Winners and Losers of 2022 Bowl Season, Part 1
College football's bowl season kicked off last Friday, and since then there has been a lot of fun action.
Some individual players have had great performances in these matchups, while a few teams have reached impressive milestones with their wins.
Let's run through the winners and losers from bowl season so far.
Winner: Oregon State Reaches 10 Wins for the 3rd Time in School History
What a season for the Oregon State Beavers. In beating Florida 30-3 in the Las Vegas Bowl, the Beavers reached 10 wins for the first time in 16 years. The last time Oregon State did so, former Beavers head coach Mike Riley was in his fourth season in Corvallis.
Oregon State didn't have many problems in beating Florida during the Las Vegas Bowl. The Beavers led 10-0 at halftime, and Oregon State quarterback Ben Gulbranson accounted for two touchdowns in the third quarter to help push the lead to 23-0.
The second touchdown of the frame came just three plays after a blocked punt that gave the Beavers the ball at Florida's 7-yard line. They added a touchdown in the fourth quarter to cap things.
The win completes an impressive turnaround for Oregon State under head coach Jonathan Smith. The Beavers went 2-10 in his first season in 2018 and finished above .500 for the first time during his tenure last season, going 7-6.
Oregon State linebacker Jack Colletto told the Associated Press after the game:
"If you were to look back five years ago and say, 'Hey, you guys are going to have a 10-win season, win the Las Vegas Bowl and beat an SEC team,' there'll be a lot of people laughing at us. But yet we ultimately were able to execute and do it. So five years from now, who knows where we can be?"
The Beavers opened the season 3-0 before dropping two straight games to USC and Utah. But Smith's team rebounded well, winning seven of its last eight games, including the win over Florida.
The next big step for Smith in his Oregon State tenure? Playing for a Pac-12 title. The last time the Beavers won the conference was 2000, in Dennis Erickson's second season in Corvallis. Don't be surprised if Smith has this team playing in a conference title game over the next few seasons.
Loser: Florida Nearly Lost the Nation's Longest Scoring Streak to End Season
Oof, the Florida Gators had a rough end to their season.
In head coach Billy Napier's first year in Gainesville, the Gators almost capped the year with a shutout loss. If kicker Adam Mihalek hadn't made a 40-yard field goal with 37 seconds left, Florida's FBS-leading streak of 436 games without being shut out would have been broken.
The Gators struggled throughout the Las Vegas Bowl and couldn't get anything going on offense. Redshirt freshman Jack Miller III was making his first career start, as Anthony Richardson opted out while declaring for the NFL draft.
Backup Jalen Kitna was dismissed from the team shortly after getting arrested regarding five complaints related to possessing child pornography.
Miller's inexperience showed. He finished with just 180 yards passing and had a QBR of 28.4. Florida couldn't move the chains on the ground, either, which had been a strength for this offense. The Gators finished with just 39 yards rushing on 33 carries. Florida also had 11 penalties for 82 yards and went 5-of-14 on third down.
The disappointing loss was a microcosm of Florida's back half of the season. The Gators entered Week 6 sitting at 4-2, but they dropped five of their last seven games, including losses to rivals LSU, Georgia and Florida State.
With Richardson and several players leaving for either the NFL or the transfer portal, Napier heads into 2023 facing seemingly another rebuilding year. We'll see what Florida can do this offseason with the recruiting and transfer portal cycles.
Winner: Troy's Defense Forces 5 UTSA Turnovers in Comeback Cure Bowl Win
Troy got to a school-record 12 wins thanks to a come-from-behind, 18-12 victory over UTSA in the Cure Bowl, the only bowl game that matched up conference champions,
Troy trailed 12-0 for most of the first half but scored a touchdown with 50 seconds left to make it 12-7 at halftime. The Trojans defense came up huge in the second half, forcing three Roadrunner turnovers on three consecutive drives, including two fumbles and an interception that set up Troy's go-ahead touchdown.
Trojans quarterback Gunnar Watson threw a 12-yard touchdown, followed by a successful two-point conversion to Clayton Ollendieck. Troy kicker Brooks Buce made a 27-yard field goal with 9:18 left in the game that was enough to seal the Trojans' victory over the Conference USA champs.
Troy's defense forced UTSA to turn the ball over on downs on its last two possessions, including one that ended on Troy's 3-yard line with 7:01 left. Roadrunners quarterback Frank Harris threw five combined incompletions to end both drives.
The win capped an incredibly successful first season for Jon Sumrall, who was also in his initial season as a head coach. He spent three years at Troy on former Trojans head coach Neal Brown's staff from 2015 to 2017.
A Sun Belt title capped with a program-best 12th victory is not too shabby of a debut year for Sumrall.
Winner: Louisville Beats Cincinnati in the Unofficial 'Coach Swap Bowl'
The Fenway Bowl was a bit of an ironic matchup thanks to recent moves both schools made in the coaching carousel.
In late November, Wisconsin hired Cincinnati's Luke Fickell as its next head coach, replacing Paul Chryst after eight seasons. To replace Fickell, Cincy hired Scott Satterfield, who went 25-24 over four seasons at Louisville.
Thus, the unofficial Coach Swap Bowl between Cincinnati and Louisville.
Although Satterfield wasn't on the sidelines coaching either team, he was in attendance. Lucky for him, his former squad put on a show, winning 24-7.
Although this game was tied 7-7 early in the second quarter, two Cardinal touchdowns before halftime put Louisville up 21-7. Quarterback Brock Domann threw an eight-yard touchdown with 5:52 left, and Jawhar Jordan's 41-yard scoring run with less than a minute left put the Cardinals in a good spot at halftime.
