with 10-3 season marks as the Cougars improved their bowl record to 6-4 with the 28-20 win. Texas' postseason record declined to 20-21-2.
The Washington State defense sacked the Texas quarterbacks five times, forced a safety and scored on a fumble return. On offense, Jonathan Smith rambled for 109 yards and a score.
Navy was not expected to match up well with Texas Tech even though the nation's top rushing team was battling the country's top passing squad. In the end, the Red Raiders took home a 38-14 Houston Bowl win on Tuesday (December 30) as B.J. Symons passed for 497 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Texas Tech became the first team in NCAA history to boast five receivers with 75 or more catches in a single season, and Symons became only the second quarterback in history to throw over 50 touchdown passes in one season with 52. David Klingler threw 54 with Houston in 1990.
The lowlight of the game came when Texas Tech celebrated a touchdown by forming a ring of players in the endzone and tossed the football in the air. When it landed, they mimicked a bomb dropping and fell backward on the turf. The tasteless act offended many, especially the military academy they were playing, as the nation has been in an intensive battle against terrorism since the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans.
The Red Raiders improved to 7-19-1 in bowl games while Navy sunk to 4-5-1. Both teams finished 2003 with 8-5 records.
Nebraska beat Jeff Smoker and Michigan State 17-3 in the Alamo Bowl on Monday night (December 29) to give interim head coach Bo Pelini a win and snap a two-game bowl losing streak.
The Cornhuskers evened their over-all bowl record at 21-21 and dropped the Spartans to 7-10 in the postseason while ending their two-game bowl winning streak. Nebraska also secured a 10-win season, finishing with a 10-3 mark. Michigan State wraps up the season at 8-5 in John L. Williams' first campaign with the East Lansing school.
Pelini, the 35-year old defensive coordinator for Nebraska, was named the interim replacement when Frank Solich was fired on November 29.
The Cornhusker Blackshirt defense allowed just 19 yards rushing and limited Smoker to 159 yards passing while intercepting him three times.
On December 27, Virginia became the first team in 19 games to keep Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald out of the end zone and the Cavaliers won the Continental Tire Bowl 23-16.
Virginia's balanced attack produced 240 passing yards and 201 rushing yards while its defense limited Fitzgerald, who is expected to accompany many of this year's other stars in college football to early entry in the NFL draft, to 5 catches for 75 yards.
Both teams finished the season with 8-5 records. Virginia improved its bowl record to 6-8 and has won both Continental Tire Bowls ever played (they dumped West Virginia 48-22 last year). UVa had never attended a bowl game until the arrival of George Welsh in 1984. Al Groh replaced Welsh in 2001.
Pittsburgh's bowl record dropped to 10-13. The Panthers have been steered into the postseason in each of the last four years by Walt Harris, going 2-2 in those games.
Now, catch these numbers from the Insight Bowl: 399 yards passing by Bryan Randall, 156 yards rushing by Kevin Jones, 82 yards and a touchdown on four catches by back-up quarterback Marcus Vick and a 52-yard punt return for a touchdown by DeAngelo Hall - and all that was for the team that lost 52-49 on Friday night (December 26). California downed the Hokies on Tyler Frederickson's 35-yard field goal as time expired giving the Golden Bears their first bowl win since 1992 when they beat Clemson in the Citrus Bowl.
Cal's Aaron Rodgers added two rushing touchdowns to his two passing scores as he threw for 394 yards against a defense that completely fell apart over the last half of the season for the third consecutive year.
Bud Foster's defensive units allowed 123 points in the final 6 regular season games of 2001, 174 in the final six games of 2002 and 158 in the last six games this year. The Hokies won just two of their final six games in each of the last two seasons and three-of-six in 2001. They've allowed 105 points in their three bowl games over that span while losing two-of-three, giving them a record of 8-13 in those 21 games with 560 points surrendered
(an average of 26.7 points per game).
Three missed field goals and three kick-offs that went out-of-bounds added to Virginia Tech's undoing on this night.
