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Ranking the 2009/2010 Bowls - The Good
Posted Jan 8, 2010

Ranking the 2009/2010 Bowl Season with the best to the worst bowls, here are The Above-Average. Entertaining, solid bowl games that were worth the watch.

Ranking the 2009/2010 Bowls

Recapping the games - Above-Average

- Ranking the 2009/2010 Bowl Season - The Classics  
- Ranking the 2009/2010 Bowl Season - The Good 
- Ranking the 2009/2010 Bowl Season - The Mediocre 
- Ranking the 2009/2010 Bowl Season - The Duds  
- 2008.2009 - Ranking all 34 bowl games from best to worst

The Above-Average
Entertaining, solid bowl games that were worth the watch

Arkansas 20 … East Carolina 17 OT
Alex Tejada nailed a 37-yard field goal in overtime to give Arkansas the win, but it took ECU mistakes to pull it off. Pirate PK Ben Hartman had a chance to break a 17-17 tie with 1:03 to play, but he hit the upright on a 39-yard field goal attempt. Arkansas missed on three straight passes, ECU got the ball back, and got in a position to win the game with another 39-yard field goal, but Hartman missed on the last play of regulation. In overtime, Hartman missed a 35-yarder, Tejada put his kick down the middle, and Arkansas escaped. ECU outgained Arkansas 393 yards to 283 and held a 10-0 first half lead helped by a three-yard Dominique Lindsay scoring run, but Arkansas game back in a hurry in the second half on a 25-yard Tejada field goal and a 37-yard Tramain Thomas interception return for a score. The two teams traded punches late in the third with Dwayne Harris catching a 13-yard touchdown pass for ECU and Arkansas answering 30 seconds later on a 41-yard Jarius Wright catch.
Player of the Game: In a losing cause, East Carolina RB Dominique Lindsay ran 33 times for 151 yards and a touchdown and caught a pass for 13 yards.
East Carolina: Passing: Pat Pinkney, 17-33, 209 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Dominique Lindsay, 33-151, 1 Td, Receiving: Darryl Freeney, 6-94
Arkansas: Passing: Ryan Mallett, 15-36, 202 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Broderick Green, 11-50, Receiving: Jarius Wright, 4-90, 1 TD
What It All Means: Arkansas should’ve run out of the building the moment Alex Tejada’s overtime field goal passed through the uprights. Don’t collect the trophy, don’t shake hands, don’t even get changed or shower; run out, get on the bus, and get away before someone tries to take this one back. East Carolina lost this game more than Arkansas won it with three missed Pirate field goals and little offense from the Hogs, outside of the great pitch-and-catch from Ryan Mallett to Jarius Wright from 41 yards out for a score. Arkansas was 0-of-13 on third down conversions, held on to the ball for 22:05, and came up with just ten first downs. It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win, and a bowl win is a bowl win. But the coaching staff can still use this as motivation.
What It All Means: More often than not, it’s not fair to blame a loss on a kicker. A million things have to happen to lead up to a game-winning field goal attempt and one play shouldn’t win or lose a game. But it’s a shame for a good kicker like Ben Hartman to blow three easy chances in the final game of his career, and it’s just as much of a shame that ECU was fantastic outside of two plays. One was the interception thrown by Patrick Pinkney for a Hog touchdown, and the other was the 41-yard touchdown pass allowed. For a senior dominated team like this one, this was a rest-of-the-life type of game that’s going to stick in the craw of several excellent players. Instead, remember this team for winning two straight Conference USA titles and forget about the finish.

