Instant Analysis -
Idaho 43 ... Bowling Green 42
I know, I know, there are too many bowl games and the importance and prestige are diminished when there are so many, but bowls, like sales, or trying to pick up girls in a bar, is a contact sport. The more contacts you make, the more chances for success. Limit the number of bowls, which no one is forcing you to watch or forcing the teams to go to, and we’d have missed out on this gem.
Who doesn’t want more college football? What, you have something better to do? If you watched this game, like you weren’t glued to the set in the fourth quarter and out of your seat in the final minutes. Like you aren’t going to remember Freddie Barnes for the rest of your sports-watching life. Like you didn’t yell, “OOOOHHHHHHHH!!!” at the miraculous 50-yard play from Nathan Enderle to Preston Davis to get Idaho in a position to tie the game … or win it on the gutsiest call of the 2009 season.
After the dud that was the Holiday Bowl and some of the disasters early on this bowl season, games like this are what make bowls great. And remember, you can have bowls like this AND have a playoff.
Even if you don’t know Freddie Barnes from Freddie Prinze, this year’s Humanitarian Bowl was about as entertaining a postseason game as you’re going to get in December.
The H-Bowl got it right this year, pairing a couple of schools from smaller conferences together in a punting-optional shootout. The old arrangement involving the ACC ensured the game of having at least one team that didn’t want to make this trip. That wasn’t the case this year, as both Idaho and Bowling Green played with passion and intensity for all 60 minutes.
Even in a losing cause, Barnes was the star of the afternoon, catching about 75 passes, including what should have been the game-winner for Bowling Green with under a minute left, and setting a new FBS record for receptions in a season. The biggest hero in Boise, however, was Idaho coach Robb Akey, who had the guts and foresight to go for two with four seconds remaining, when an extra point would have sent the game to overtime. It was the right call, as Nathan Enderle found Preston Davis in the back of the end zone, capping the Vandals’ best season in a decade. Even if it doesn’t work, that type of a gutsy decision sends a message throughout the roster and the local community that the coach is going to take whatever measure is necessary to get the W. For putting his neck on the line, you have to feel good for Akey that it worked out.
As far as the MAC goes, can things get any worse? Once the Falcons went up on a broken coverage that allowed Barnes to get behind the secondary, it looked as if the conference was finally ready to snap its 12-game postseason losing streak. Uh-uh. Akey and Enderle made sure of it. The last hopes in this bowl cycle now belong to Central Michigan and Northern Illinois, which get Troy and South Florida, respectively, next week.
1) While saluting Idaho coach Robb Akey for his endgame guts, it’s worth noting a more fundamental adjustment the Vandals made late in the second quarter, one which paved the way for an offensive surge that was substantial enough to overcome the Bowling Green Freddie Barneses.
A few minutes before halftime, Travis Mason-Bushman – an Idaho-based reporter who covered the game in person at Broncos Stadium in Boise – noted that the Vandals were averaging 7.7 yards per carry but eschewing the run. On cue, Idaho turned to running back DeMaundray Woolridge just before intermission, and the productive senior immediately began to blast away at Bowling Green’s front seven. Idaho scored a tying touchdown with 19 seconds left in the first half, and then rode Woolridge to two third-quarter touchdowns as well. In the fourth quarter, the ever-present threat of Woolridge allowed Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle to find the rhythm he so manifestly lacked in a shaky first half. By establishing the run first and then resorting to the pass, Idaho’s offensive braintrust found the right mix on an afternoon when the Vandals needed each and every one of their 43 points.
2) Okay, okay, the chorus is already in full-throated glory, loudly singing, “SEE! THERE AREN’T TOO MANY BOWLS!!!” Sorry to be a contrarian, but let’s have some perspective here: In many of the lower-tier bowl games, the comparatively low payouts force teams to take a financial bath. In other December games with a small amount of compensation, the travel costs (see “H” for “Hawaii Bowl”) prove to be daunting, and in cases such as the Sun Bowl, Stanford is eating a loss because of unsold tickets. And none of this touches on the integrity-of-competition issue; no 6-6 team should ever be in a bowl game. Yes, Idaho and Bowling Green both deserved to be in a bowl game, and bless ‘em, the Falcons (aka, the Freddie Barneses) and Vandals put on a wonderful show. However, this noisy classic in Boise doesn’t mean that there should be 34 bowls, some of them with 6-6 teams. Somewhere in the area of 22-25 bowls sounds about right.