Friday, Dec. 27 bowl roundup: USC trounced by Iowa in Holiday Bowl

Another USC season has ended in massively disappointing fashion. 

The Trojans were thoroughly outplayed by Iowa in the Holiday Bowl and finished the season 8-5 after an embarrassing 49-24 loss to the Hawkeyes. 

The game was a shootout early, with touchdowns being scored on the first four offensive possessions, resulting in a 14-14 game. But thanks to three touchdowns from Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette — one rushing, one kick return and one receiving — the Hawkeyes would go into halftime with a 28-17 lead. 

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USC cut the deficit to 28-24 early in the third quarter, but things went south after quarterback Kedon Slovis was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury. The Trojans could not get anything going offensively with backup Matt Fink in the game. And the USC defense could not stop the Iowa offense either. 

This was an Iowa offense that ranked No. 99 in the country in scoring, but the Hawkeyes were able to put up a season-high 49 points on USC. Iowa scored 14 of its points via a kick return touchdown and a pick-six, but USC’s inability to get a stop when it needed does not reflect positively on defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who is not expected to be retained by head coach Clay Helton. 

Helton has a lot more work to do to get the program turned around than just getting rid of a defensive coordinator. The fact that he was able to keep offensive coordinator Graham Harrell was a positive sign, but there hasn’t been much else. Helton has barely held onto his job the last two seasons. USC went 5-7 in 2018, but Helton was surprisingly retained by then-AD Lynn Swann. And after the 2019 season, new AD Mike Bohn surprisingly did the same thing. 

Friday night’s performance came on the heels of a disastrous early signing period, with USC unfathomably sitting 83rd in Rivals’ 2020 team rankings. And after getting blown out by Iowa, it’s going to be hard for Helton to add any high-caliber talent to this class in the next signing period. 

Needless to say, it’s hard to imagine the Holiday Bowl going worse than it did for USC. 

Clay Helton and USC have a 13-12 record in the last two seasons. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Clay Helton and USC have a 13-12 record in the last two seasons. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Air Force caps off 11-win season in Cheez-It Bowl

The Cheez-It Bowl between Air Force and Washington State came down to goal line execution. 

Washington State’s high-powered offense was stopped twice on fourth down inside the Air Force 5-yard line. That included a fourth-and-goal stop from the two-yard line on the first offensive possession of the game. 

On the other side, Air Force was able to punch it in for a touchdown on four of the five times it advanced deep into WSU territory. The Falcons went 98 yards in 20 plays on a drive that spanned 12:23 to take a 7-0 lead. Later on, Air Force would score on touchdowns of 3, 7 and 3 yards.

The touchdown that ultimately sealed the 31-21 win for Air Force came on fourth-and-goal with 3:50 to play. The Falcons led 24-21, but kept the offense on the field instead of kicking the field goal and giving the ball back to Washington State down six. The Falcons dialed up the option to the left and Donald Hammond III pitched the ball to running back Kadin Remsberg. 

Remsberg absorbed a massive hit, but was able to get the ball across the plane for a touchdown. 

Air Force rushed for 371 yards on the day, with Remsberg leading the way with a career-high 178 yards. With the win, Air Force finished 11-2 on the year — the best record in Troy Calhoun’s 13 years on the job. It also marks the first time the program has reached 11 wins in a season since 1998. 

Washington State dropped to 6-7 with the loss, snapping a streak of four straight seasons with a winning record for the Cougars. 

Michigan State survives Wake Forest in Pinstripe Bowl

Michigan State did not make it easy in the second half of the Pinstripe Bowl.

The Spartans took a 27-21 lead in the third quarter on a Cody White TD catch and couldn’t score again despite getting into Wake territory three more times. The futility ultimately didn’t matter as the MSU defense shut out Wake’s offense for the final 30 minutes as the Spartans held on for the six-point win.

Michigan State had a chance to go ahead 30-21 and essentially put the game away with just over three minutes to go when Matt Coughlin attempted a 28-yard field goal. The kick wasn’t even close to going through the uprights.

The missed chip shot gave Wake one more opportunity to muster a score. But the Demon Deacons turned the ball over on downs and MSU ran out the clock.

The Spartans fumbled on each of their two drives before Coughlin’s field goal attempt. QB Brian Lewerke was intercepted late in the third quarter when MSU had the ball at the Wake 28. And then on the Spartans’ next possession, freshman tight end Trenton Gillison fumbled at the Wake 6.

The turnovers were harmless because of Michigan State’s stout defense. The Spartans allowed just 86 yards in the second half as Wake punted three times and turned the ball over on downs twice.

Michigan State finishes the season at 7-6 while Wake Forest ends the season at 8-5.

Michigan State's Brian Lewerke was named the MVP of the Pinstripe Bowl after he threw for over 300 yards. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Michigan State's Brian Lewerke was named the MVP of the Pinstripe Bowl after he threw for over 300 yards. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Texas A&M overcomes 14-0 deficit, beats Oklahoma State

Texas A&M has eight wins. Again.

The Aggies came back from a 14-0 first-half deficit to win the Texas Bowl 24-21 over Oklahoma State.

A&M was powered by the legs of Kellen Mond in the second half as Oklahoma State’s defense struggled to defend the option. Mond broke off two big runs including a 67-yard score that gave A&M a 21-14 lead with 10:45 to go in the game.

Mond finished with 12 carries for 117 yards. Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard broke the 2,000-yard mark for the season with his 158 yards on 19 carries, joining Barry Sanders as the only other OSU player to accomplish the feat. But Hubbard and the OSU offense were held in check after an explosive first quarter.

Hubbard has not announced if he’ll head to the NFL draft after the season, but it seems likely that he will. Running backs like him don’t tend to stay for a fourth season. Especially when they’re projected as early-round picks. But Mike Gundy contended after the game that there was a significant chance Hubbard would.

Both teams finish the season at 8-5. It’s the fourth time in the last seven seasons that A&M has finished a season with that exact record.

North Carolina finishes 2019 with a winning season

Temple was no match for North Carolina in the Military Bowl.

The Tar Heels blew out the Owls 55-13 as freshman QB Sam Howell was 25-of-34 passing for 294 yards and three touchdowns. 

Howell finishes the season with 38 touchdown passes, the most TD passes ever thrown by a true freshman at the top level of college football. 

UNC’s win means the Tar Heels finish Mack Brown’s first season back at the school with a 7-6 record. North Carolina had won five games combined over the last two seasons.

North Carolina finished 7-6 in Mack Brown's first season back with the Tar Heels. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
North Carolina finished 7-6 in Mack Brown's first season back with the Tar Heels. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The Tar Heel victory also keeps a weird streak going for first-year Temple coach Rod Carey. Teams coached by the former Northern Illinois coach are now 0-7 in bowl games. NIU lost each of the six bowls it played in under Carey starting with the 2012 Orange Bowl. 

Carey is undoubtedly a good head coach. His teams have an overall record of 60-35. It’s just crazy that 20 percent of those losses have come in bowl games without a single bowl win being among those 60 victories. 

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