Gold: Oregon State tops list of most impressive Pac-12 bowl teams
It was yet another frustrating bowl season for the Pac-12, which started off strong only to collapse in grand fashion. It wasn’t just Utah’s disappointing Rose Bowl performance. Watching UCLA and USC lose in the final seconds by the combined margin of a field goal? That’s just painful.
Here’s how the Pac-12 postseason teams ranked in their bowl performances…
Oregon State: 30-3 Las Vegas Bowl win over Florida
The highs: Unlike Washington State in the L.A. Bowl, played on the same day (see below), just about everything went right for the Beavers. The Oregon State defense narrowly missed handing Florida it’s first shutout in 436 games, going back to 1988. The Gators struggled to even really move the ball down the field, finishing with just 13 1st downs and 219 total yards, including 39 on the ground. … Deshaun Fenwick stepped in for stud freshman Damien Martinez, who went down with an early injury, and finished with 107 yards on 21 carries. … Linebacker Kyrei Fisher-Morris had 11 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and 1 sack.
The lows: You can nitpick about the Oregon State passing attack, which managed just 189 yards and 1 score, but the Beavers scored 30 points and won by 27. Hard to quibble.
The lowdown: Florida punted 3 times, lost possession on downs and missed a field goal in a scoreless 1st half. Oregon State went up 10-0 at the half, then scored on a Ben Gulbranson-to-Silas Bolden 15-yard touchdown on its first possession of the second half, blocked a punt then scored on a Gulbranson run from 7 yards out. The Gators didn’t even score until their final drive of the game.
Washington: 27-20 Alamo Bowl win over No. 20 Texas
The highs: Washington was terrific on 3rd down, converting 11-of-20 opportunities while holding the Longhorns to just 6-of-15 conversions. … The Huskies held Texas to just 51 rushing yards on 18 attempts. Of course, the Longhorns were without their two top rushers, including superstar Bijan Robinson. … Washington dominated time of possession, 35:46 to 24:14, as Michael Penix Jr. (32-of-54 passing for 287 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Wayne Taulapapa (14 carries, 108 yards, 1 score) had big games.
The lows: The oft-exploited Washington pass defense surrended 369 yards to Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers, including 108 yards to wideout Casey Cain.
The lowdown: The Huskies sweated out the close win after going up 27-10 on a late touchdown. Texas scored 10 straight points on its next two drives to make a game of it, but the Longhorns stalled on their final possession and Washington held on for their 11th win of the season, their best season under a 1st year head coach.
Oregon: 28-27 Holiday Bowl win over North Carolina
The highs: Bo Nix was clearly not himself once more, gaining just 6 yards on 5 rushes, while passing for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns with 1 interception. But Bucky Irving was a real stud, rushing for 149 yards on 13 carries with 2 touchdowns.
The lows: The Ducks weren’t able to get to Drake Maye much, finishing with just 2 sacks, while Maye gained 206 yards and threw for 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The lowdown: While UCLA and USC both suffered painful defeats, the Ducks pulled off the last-second win over the Tar Heels. Chase Cota scored a 6-yard touchdown on 4th-and-2 with 19 seconds left to lift Oregon to the big win. That was the Ducks’ second straight drive with a touchdown.
UCLA: 37-37 Sun Bowl loss to Pitt
The highs: The UCLA offense out-gained Pitt 451-to-443, highlighted by TJ Harden’s big day replacing Zach Charbonnet. The UCLA stud running back was a late scratch and Harden filled in with 11 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown. … UCLA’s Kam Brown had a nice day through the air, catching 4 passes for 115 yards.
The lows: The UCLA defense surrendered 443 yards, including 93 rushing yards and 2 scores to Rodney Hammond Jr., and managed just 1 sack against Pitt backup quarterback Nick Patti, who replaced transfer Kedon Slovis, the former USC quarterback.
The lowdown: With Dorian Thompson-Robinson out with an injury late in the game, backup quarterback Ethan Garbers architected an 8-play, 70-yard touchdown drive in 71 seconds to take a 35-34 lead with 34 seconds left in the game. Then the Bruins played a soft defense and Pitt gained 46 yards on 6 plays to put Ben Sauls into position for his 5th field goal of the day.
USC: 46-45 Cotton Bowl loss to Tulane
The highs: The Trojans passing game was electric one last time this season, with Caleb Williams throwing for 462 yards and 5 touchdowns with 1 interception. He connected with Brenden Rice 6 times for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns and hit Tahj Washington 5 times for 109 yards. … Future star freshman Raleek Brown had 61 yards on 6 carries with a touchdown. … In their last games for USC before declaring for the NFL Draft, cornerback Mekhi Blackmon had an interception and pass rusher Tuli Tuipulotu had a sack.
The lows: The Green Wave managed 539 total yards, including 305 rushing yards. Tulane’s Tyjae Spears had 205 yards and 4 touchdowns on 17 carries, one of the most impressive performances against the Trojans this year.
The lowdown: USC led 45-30 with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left. Then Lawrence Keys III sparked a run with a 37-yard kickoff return. Michael Pratt immediately followed with a 59-yard pass completion to the USC 4-yard line, followed by a Spears touchdown run. Then Mario Williams botched the ensuing kickoff at the 1-yard line, Austin Jones was tackled in the end zone for a safety and Tulane marched 66 yards on 12 plays in 3 minutes, 11 seconds and scored with 9 seconds left in the game. Heartbreak ensued.
Utah: 35-21 Rose Bowl loss to Penn State
The highs: The Utes had a pair of impressive offensive performances in wide receiver Devaughn Vele, who had 5 receptions for 100 yards, and quarterback-turned-running back Ja’Quinden Jackson who had 81 rushing yards on 13 carries with a score. … Pac-12 defensive player of the year Lander Barton had 3 tackles for loss.
The lows: Before he went down with what appears to be a serious knee injury, quarterback Cameron Rising was struggling in the passing game. Rising was just 8-of-21 passing for 95 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His replacement, Bryson Barnes, went 10-of-19 for 112 yards with 1 score and 1 interception. … Meanwhile Penn State’s offense was clicking on all cylinders, with Sean Clifford completing 16-of-22 passes for 279 yards and 2 scores and Nicholas Singleton rushing for 120 yards and 2 scores.
The lowdown: The game was tied at the half, but the Nittany Lions had touchdowns of 88 yards — a KeAndre Lambert-Smith 88-yard bomb from Clifford — and 87 yards (Singleton’s 87 yard run) to seize control. Penn State had just 15 1st downs but gained 448 yards and benefitted from two Utah turnovers.
Washington State: 29-6 L.A. Bowl loss to Fresno State
The highs: There weren’t many aside from senior wide out Robert Ferrell (10 catches, 65 yards) and sophomore defensive end Quinn Roff, who had two sacks.
The lows: There’s no shortage of lows. Cam Ward had one of his worst games of the season, completing 22-of-32 passes for just 137 yards and an interception and Nakia Watson, who came on late in the season, had just 33 rushing yards on 14 carries.
The lowdown: The Cougars had been on an offensive tear late in the season, averaging 36 points per game in the final month, albeit against the likes of Stanford, Arizona State, Arizona and Washington. Certainly Fresno State had to fall in that mix, right? Nope. The Cougars managed just 6 points and 182 yards of total offense, while surrendering 501 yards to the Bulldogs, including 280 and 2 touchdowns to former Washington quarterback Jake Haener and 209 rushing yards by Jordan Mims.