B/R's College Football Weekly Awards: Bowl Season Part 2
The 2022 college football bowl season has rolled along with a handful of entertaining and feel-good storylines.
In the early window of matchups, the focus is largely on Group of Five programs. Teams that typically don't land a ton of national attention during the regular season are owning the spotlight right now.
That's provided us a chance to fly around the nation and check out under-the-radar storylines. If you've wondered about Air Force's record, New Mexico State head coach Jerry Kill or Middle Tennessee's rushing offense, you're in the right place.
Part 1 covered the 12 bowls from Dec. 16-21. This edition focuses on the six-day stretch from Dec. 22-27.
Team of the Week: Air Force Falcons
Air Force entered the season as a quiet 10-win contender. That hardly could've have played out more accurately.
By late October, the Falcons weren't on the national radar whatsoever. They had already dropped three conference games, falling out of the Mountain West race—and, by extension, the New Year's Six bowl conversation. Fresno State ended up knocking off Boise State to win the MWC title.
However, Air Force ended the season on a hot streak.
The defense surrendered only 25 total points in November victories over Army, New Mexico, Colorado State and San Diego State. Air Force then celebrated a 30-15 win against Baylor in the Armed Forces Bowl, as the Bears went a horrific 0-of-11 on third down.
In the process, the Falcons nabbed their 10th win. This is the program's third straight season (not counting the abridged 2020 campaign) with double-digit victories.
Player of the Week: Sam Hartman, Wake Forest
Four months ago, the college football world didn't even know if Sam Hartman would take a snap in 2022.
In mid-August, Wake Forest announced its star quarterback would be out indefinitely because of a non-football-related medical issue. We later learned Hartman developed a blood clot, which required two procedures but only sidelined him for a single game.
Hartman helped guide the Demon Deacons to an 8-5 record, capping the season with a 27-17 win against Missouri in the Gasparilla Bowl. He threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns.
Soon after the game, Hartman entered the transfer portal. Although he might declare for the 2023 NFL draft, it seems clear that Hartman has played his final game for the Deacs.
Wake Forest certainly would love to have Hartman back, but he'll (theoretically) leave Winston-Salem as the program's all-time leader in passing yards (12,967) and total touchdowns (127). The health scare in August makes his final season that more special, too.
Coach of the Week: Jerry Kill, New Mexico State
Back in 2011, Jerry Kill landed his first Power Five coaching opportunity at Minnesota. However, health concerns disrupted his tenure and led him to medically retire during the 2015 season.
Kill returned to college athletics in 2018, ultimately becoming the athletic director at Southern Illinois. He soon became a special assistant at Virginia Tech in 2019 and filled the same role for TCU in 2020 and 2021. He also served as the interim coach to close the latter campaign.
The longtime coach has been successful at nearly every stop—from Saginaw Valley State and Emporia State to Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois and Minnesota. He entered the 2022 season with a 158-104 record as a head coach. But he had never won a bowl.
At long last, that changed in the Quick Lane Bowl. The first-year New Mexico State head coach oversaw a 24-19 victory over Bowling Green.
Kill finally has a postseason FBS win on his resume.
Oddity of the Week: MTSU's Rushing Ineptitude
If you're like me, you've become tired of the phrase "establish the run" and its inferred importance. Although a strong rushing attack is valuable, it's only one of many paths to a victory.
Middle Tennessee sure figured out how to win without one.
During their 25-23 triumph over San Diego State in the Hawai'i Bowl, the Blue Raiders registered minus-66 rushing yards.
MTSU lost 76 yards on seven sacks and nine yards on two kneeldowns, but it mustered only 19 yards on 21 carries beyond that. It was about as ineffective a rushing day as possible, and the MTSU defense even limited SDSU to a similarly bad 37 yards on 29 carries (excluding sacks and kneeldowns).
Most remarkably, MTSU earned a win despite breaking Kansas State's previous record of minus-61 yards in the 1994 Alamo Bowl.
Best of the Rest
Farewell of the Week: Houston Exits AAC With a Win
Houston fell short of preseason expectations, but it wrapped up the 2022 campaign on a high note. Now headed to the Big 12, the Cougars clipped Louisiana 23-16 in the Independence Bowl. Clayton Tune tossed three touchdowns in his final game at Houston, ending with the second-most passing scores (104) in program history.
White Flag of the Week: Utah State's Ridiculous Punt
Bowls are not meaningless, even as results beyond the College Football Playoff are minimally impactful. That's a subjective opinion, sure, but it lays the groundwork for this question: What the heck was Utah State doing? Already down 24-3 in the third quarter of the First Responder Bowl, Utah State needed a miracle. But on 4th-and-9 at the Memphis 35, the Aggies intentionally took a delay-of-game penalty to give their punter more room. Seriously? What else is there to lose? Memphis won 38-10.
Golf Clap of the Week: ECU Takes Battle of the Carolinas
East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers propelled the Pirates to a victory in the first-ever clash between ECU and Coastal Carolina. Ahlers threw five touchdowns and ran for a sixth, leading the Pirates to a 53-29 triumph. East Carolina secured its first bowl win in nine years.