New Year's Eve bowl roundup: Texas surprisingly dominates No. 11 Utah 38-10 in Alamo Bowl

Sam Cooper and Nick Bromberg

No, Texas isn’t back. But it finished a disappointing 2019 season with a bang, demolishing No. 11 Utah 38-10 in the Alamo Bowl on New Year’s Eve in San Antonio.

Expectations were sky high for the Longhorns entering the season, and they failed to live up to them in every single way. But they showed just how much talent is on their roster, albeit against a mostly uninterested Utah team.

There wasn’t a whole lot of offense on either side in the first half as the Longhorns went into halftime with a 10-0 lead. But the second half was a different story. Texas opened up a 24-3 lead by the time the third quarter ended before pouring it on with two more scores in the fourth.

Junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger led the way offensively with 201 passing yards, 73 rushing yards and four total touchdowns in the win. But the Texas defense was the story of the evening. The Longhorns limited the Utes — the same team that likely would have been the No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff had they beaten Oregon in the Pac-12 title game — to just 254 yards of offense. Sophomore linebacker Joseph Ossai was especially dominant, finishing the night with nine tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks.

Texas wide receiver Devin Duvernay (6) makes a catch next to Utah defensive back Javelin Guidry (28) during the first half of the Alamo Bowl NCAA college football game in San Antonio, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas WR Devin Duvernay caught three passes for 92 yards and a TD in the Alamo Bowl win over Utah. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley had a rough outing, finishing with just 126 passing yards and 33 rushing yards in his final collegiate game. Fellow senior Zack Moss was limited to just 57 yards on 16 carries. The Utes were especially miserable on third down, converting just 4-of-14 attempts. They were also 0-for-2 on fourth down, continuing the same struggles that doomed them against Oregon.

So what does it mean? Well, probably not a whole lot. Texas finishes the year with an 8-5 record, falling far below preseason expectations. The Longhorns dealt with a lot of injuries over the course of the season, and many of those players were healthy in this one. There is plenty of talent returning for 2020, so more preseason hype is inevitable, just maybe not to the extreme level we saw over the summer.

On the Utah side, it’s a disappointing turn of events for an accomplished senior class who fell just short of the playoff. But this one won’t carry anywhere near the level of sting that the Oregon loss did. With the loss — just the program’s third defeat in 14 bowl games under Kyle Whittingham — the Utes finish the year 11-3.

Florida State ends season with a dud

The Sun Bowl was a disaster for Florida State.

The Seminoles put up 470 yards of offense, but were doomed by six turnovers in a 20-14 loss to Arizona State. Five of the team’s six turnovers came courtesy of quarterback James Blackman, who threw four interceptions and lost a fumble in the first quarter.

Blackman’s third interception was a 25-yard pick six by ASU’s Willie Harts that put the Sun Devils in front, 20-14, with 10:06 to play. Things didn’t get better from there. FSU turned it over on downs in ASU territory on its next possession. The Seminoles then turned it over on their next two turns on offense.

First, Blackman threw his fourth interception on an ill-advised throw with 3:51 to play. ASU, despite the good field position, went three-and-out and punted to give the Seminoles one final try. FSU soon faced third-and-23, but miraculously converted on a 49-yard completion from Blackman to Keith Gavin.

That play moved FSU to the ASU 40-yard line with the clock ticking toward the 1:00 mark. But on the very next play, receiver Tamorrion Terry fumbled the ball back to ASU, allowing Herm Edwards’ team to take a knee and seal a victory.

Edwards was promptly doused in Frosted Flakes — the Sun Bowl is now sponsored by Tony the Tiger — in celebration.

With the win, Arizona State finished with an 8-5 record and snapped a three-game bowl losing streak. On the other side, FSU dropped to 6-7 on the year to finish with a losing record for the second straight season. The last time FSU had a losing record in back-to-back seasons was 1975-76.

New FSU head coach Mike Norvell got good news earlier this week when Terry and stud defensive tackle Marvin Wilson announced they would return for the 2020 season. Even with those two sticking around, Norvell has a lot of work to do.

Florida State interim head coach Odell Haggins questions a ruling by officials during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
It was a rough afternoon for interim coach Odell Haggins and Florida State. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Trick play sets up game-winning FG for Navy

The Liberty Bowl seemed destined for overtime. Until Navy decided that overtime wasn’t necessary.

The Midshipmen pulled out a trick play on fourth and three to set up a 23-yard game-winning field goal with Bijan Nichols with two seconds left to win the Liberty Bowl 20-17.

CJ Williams took a pitch from Malcolm Perry and found Chance Warren wide open for a 41-yard gain on the fourth down play that put Navy inside the 10. Navy could have easily punted to K-State with 29 seconds left and played for overtime. Instead, it pulled off a fantastic play.

Navy had the biggest turnaround of any FBS program in 2019. The Midshipmen were 3-10 in 2018 and now end the 2019 season at 11-2. It’s the second 11-win season in school history and both of those seasons having come in the last five years.

The Midshipmen were powered by QB Malcolm Perry all season. Perry set the single-season record for rushing yards by a QB during Tuesday’s game.

Perry rushed for 213 yards on Tuesday and finishes the season with 2,017 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. The previous single-season rushing record for a quarterback was set in 2013 by Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch when he rushed for 1,920 yards.

Kansas State’s first offensive TD of the game tied it at 17-17 with 5:14 to go when Skylar Thompson dove into the end zone. But the Wildcats couldn’t stop Navy and had just one last-ditch play in the final seconds to try to score a game-winning TD.

The Wildcats finish the season at 8-5 in coach Chris Klieman’s first season.

Valladay powers Wyoming to Arizona Bowl win

Wyoming safety Alijah Halliburton (3) runs with the football after intercepting a pass during the first half of the Arizona Bowl college football game against Georgia State, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Wyoming safety Alijah Halliburton picked off Dan Ellington in Wyoming's Arizona Bowl win.

Wyoming didn’t have to sweat against Georgia State.

RB Xazavian Valladay rushed 26 times for 204 yards as the Cowboys beat Georgia State 38-17. He also had three catches for 91 yards and had a 62-yard run and a 61-yard catch and run.

Wyoming had a 24-10 halftime lead and then scored 14 points in the third quarter as Georgia State couldn’t make it competitive in the second half. Freshman QB Levi Williams was just 11-of-26 passing but he threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception.

Georgia State QB Dan Ellington played the game with a torn right ACL. He tore his ACL in November against Louisiana-Monroe but played the rest of the season with a brace on his knee. Ellington was 13-of-26 passing for 156 yards and a TD and a pick and, somehow, rushed for 70 yards and a score on that bum knee.

The bowl win caps an 8-5 season for Wyoming that included a win over Missouri to start the year. Georgia State finishes the season at 7-6 for just the second season above .500 in the program’s seven-year history.

Kentucky wins wild Belk Bowl

The Belk Bowl was certainly eventful. Kentucky QB/WR Lynn Bowden Jr. punched a Virginia Tech defensive lineman about 90 minutes before kickoff, but it was so far before kickoff the officials did not yet have any jurisdiction over the game. Bowden then went out and had a fantastic performance, rushing for 233 yards and throwing the game-winning TD pass with 15 seconds left in Kentucky’s wild 37-30 win.

Read more about that game here.

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