Pitt 19 … North Carolina 17

Dan Hutchins hit his fourth field goal of the game, connecting from 33 yards out with 52 seconds to play, to give Pitt the win. North Carolina had one final shot but stalled at midfield. The Tar Heels got a 15-yard touchdown catch from Greg Little in the first quarter and a 14-yarder late in the third, but the offense sputtered over the final 19 minutes. Pitt’s Dion Lewis broke Tony Dorsett’s school record for rushing yards from a freshman and scored from 11 yards out, but he lost a fumble in the end zone early on and was kept in check until the key final drive. In the see-saw battle, Pitt drives kept stalling and led to field goals, but a 17-play, 79-yard drive in 8:47 led to the game-winning field goal.
Player of the Game:
Pitt RB Dion Lewis ran 28 times for 159 yards and a touchdown
North Carolina: Passing: T.J. Yates, 19-32, 183 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Ryan Houston, 24-83, Receiving: Greg Little, 7-87, 2 TD
Pitt: Passing: Bill Stull, 17-24, 163 yds
Rushing: Dion Lewis, 28-159, 1 TD, Receiving: Mike Shanahan, 5-83
What It All Means: The North Carolina offense was supposed to sputter, it had all season long, but the defense was supposed to come up big when it absolutely needed to, and didn’t. Throughout the game, from forcing a Dion Lewis fumble in the end zone and forcing the Panther offense to settle for five field goal attempts on good drives, the UNC D had a nice day, but it failed late when it had to come up with a stop. Pitt managed to keep the late drive alive and milked almost nine minutes off the play clock, and the Tar Heels provided some help with a key offside call. But the D can’t be blamed, and the offense wasn’t abysmal. There simply wasn’t enough pop to the attack, and UNC lost a nearly dead-even game.
What It All Means: There were several mistakes to focus on, there were several missed opportunities, and the defense wasn’t always a rock against a miserable offense, but Pitt got a bowl win in what might really be a tone-setting game for the program. If Dion Lewis wasn’t already going to be one of college football’s biggest stars going into next year, now he’s on a Heisman track after being the lone offensive star in the game. With several good young players to get excited about, and a big win to show that the team really can win a big one under Dave Wannstedt, this was as important a victory as any team might have this bowl season.

Middle Tennessee 42 … Southern Miss 32
Middle Tennessee overcame a 14-0 deficit with two short touchdown passes from Dwight Dasher in the second quarter to go along with touchdown runs from 35 yards out in the third and one-yard out in the fourth. Southern Miss battled in the see-saw game with DeAndre Brown catching scoring passes from 24 and seven yards out, with the second one coming with under seven minutes to play to pull the Golden Eagles within two, but the two-point conversion pass attempt failed. The Blue Raiders responded with an 80 yard drive in nine plays capped off by a Ben Cunningham one-yard touchdown run to put the game away. The two teams combined for 846 yards of total offense.
Player of the Game: Middle Tennessee QB Dwight Dasher completed 15-of-25 passes for 162 yards and two scores, and he ran 26 times for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
Southern Miss: Passing: Martevious Young, 18-34, 271 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Damion Fletcher, 17-78, Receiving: Gerald Baptiste, 4-117
Middle Tennessee: Passing: Dwight Dasher, 15-25, 162 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Dwight Dasher, 26-201, 2 TD, Receiving: Chris McClover, 4-55, 1 TD
What It All Means: This was the biggest win in Middle Tennessee history. Not only was it the first bowl win, but it meant a ten-win season, closing out with seven straight wins, and it provided reason for excitement that the program is on the right track to do even more. Dwight Dasher was the star of the show, showing off his speed and versatility, but the team speed was evident against an athletic Southern Miss team with more talent at the skill positions. There will be the loss of several extremely important players, but Dasher is back and there’s a decent nucleus to build around.
What It All Means: Considering the Golden Eagles got up 14-0 in the first quarter, this was a disastrous loss. The defense has speed and athleticism, and while the run defense was good all year long, it was gouged by Dwight Dasher and the Middle Tennessee attack. It’s not that USM made a ton of mistakes or was out of position on too many big plays, but it couldn’t come up with enough stops and couldn’t get off the field. On the plus side, Martevious Young had a strong game despite his two interceptions. Going into next year, figuring out how to stop running quarterbacks will be important. USM was decent at it at times, but it wasn’t consistent enough and it showed in the bowl loss.

