5 Thoughts - 2009 GMAC Bowl
Tulsa QB David Johnson
Tulsa QB David Johnson
Posted Jan 7, 2009

Tulsa beats Ball State 45-13... 5 Thoughts on the 2009 GMAC Bowl

5 Thoughts on the 2009 GMAC Bowl

Tulsa 45 ... Ball State 13

GAME RECAP: Tulsa rips through Ball State in the rain 
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1. Note to Ball State QB Nate Davis: Stay in school for one more year. He’s a very nice passer who slides effortlessly out of the pocket, but he did nothing in his final two against Buffalo and Tulsa to make NFL scouts flush with anticipation. He’s shown a tendency to cough up the ball and had trouble navigating a Hurricane D that was among the nation’s worst in pass efficiency defense. I’m not suggesting Davis won’t make a quality pro someday. It just doesn’t make a ton of sense leaving early when you’re coming off two of the weaker performances of your career. Plus, as a general rule, unless a quarterback is a top 10 lock, he’s almost always better off getting more reps at the college level. - Richard Cirminiello       

2. It would have been nice to see an exit poll from the fans leaving Ladd-Peebles Stadium to determine just how many made the three-hour trip down I-65 to see the Tulsa offense up close. You see, Hurricane offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, the architect of the nation’s top-rated attack, was on the sidelines for one final game before taking over the same job at Auburn on Gene Chizik’s new staff. Although the competition was certainly lighter than what he’ll see in the SEC, those Tiger fans in attendance had to be impressed by what they saw. In weather fit for a duck, Tulsa still managed to crank out more than 600 yards, most of which came on the ground. If Malzahn can attract the right personnel to the Plains, how much fun will it be watching the frenetic hurry-up, no-huddle offense go up against Nick Saban’s defenses every November? 
- Richard Cirminiello

3. Has any conference ever had a worse bowl season than the MAC? For a league that has made such great strides and plays such competitive football, this bowl season has been an unmitigated disaster. NIU losing to Louisiana Tech in the Independence, a home game for the Bulldogs, was acceptable. Western Michigan lost to Rice in Houston. That's also nothing to beef about. But Buffalo, the MAC champion, got run over by UConn after getting five turnovers in the first half of the International, Central Michigan lost what amounted to a home game to Florida Atlantic in the Motor City, and now, Ball State got embarrassed by Tulsa. Sure, there's a valid excuse with head coach Brady Hoke at San Diego State instead of on the sidelines, but once the blowout kicked in and the rain intensified, the Cardinals didn't appear to want anything to do with the rest of the game. At this point, the MAC has to stay away from Mobile, especially against Tulsa, after Bowling Green lost to the Golden Hurricane 63-7 last year for the worst defeat in bowl history. Overall, the MAC now slips in behind the Sun Belt as the worst conference in America. - Pete Fiutak

4. Tonight's game, the thirty-third out of 34 bowls, offered yet one more example of how the bowls differ from the regular season.
In its first 12 regular-season games, Ball State was supremely confident and relatively airtight. But as soon as Nate Davis fumbled away the MAC championship against Buffalo, BSU's reason for playing football evaporated. The Cardinals--stomach-punched not just by their inability to win their conference, but by the departure of coach Brady Hoke--clearly looked like a team that just didn't have a lot of fire in the belly.
For Tulsa, loser of the Conference USA Championship Game to East Carolina (an East Carolina team that spit the bit against 6-6 Kentucky in the Liberty Bowl, another shocking bowl turnabout), tonight represented a chance for redemption. The Golden Hurricane--despite having traveled to Mobile, Ala., for last year's GMAC Bowl--still treated their postseason contest as a big deal. The results proved as much.
If you had played this game in early December, the Cardinals would have fared a lot better, because Tulsa quarterback David Johnson was suffering a crisis of confidence, a football equivalent of a full-scale collapse. But after a month of down time, a mentally refreshed Johnson looked like his old, sharp self against Ball State.
There are no excuses in bowl games--teams have to show up and perform if they want to gain respect for themselves and their conferences. With that said, timing means a great deal in this strange three-week world known as bowl season. - Matthew Zemek
5. Given the difference between the 12-game season-long grind and the one-shot nature of bowls--very much on display in this and many other bowl games--it's in the best interest of college football to create new ways of making the season more competitive and compelling.
No, I'm not talking about a playoff. We know that's not happening for at least the next five seasons (the last season under the FOX BCS contract, followed by the next four seasons under ESPN's new BCS agreement). What the sport can do is to have teams like Ball State and Tulsa play mid-December games that feel partly like regular-season games and partly like postseason games.
Have the MAC champion play the C-USA champion in mid-December.
Have the WAC champion play the Mountain West champion in mid-December.
Put the games in good time slots on Saturday afternoon on major cable or broadcast networks. This would be a great way for the sport to build strength and increase visibility in its non-BCS conferences. Then even more of the sport's little guys will receive both the exposure and the on-field spotlight they deserve.
Ball State-Tulsa didn't sizzle on January 6, 2009, but had Cardinals-Golden Hurricane been staged on December 20, 2008, one would have seen a far better product, without question. - Matthew Zemek