What to know from the first weekend of bowl games: Chris Petersen goes out in style, FAU rolls without Kiffin

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 21: Quarterback Jacob Eason #10 of the Washington Huskies looks to pass against the Boise State Broncos during the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 21, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
Washington QB Jacob Eason threw for 210 yards and a touchdown in a Las Vegas Bowl victory over Boise State. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Chris Petersen went out in style.

In his final game as the head coach at Washington, Petersen’s Huskies blew out No. 19 Boise State — Petersen’s former team — by a final score of 38-7 in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Petersen surprisingly announced that he was stepping down as UW’s head coach earlier this month. Saturday night’s win gives Petersen a 55-26 record over six seasons coaching the Huskies. Coupled with his excellent eight-year run at Boise State, Petersen leaves college football with a sterling 147-38 record as a head coach.

Petersen will hand the program over to his defensive coordinator, Jimmy Lake. Lake’s unit had an excellent night, limiting the 12-win Mountain West champions to just 266 yards of offense on the evening.

Washington controlled the action from the start and jumped out to a 17-0 lead at halftime. Boise State would briefly make things interesting with a touchdown and a defensive stop in the third quarter, but the Broncos never got closer than 24-7.

Washington added two fourth-quarter touchdowns to cap off a convincing victory.

With the win, Washington finishes the season with an 8-5 record. After winning the Pac-12 championship in two of the previous three seasons, the Huskies had higher expectations when the season began. In the end, though, the Huskies were able to finish the season on a high note and give their coach one final victory.

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Florida Atlantic trounces SMU without Lane Kiffin

Even without head coach Lane Kiffin and several key players unavailable due to suspensions, Florida Atlantic surprisingly trounced SMU 52-28 in the Boca Raton Bowl.

The game was tied 14-14 late in the first half, but FAU, the Conference USA champion, scored twice in the final minute of the second quarter to take a 28-14 lead at the break.

A 15-yard rushing score by James Charles made it 21-14 with 1:00 to go. And on the first offensive play of the ensuing drive, SMU quarterback Shane Buechele was intercepted by Rashad Smith. FAU scored again on the very next play, this time a Chris Robison touchdown pass to Brandon Robinson, to go up two scores at halftime.

That momentum carried over in a big way in the second half with the Owls opening up a 45-14 lead by the 13:09 mark of the fourth quarter. By the time the dust settled, FAU emerged with a dominant victory to get to 11-3 for the second time in the last three seasons.

On the SMU side, the loss marked a disappointing finish to an otherwise excellent season. The Mustangs started the year 8-0, but wound up losing three of their final five games to finish 10-3. Still, the team reached the 10-win mark for just the third time in program history.

App State overcomes early deficit to win New Orleans Bowl

No. 20 Appalachian State found itself in an unfamiliar position early in its 31-17 New Orleans Bowl win over UAB. UAB stormed out to a 14-0 lead after less than five minutes of play, causing the Mountaineers to play catch-up from there forward.

App State, the Sun Belt champion, was able to cut the deficit to 14-10 by halftime before storming out of the gates in the third quarter. The Mountaineers took their first lead on an unusual play. On fourth-and-1 from the UAB 30, QB Zac Thomas attempted to pick up the first down on a sneak. Thomas fumbled the ball, however. Luckily for App State, running back Darrynton Evans was there to scoop up the loose ball and go untouched for a 30-yard touchdown, giving his team a 17-14 lead.

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UAB would tie the score with a field goal, but a defensive touchdown and a highlight-reel touchdown catch by Thomas Hennigan would put the Mountaineers up for good.

The win was the first for new head coach Shawn Clark, an App State alum who served as offensive line coach before being promoted to the head job after Eliah Drinkwitz left for Missouri. The Mountaineers finish the season 13-1 and reached the 13-win mark for the first time since 2007 when they won the third of their three-straight FCS national titles. On top of that, App State has now won a bowl game in all five seasons it has been eligible for postseason play since moving up to the FBS level.

Hugh Freeze leads Liberty to first bowl win

Hugh Freeze’s first season at Liberty was a rousing success.

The former Ole Miss coach’s team beat Georgia Southern 23-16 in the Cure Bowl on Saturday for the program’s first-ever bowl win.

The season that started with Freeze in a dentist’s chair in a press box against Syracuse ended with him getting doused with Gatorade in a soggy Orlando in Liberty’s second season at the top level of college football.

