B/R's College Football Weekly Awards: Bowl Season Part 1

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVDecember 22, 2022

B/R's College Football Weekly Awards: Bowl Season Part 1

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    Frank Gore Jr.
    Frank Gore Jr.Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    It is with great disgust I must report that a sliver of the college football community still believes there are too many bowl games.

    I require but one counterpoint: Frank Gore Jr. exists.

    The earliest wave of the 2022 bowl season featured a record-setting performance from football royalty. The son of the former Miami Hurricanes back and NFL star topped the 300-yard rushing mark in the LendingTree Bowl, propelling his Southern Miss squad to a season-ending win.

    Gore's outburst highlighted the 12 matchups from Dec. 16-21, a six-day stretch that B/R's Weekly Awards is proud to recap.

Team of the Week: Troy Trojans

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    ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 16: Troy Trojans wide receiver RaJae' Johnson (0) celebrates his touchdown reception during the game between the UTSA Roadrunners and the Troy Trojans on Friday, December 16, 2022, Duluth Trading Cure Bowl at Exploria Stadium, Orlando, Fla.  (Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The marquee game of the early schedule featured No. 24 Troy and No. 25 UTSA in the Cure Bowl, a battle between 11-win Sun Belt and Conference USA champions.

    UTSA steadily built a 12-0 advantage, but an overturned play altered the trajectory of the game.

    In the closing minutes of the second quarter, Troy quarterback Gunnar Watson underthrew Deyunkrea Lewis and instead found UTSA's Clifford Chattman. Lewis, though, knocked the ball loose. Officials ruled an incomplete pass, but a review ended up giving Troy the ball at the 13-yard line. Two plays later, the Trojans scored a touchdown.

    Troy's highly ranked defense took care of the rest.

    The unit forced three straight turnovers to begin the second half, and KJ Robertson's long interception return set up Watson's go-ahead touchdown pass to RaJae' Johnson. Two late turnovers on downs iced the 18-12 victory, giving Troy a program-record 12th season win.

Player of the Week: Frank Gore Jr.

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    Break out the history books, my friends, because Frank Gore Jr. is now a postseason record-holder.

    Two years ago, Appalachian State back Camerun Peoples rushed for 317 yards. Gore soundly bested the mark, racking up 329 yards and leading Southern Miss to a 38-24 win over Rice in the LendingTree Bowl.

    Gore ripped off a 64-yard touchdown run in the second quarter but did most of his damage after halftime. He notched a 25-yard gain before throwing an 18-yard touchdown pass, then scampered for a 59-yard gain on the following drive. And in the fourth quarter, his 55-yard touchdown run sealed the victory for USM.

    It feels safe to suggest Gore will remain the only player to rush for 300 yards and throw a touchdown in a bowl game for a long, long time.

Saddest Field Goal: Florida Gators

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    If you're unfamiliar with a sad field goal, consider this a basic summary: When a team is losing by, like, a million points, the coach decides to attempt a field goal that hardly makes a dent in the deficit.

    Thanks for this one, Florida!

    The singular bright side, if it even matters, is Adam Mihalek's three-pointer in the last minute of regulation meant the Gators extended their we-avoided-a-shutout streak to 436 games.

    Now, the decision wasn't unreasonable. Florida's last-minute scoring opportunity devolved from 1st-and-goal at Oregon State's six-yard line to a 4th-and-goal at the 23. It'd be unfair to say head coach Billy Napier actually made the choice based on whether UF could extend an FBS record.

    "I mean, what are the percentages of having success on fourth-and-that? So take the points and give Adam a chance to get some experience," Napier said after the game, per Nick Daschel of Oregon Live.

    That, however, does not change the outcome. Florida's late field goal, its singular score in a 30-3 loss, was very sad.

Interim of the Week: Deion Branch, Louisville

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    Boston, MA - December 17: Louisville Cardinals interim head coach Deion Branch high fives TE Marshon Ford after Ford scored a touchdown in the second quarter. The Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Bearcats 24-7 in the inaugural Wasabi Fenway Bowl. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
    Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

    In happier news, how about Deion Branch?

    The former NFL receiver—likely best remembered for his time with the New England Patriots—served as Louisville's interim coach in the most awkward matchup of bowl season. Scott Satterfield left Louisville to coach Cincinnati—which, incidentally, had already been announced as UL's opponent in the Fenway Bowl.

    Fenway. Boston. Patriots. Branch. How fitting that his head-coaching debut wound up as this contest.

    Before his appointment as the interim boss, Branch had been serving as the program's director of player development. And the Cardinals clearly took to his leadership.

    Even without quarterback Malik Cunningham, Louisville tallied 419 yards in a 24-7 victory. The defense held UC to just 127 yards and limited the Bearcats to a measly two snaps in plus territory during the second half. By every definition, it was a dominant performance.

    Branch is officially 1-0 as a college head coach.

Best of the Rest

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    Clutch Defense, Part I: UAB Blazers

    The opening clash of bowl season—the scenic Bahamas Bowl—included an exciting fourth-quarter that went down to the final snap. Entering the closing frame, Miami held a 13-10 lead. UAB scored to make it 17-13 before the teams traded touchdowns and UAB went ahead 24-20 with 1:33 to play. Miami's offense converted two fourth downs, but its last-second play fell short. UAB's Reynard Ellis tackled Jalen Walker at the 2-yard line as time expired.


    Clutch Defense, Part II: BYU Cougars

    Overtime is fun. Overtime can be a wise decision. But in bowl season—only excluding the College Football Playoff, really—is overtime necessary? Short answer: No. SMU coach Rhett Lashlee apparently shares that philosophy. Trailing 24-17 to BYU in the New Mexico Bowl, SMU scored a touchdown with eight seconds to play. SMU called a quarterback draw for Tanner Mordecai, who BYU's Jakob Robinson brought down about a yard shy of the end zone.


    Golf Clap of the Week: Proper MACtion

    In the most fitting results imaginable, a wintry Tuesday included a couple of wins from MAC schools. The midweek monsters of November were right at home on Dec. 20. Eastern Michigan rolled past San Jose State 41-27 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and Toledo clipped Liberty 21-19 in the Boca Raton Bowl. Don't play MAC schools on Tuesdays, folks.

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