Tech led 21-7 at the end of the first quarter and 28-21 at halftime. Then, California outscored the Hokies 21-0 in the third and held fourteen point leads of 42-28 and 49-35 in the final period, the last coming with only 6:26 left in the game. Tech drew even with two scores 1:17 apart as Hall tied the game on a punt return with 3:11 remaining.
Cal improved to 6-7-1 in bowl games and completed the season at 8-6. The Golden Bears were the only team to beat USC in the regular season, winning 34-31 in triple overtime on September 27.
Virginia Tech fell to 6-11 in postseason play, 5-6 under Frank Beamer, as the Hokies appeared in a bowl game for the eleventh straight season.
Virginia Tech moves to the ACC next year and begins the season against USC in Washington, D.C. on August 28. They will do so without Kevin Jones or DeAngelo Hall who have opted to forego their senior seasons in Blacksburg and enter the NFL draft.
Earlier Friday, Josh Harris rallied Bowling Green from an early 10-0 deficit and led the Falcons to their game-winning score with 4:06 left on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Cole Magner. The 28-24 win over Northwestern gave BGSU a final record of 11-3 as MAC teams won both of the bowl games they were involved in (Miami, Ohio crushed Louisville 49-28 in the GMAC Bowl).
Northwestern concluded the season with a losing record at 6-7. The Wildcats have not won a bowl game since the 1949 Rose Bowl when they downed California and are just 1-4 all-time in the postseason.
Bowling Green evened their all-time bowl record at 3-3 with their third consecutive postseason win that includes the 1991 California Raisin Bowl and 1992 Las Vegas Bowl.
Houston and Hawaii exhibited why it's entertaining to watch "lower tier" bowl games as the two teams battled for three overtimes before the Warriors prevailed 54-48 in the Hawai'i Bowl on Christmas night. But when the game ended, pandemonium broke loose with a major melee that took police intervention to finally halt.
Timmy Chang came off the bench to throw for 475 yards and five touchdowns for Hawaii, and Houston's freshman sensation quarterback Kevin Kolb hooked up with Vincent Marshall for an 81-yard scoring pass play that tied the game with 22 seconds left in regulation. That play came after Hawaii missed a game-clinching field goal
with 58 seconds left.
Hawaii (9-5) rallied twice from 10-point deficits after Chang replaced an injured Jason Whieldon as the Warriors improved their over-all bowl record to 6-10. Only once have they played in a postseason game not contested in Hawaii (a 1992 Holiday Bowl win over Illinois).
Houston finished the season at 7-6 after winning five of their first six games. The Cougars dropped to 7-7-1 in bowl games with their last win coming in 1980 at the short-lived Garden State Bowl, a 35-0 win over Navy.
Immediately after the game, punches were thrown and several players swung and tossed their helmets at opposing players as some teammates joined coaches in attempting to halt the pathetic display.
In an instant, the game transcended from being one of the most memorable bowl games of 2003 to a heaping pile of garbage. These were two teams who earned respect for the way they played on Christmas night, then promptly lost all respect for the way they acted when the game ended.
Oregon State running back Steven Jackson returned to his hometown to lead the Beavers to a 55-14 rout of New Mexico in the Las Vegas Bowl on Christmas Eve in what became his last college game as the junior will enter the 2004 NFL draft.
Jackson rushed for four touchdowns and scored another on a pass reception as he tied Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State vs. Wyoming in 1988 Holiday Bowl) and Sheldon Canley (San Jose St. vs. Kansas State in 1990 California Bowl) for the record of five touchdowns in a bowl game.
Oregon State dominated their opponent by racking up 536 yards on offense and limiting the Lobos to a paltry 84 total net yards.
The two teams ended the year with identical 8-5 records.
The inaugural Fort Worth Bowl failed to draw a packed house despite the presence of TCU in its home stadium, but the 10-point underdog Horned Frogs gave it their all before falling to Boise State 34-31 on Tuesday night, December 23.
The Broncos improved to 13-1 and stretched their winning streak to 11 games. They also kept their perfect bowl record intact at 4-0, but all of their other bowl appearances were in the Humanitarian Bowl on their home field.