Cincy couldn't get anything going on offense in the second half. The Louisville defense forced a fumble on the Bearcats' opening possession, and Cincy punted on every ensuing possession. In fact, the rest of the Bearcats' drives didn't last longer than five plays.
Domann, who got the start since dynamic Cardinals QB Malik Cunningham opted out to prepare for the draft, threw for 132 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Although the on-field action wasn't all that exciting, this game was interesting given the coach swap that happened in the weeks beforehand.
Loser: North Texas in Bowl Games
Boise State beat North Texas 35-32 in a back-and-forth Frisco Bowl. North Texas led 10-6 at halftime, but the third quarter featured five combined touchdowns.
Boise scored its third of the quarter with 25 seconds left off a 19-yard Taylen Green touchdown to take a 28-24 lead. On North Texas' ensuing possession, Mean Green quarterback Austin Aune threw his second interception of the game. The pick set up Boise State's final touchdown, which gave the Broncos a 35-24 lead.
North Texas scored on a five-yard touchdown run by Ikaika Ragsdale, followed by a successful two-point conversion by Aune to make it a three-point game. But Boise's defense forced a UNT punt and turnover on downs on its last two possessions of the game.
The result marked the sixth straight bowl loss for the Mean Green, dating back to UNT's Heart of Dallas Bowl loss in 2016. The last time North Texas won a bowl was in 2013.
Aune plans to enter the draft, which is a clear blow to the nation's 29th-ranked scoring offense and the Mean Green's chances of snapping the streak.
Winner: Fresno State Pulls Off Biggest In-Season Turnaround in FBS History
How about a round of applause for the Fresno State Bulldogs?
After opening the season with a 35-7 win over Cal Poly, Fresno State dropped consecutive games to Oregon State, USC, UConn and Boise State. It looked like the Bulldogs were about to have their first losing season since 2019.
But they regrouped in mid-October. Fresno State beat San Jose State 17-10 and then proceeded to win its next seven contests, including in the Mountain West Championship Game against Boise State.
The winning didn't stop there. The Bulldogs were victorious over Washington State in the L.A. Bowl 29-6 to take nine straight games. They completed the best in-season turnaround in major college football ever in starting 1-4 and reaching 10 wins.
A big reason for that was the play of Bulldogs quarterback Jake Haener, who returned for his third season at Fresno State in 2022. Although he missed time earlier in the year because of an ankle injury, he passed for 2,042 yards, 16 touchdowns and two interceptions in his final seven games, all wins.
Haener briefly entered the transfer portal last offseason but ultimately remained with the Bulldogs for one final year.
The decision paid off, especially for his head coach, Jeff Tedford. He was Haener's coach at Fresno in 2019 before he resigned because of health reasons. The QB's return gave Tedford a double-digit-win comeback and legendary turnaround.
Winner: Frank Gore Jr. Sets FBS Bowl Record in Lending Tree Bowl Win over Rice
Talk about making your dad proud. During the Lending Tree Bowl between Rice and Southern Miss, Golden Eagles running back Frank Gore Jr.—the son of former NFL star running back Frank Gore—set an NCAA bowl record of 329 rushing yards.
Gore accounted for three touchdowns to help his team win 38-24. He broke the previous record of 317 rushing yards set by Appalachian State's Camerun Peoples during the 2020 Myrtle Beach Bowl.
Perhaps the most impressive fact about his performance is that he put up points in a couple of different ways. First, he ran for a 64-yard touchdown in the second quarter. He then threw an 18-yard touchdown to Tiaquelin Mims and scored a 55-yard touchdown in the second half.
Southern Miss led 17-3 at halftime, but Rice scored 21 points to take a 24-17 third-quarter lead. Gore's TD pass tied the game at 24 heading into the final quarter.
The Golden Eagles scored two touchdowns in the fourth, one of them Gore's 55-yard run, to put the game away. The win over Rice gave Southern Miss its first bowl victory since 2016.
Gore is only a sophomore, so we've got at least another year to see him put up big numbers like this.
Loser: South Alabama's Defense Against Western Kentucky
The New Orleans Bowl between Western Kentucky and South Alabama was expected to be competitive. The Hilltoppers had a high-scoring offense, but the Jaguars hadn't allowed more than 34 points all season.
Yet quarterback Austin Reed and the Western Kentucky offense scored at will in a 44-23 win. The Hilltoppers scored on their first two possessions—both touchdown passes from Reed—and WKU was up 14-0 with 8:46 left in the first quarter.
South Alabama's defense had no answers. WKU scored another 17 points in the second quarter, and South Alabama managed to get on the board on a 30-yard field goal from Diego Guajardo to make it 31-3 at halftime.
Surely South Alabama's defense made adjustments at halftime to stop the bleeding a bit, right? Nope. WKU kept lighting up the scoreboard.
Reed threw his fourth touchdown on a 39-yard bomb to Malachi Corley, and WKU kicker Cory Munson made two field goals to cap things. South Alabama scored three touchdowns in the second half, but it was far from enough to make it a game.
In all, WKU finished with a whopping 677 yards of offense. Reed, who is second in the country in passing yards behind Washington's Michael Penix Jr., finished with 497 yards passing, four touchdowns and an interception. He completed 65.5 percent of his attempts.
Talk about a demoralizing way for a defense to lose a game. With the victory, the Hilltoppers have posted three bowl wins in four appearances, including two straight.