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Five greatest individual BCS bowl game performances
The Bowl Championship Series has featured some unbelievable moments since it began with an Alabama-Miami national championship game in the 1993 Sugar Bowl. From year to year, many fans forget the details of the games, but many of the top athletes leave a lasting impression in the minds of both casual and diehard college football fans. These five players are renowned for saving their best for the last. They are responsible for the five greatest individual performances in bowl games played during the BCS era.
In the 2010 Sugar Bowl, Florida and Cincinnati met at the Louisiana Super Dome in New Orleans on New Year's Day for a lopsided affair that benefited the heavily-favored Gators. The star for Florida was a familiar face. Tim Tebow, a left-handed quarterback known as much for his ability to run around or through defenders, led the Gators. The senior, who was a two-time Heisman Trophy winner during his collegiate career, threw for 482 yards and ran for 51 more. He passed for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth score. No. 5 Florida defeated No. 4 Cincinnati 51-24 to improve to 13-1. It was Cincinnati's first loss. The Bearcats finished the season 12-1. Tebow's yards from scrimmage set a BCS record. He broke the previous mark of 467 yards set by Vince Young(notes) five years earlier. Tebow's big game started with a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez(notes) in the first quarter. In the second quarter, he threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to receiver Deonte Thompson and an 80-yard touchdown pass to receiver Riley Cooper(notes). In the third quarter, Tebow scored on a 4-yard run. Tebow completed 31 of his 35 pass attempts. The senior even made headlines with his eye black, a dark grease players place on their cheeks to reduce the glare from the sun and artificial light. On Tebow's eye black was a biblical message written in white: EPH 2: 8-10. The message is a reference to Ephesians 2: 8-10, a passage from the King James Bible. Tebow was drafted by the Denver Broncos and started his first NFL game in December 2010.
Five years before Tebow set a BCS yardage record, another quarterback set the same record and others, too. In the 2006 Rose Bowl, played on January 4, Texas senior quarterback Vince Young became the first player in college football history to rush and pass for 200 or more yards in a BCS bowl game, and he set the BCS total yardage record. Young threw for 267 yards and rushed for 200 against Southern California in Pasadena, Calif., and the Longhorns needed all of it. With 19 seconds left in the game, Young scored on a run that gave Texas the lead. It was Young's second rushing touchdown of the fourth quarter and his third of the game. With 4:03 to play, he ran 17 yards to pull Texas to within 38-33. He also ran or passed for all 69 yards of the eight-play drive. In the waning seconds, Young ran 8 yards to cap a 10-play, 56-yard drive. Again, he played a role in every play of the drive. The second score gave the Longhorns won 41-38. While Young did his scoring on the ground, he was also adept in the aerial game. He connected on 30 of 40 passes. Incredibly, it wasn't the only time that Young caught fire in a BCS game. In 2005, he threw four touchdown passes and ran for a fifth. Young, drafted by the Tennessee Titans, is an NFL quarterback who has experienced mixed results.
Played on New Year's Day, the 1999 Rose Bowl featured one of the best rushing performances in BCS history. Bruising Wisconsin Badgers running back Ron Dayne was named the player of the game after he ran for 246 yards on 27 carries. The junior's effort helped the Badgers claim a 38-31 win against the UCLA Bruins, who were playing on their home turf in Pasadena, Calif. Dayne began his big day in the first quarter. He broke free for a 54-yard touchdown run to give Wisconsin an early lead. In the second quarter, Dayne scored on 7- and 10-yard runs. In the third quarter, Dayne matched the modern Rose Bowl record for rushing touchdowns when he scored on a 22-yard run to put Wisconsin ahead 31-21. The Badgers sealed victory when Jamar Fletcher(notes) intercepted UCLA quarterback Cade McNown and ran 46 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown. Dayne's four touchdowns was one short of the all-time bowl game mark set by Michigan's Neil Snow in 1902 and matched in the 1988 Holiday Bowl by Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders. Dayne, who finished with 6,397 career rushing yards at Wisconsin, also ran for 200 yards in the 2000 Rose Bowl, a Wisconsin win against Stanford. Dayne played several seasons in the NFL, but he never matched his collegiate success.
On New Year's Day, LSU senior quarterback Rohan Davey placed his name in the record books with a sensational performance. Davey led No. 12 LSU to a 47-34 win against No. 7 Illinois in the 2002 Sugar Bowl, which was played on LSU's home field in New Orleans. Davey set BCS records for yards and completions by throwing for 444 yards on 31-of-53 passing, and LSU set a Sugar Bowl record with 595 yards of total offense. The Tigers finished the season 10-3, and Illinois fell to 10-2. Davey, who did not throw an interception, gave LSU a 28-0 lead when he connected with Josh Reed(notes) on a 5-yard touchdown pass in the secod quarter. Just before halftime, he connected with another receiver for a 7-yard score. In the second half, Davey hit Reed for a 32-yard score. Davey finished with three passing touchdowns. Davey probably owes his record-setting performance partly to the Illinois offense, which refused to concede despite trailing 34-7 at the half. Illinois made it a 40-28 game with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and LSU mounted a long drive to finish off the win. Davey, who was born in Jamaica, played briefly in the NFL and has played for multiple indoor football teams.
Johan Davey wasn't the only player on LSU's 2002 Sugar Bowl team who left his name in the record books. Junior wide receiver Josh Reed also had a big game against Illinois in the Tigers' 47-34 win. Reed, who won the Biletnikoff Award for his incredible senior year, caught 14 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns. In the third quarter, Reed caught a 32-yard touchdown pass. His yardage total set a Sugar Bowl and team record. Reed's big game wasn't exactly an oddity. Reed, who came to the team as a freshman running back, set several marks during his two seasons as a receiver for the Tigers. He caught 331 passes for 3,575 yards at LSU, and he set a Southeastern Conference record in 2001 against Alabama with 20 receptions for 293 yards. Reed was drafted by the Buffalo Bills and played wide receiver in the NFL.
There were several top bowl performances in years prior to the start of the BCS system and in more recent non-BCS bowl games. In the 1989 Holiday Bowl, BYU quarterback Ty Detmer threw for 576 yards. In the 1984 Freedom Bowl, Iowa quarterback Chuck Long set a college bowl game record with six touchdown passes against Texas. In the 2004 Humanitarian Bowl, P.J. Daniels(notes) rushed for 307 yards on 31 carries to lift Georgia Tech to a win against Tulsa. In 2001, Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich(notes) threw for 576 yards against East Carolina in the GMAC Bowl. Lastly, in 1965, Florida State wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff scored four touchdowns in the Gator Bowl. In 1978, the NCAA announced that the Fred Biletnikoff Award would be given each year to college football's best wide receiver.
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