TCU fell to 11-2 with a loss that wasn't in the books until a 51-yard field goal attempt fell well short with just seconds remaining. Kick-off specialist Mike Wynn was sent in to try the field goal due to an injury to starting kicker Nick Browne.
The two teams combined for over 900 yards on offense. Six Bronco players, including one starter, were ruled academically ineligible for the game. Five TCU players, including one starter who missed curfew, were suspended.
Philip Rivers completed 82 percent of his passes for 475 yards and five touchdowns as North Carolina State ripped Kansas 56-26 in the Tangerine Bowl on Monday night, December 22.
The Wolfpack rolled over the outmanned Jayhawks who entered the game having won just two of their last seven games in the regular season.
The loss dropped Kansas to 6-7 and kept them from completing their first winning season since 1995 when they beat UCLA 51-30 in the Aloha Bowl and finished 10-2 in Glen Mason's last year as head coach. He was lured away by Minnesota.
On Thursday night, December 18, in Mobile, Ben Roethlisberger and Miami (Ohio) flew past Louisville 49-28 in the GMAC Bowl. The junior quarterback announced after the game that he would enter the NFL draft a year early.
Roethlisberger threw for 376 yards and 4 touchdowns and Miami opened a 35-7 first-half lead, but Louisville cut the margin to 35-21 by halftime and closed to within 35-28 in the third quarter. The RedHawks pulled away in the fourth quarter and closed out the Cards with an interception return for a touchdown.
Miami has been shunned by bowls three times since 1995 when they produced records of 8-3 or better, including a 10-1 campaign in 1997, and had not appeared in a bowl game since being pummeled by San Jose State 37-7 in the 1986 California Bowl. But this time, it was impossible to overlook a team that concluded the season with a 13-1 mark and their first MAC championship since 1986.
The bowl season kicked off on the night of December 16 as Memphis put the exclamation point on a one-season turnaround that saw them improve from 3-9 a year ago to 9-4 this year with a 27-17 win over North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl.
It was the first appearance in a postseason game for Memphis since a 28-9 win over San Jose State in the 1971 Pasadena Bowl. It was also just the third bowl game in the history of Memphis football. They also beat East Tennessee State in the last of twelve Burley Bowls (Johnson City, Tennessee) in 1956.
North Texas has played in every New Orleans Bowl since its inception in 2001.
Memphis took advantage of numerous Mean Green penalties and mistakes to build a 17-3 halftime lead. But twice in the second half, UNT was able to cut the deficit to 7 points and the game was not salted away until Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 42-yard field goal with just 2:26 remaining.
Patrick Cobbs, the nation's leading rusher, was kept in check for much of the game but finished with 110 yards on 23 carries and two second-half touchdowns for North Texas.
Memphis QB Danny Wimprine was 17-of-23 for 254 yards and one score.
That Computes: The Congrove Computer Rankings and Weekly Picks correctly projected the winner of every game for 10 of the 117 Division 1-A teams. It missed just one time with 16 others.
The computer's preseason forecast came within two wins or less of predicting the final regular season records of 80 teams. It was exactly right for 16 teams, missed by one win on 32 teams, and missed by two wins on another 32 teams. It predicted the exact conference records of 23 teams.
It correctly projected the winners of both Big 12 divisions, Connecticut as the top independent, Miami (Ohio) as east division winner of the MAC, Georgia as east division winner of the SEC, USC as conference champ of the PAC-10, and North Texas as conference titlist of the Sun Belt.
The preseason forecast projected 43 of the 56 bowl invitees, placed nine in the correct bowl, and identified at least one of the national title game participants for the eighth time in eleven seasons.
The computer finished the season with a straight up record of 589-182, exactly the same as 2002.
Streaking: Miami (Ohio) ran the nation's longest winning streak to 13 with its GMAC Bowl win over Louisville. Boise State increased its winning streak to 11 with a Fort Worth Bowl win over TCU.
North Texas has won 18 straight over Sun Belt conference opponents.
Boise State has won 18 straight over WAC foes.
Army has lost 15 straight.
SMU has lost 12 straight.