Boise State 17 … TCU 10
Brandyn Thompson picked off an early first quarter pass and took it 51 yards for a touchdown, intercepted a second pass, and broke up TCU’s final pass of the game, which fell into the hands of Winston Venable, and the Boise State defense came up with a shut down performance. Thompson had one bad play getting beaten for a 30-yard touchdown catch from Curtis Clay with less than a minute to play in the first half, but TCU only managed a 29-yard field goal the rest of the way. With the game tied at ten, and the Boise State offense struggling, the Broncos came up with a fake punt midway through the fourth quarter as Kyle Brotzman connected with Kyle Efaw for a 29-yard first down to spark the offense to a two-yard Doug Martin touchdown run. TCU only converted 1-of-12 third down chances.
Player of the Game: Boise State CB Brandyn Thompson made seven tackles, two interceptions, returned one for a touchdown, and broke up a pass that led to Winston Venable’s game-sealing interception.
TCU: Passing: Andy Dalton, 25-44, 272 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Joseph Turner, 7-22, Receiving: Jeremy Kerley, 6-65
Boise State: Passing: Kellen Moore, 23-39, 211 yds
Rushing: Doug Martin, 16-42, 1 TD, Receiving: Titus Young, 8-72
What It All Means: TCU had a strange offensive gameplan. In a game when neither team was having much success on offense, the Horned Frogs went away from the zone read running game that more often than not set up everything else in the offense. TCU finished with 36 yards rushing, and while the total number wasn’t a plus, the bigger problem was how there were too many 3rd-and-long situations and not enough of a reliance on the bulk up front. Defensively, there was decent pressure, and it’s hard to fault an effort that only allowed ten offensive points, and it took a gimmick play to spark the touchdown, but there weren’t any sacks. This was a game of missed opportunities, and for a team that was so dominant throughout the year, it came up with a clunker at the wrong time.
What It All Means: Boise State has a national reputation for having a strong offense, but when push comes to shove, it’s the defense that does the shoving with its best effort of the season coming at the right time. With CB Kyle Wilson erasing one side of the field, Brandyn Thompson got his chance to be a star on the other side. Offensively, the Broncos didn’t have its most effective game, but the O line didn’t allow a sack and that meant that QB Kellen Moore didn’t make as many poor plays as Andy Dalton did on the other side. TCU turned it over three times and Boise State one. In a game where everything was so even, that, along with the key trick play at the right time, turned out to be the difference.

Alabama 37 … Texas 21
In a strange game with a few odd twists and turns and several questionable coaching decisions, Texas lost QB Colt McCoy on the first drive of the game to a shoulder injury, and he didn’t return. The Longhorns took an early lead on two Hunter Lawrence field goals, but Alabama scored 24 straight points in the first half on the first of Mark Ingram’s two short touchdown runs, a 49-yard dash by Trent Richardson, and with three second to play in the first half, a 28-yard interception return for a score from DT Marcell Dareus, who grabbed a bobbled shovel pass and took it the distance. After struggling just to get a first down, the Texas offense woke up late in the third quarter on a 44-yard Jordan Shipley touchdown catch. Texas backup QB Garrett Gilbert found Shipley again for a 28-yard touchdown with 6:15 to play, and connected on the two-point conversion to pull the Longhorns within three, but the Tide defense clamped down with LB Eryk Anders sacking Gilbert from the blindside and forcing a fumble leading to a one-yard Ingram scoring run. Alabama came up with 205 rushing yards, but Texas came up with five sacks.
Player of the Game:
Alabama RBs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson combined for 225 yards and four touchdowns on 41 carries, and four catches for 31 yards.
Texas: Passing: Garrett Gilbert, 15-40, 186 yds, 2 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Tre Newton, 14-39, Receiving: Jordan Shipley, 10-122, 2 TD
Alabama: Passing: Greg McElroy, 6-11, 58 yds
Rushing: Mark Ingram, 22-116, 2 TD, Receiving: Trent Richardson, 2-19
What It All Means: Texas appeared to be ready, jacked up, and with the right energy and the right amount of confidence early on, and then came the unthinkable with Colt McCoy getting knocked out and the air went out of the balloon. The receivers weren’t catching passes, the defense struggled to come up with tackles, and the coaching staff didn’t help out with some poor decisions. It would’ve been easy to pack it in and give up with Garrett Gilbert struggling so much and down 24-6, but with everything going wrong, the team kept fighting and made it close late. It might have been a disappointing defeat, but the groundwork was laid for next year with Gilbert getting thrown to the wolves. Maybe this was a step back to take a giant leap forward, but it still stunk that McCoy didn’t get his shot.
What It All Means: Nick Saban got the program close last year, and now he has come up with the official start of a burgeoning dynasty. This is just the beginning. It’s not like Bama is going to stop getting top players, it’s not like Saban is going to stop being intense and aggressive, and it’s not like he’s going to let up now. The team managed to pound away with the bread-and-butter running game, the defense came up with the really big plays when it had to, especially at the end of the two halves, and it’s a national title. This was a team that battled hard and always fought, and now it needs to keep that same edge on the top of the mountain.