Quarterback Buckshot Calvert was just 16-of-34 passing and threw two picks but threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns. Five of his passes went to Antonio Gandy-Golden, a wide receiver you’ll see selected in the 2020 NFL draft.

Liberty played the 2019 season as an independent and had to scrounge for opponents. The Flames ended up playing New Mexico State twice and also had games against two FCS opponents. But the seven regular-season wins got Liberty bowl-eligible and into Orlando.

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Blake Anderson overcome with emotion as Arkansas State wins Camellia Bowl

Arkansas State closed out a tough season for head coach Blake Anderson with a bowl victory. Anderson lost his wife Wendy to breast cancer back in August. He took some time away from the team, but returned to the sideline for Week 2, coaching the Red Wolves to a win over UNLV.

The team was 3-4 midway through October but rallied to get to a bowl game with a four-game winning streak. And after Saturday night’s 34-26 victory over Florida International in the Camellia Bowl, the Red Wolves finished the season with an 8-5 record. It marks the fourth time in Anderson’s six years that the program has reached eight wins.

The team’s matchup with FIU was the most entertaining game of the day. Arkansas State led 27-13 for most of the third quarter, but FIU fought back and had a chance to take a 29-27 lead with five minutes to go. However, a 29-yard field goal try by Jose Borregales — who hit four other kicks, including a 52-yarder, up to that point — sailed wide, allowing the Red Wolves to keep the lead.

Layne Hatcher’s 13-yard TD pass to Jonathan Adams with 3:37 to play increased the lead to eight, and the Arkansas State defense held on by intercepting FIU QB James Morgan twice in the final minutes.

As the final seconds ticked off, Anderson was overcome by emotion and was greeted with hugs from his players and assistants.

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Buffalo, Kent State get first bowl wins in program history

It was a fantastic Friday for the MAC on the first day of bowl season even if Central Michigan couldn’t keep the win streak going.

Buffalo got things started with a 31-9 win over Charlotte in the Bahamas Bowl as Jaret Patterson ran 32 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns.

The victory was the first bowl win in school history for Buffalo in just its fourth bowl appearance overall. The Bulls first went to a bowl game in 2008 in the now-defunct International Bowl and also made trips to the Potato Bowl in 2013 and the Dollar General Bowl a year ago.

The victory means Buffalo (8-5) also has back-to-back seasons with eight or more victories for the first time in school history and an eight-win season for just the fourth time in school history.

Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson (26) runs with the ball during an NCAA college football game against Penn State, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in University Park, Pa. Penn State won 45-13. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)
Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson scored twice in the Bahamas Bowl. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)

Kent State followed Buffalo with a 51-41 win over Utah State in the Frisco Bowl. QB Dustin Crum was 21-of-26 passing for 289 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing 23 times for 147 yards and a score.

The turnaround Sean Lewis engineered at Kent State in 2019 was nothing short of remarkable. The Golden Flashes entered the season off back-to-back 2-10 campaigns and had Arizona State, Auburn and Wisconsin as three of its four non-conference opponents.

KSU went 7-3 outside of those games and won its final three games to get to the Frisco Bowl after a midseason three-game losing streak sure made it look like a bowl game would be out of reach.

The game was just Kent State’s third bowl appearance despite playing football for 58 seasons. The Flashes first went to the 1972 Tangerine Bowl — that team coached by Don James had guys by the name of Gary Pinkel and Nick Saban on it — and its only other bowl appearance was a loss in the 2012 GoDaddy.com Bowl.

On top of that, the victory gave Kent State just its second winning season since 2001.

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San Diego State’s offensive explosion

San Diego State was never going to be mistaken for an offensive juggernaut entering Saturday’s New Mexico Bowl. Especially without leading rusher Juwan Washington.

The Aztecs entered the game averaging 330 yards per game in the regular season and topped just 400 total yards once in 12 games. And because bowl games are unpredictable, SDSU racked up over 500 yards of offense in a 48-11 blowout win over Central Michigan in the New Mexico Bowl.

QB Ryan Agnew was 18-31 passing for 287 yards and three touchdowns and an interception while Jordan Byrd ran 17 times for 139 yards and a score. The Aztecs bottled up CMU RB Jonathan Ward (nine carries, 26 yards) and QB Quinten Dormady was 11-of-26 passing for 164 yards and three interceptions.

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