Winners and Losers of college football bowl season: Army gives Houston historic beatdown in Armed Forces Bowl

Army teammates pose with the trophy following their team’s 70-14 win over Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
Army teammates pose with the trophy following their team’s 70-14 win over Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)

Once Saturday’s games come to an end, the first full week of the 2018 bowl season will have reached its end. We recapped the first day of bowl action last weekend. Below, we recap what transpired throughout the week, highlighted by Army’s historic beatdown of Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Army reached a program-record 11 wins by beating Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl on Saturday, and it did so in emphatic fashion. The Black Knights absolutely trounced the Cougars, 70-14, putting up 507 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in the process. Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins led the way with 170 yards and five of those touchdowns, and did so on just 11 carries, becoming the first Army player to throw for 1,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

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Army opened the scoring in typical Army fashion: a 14-play, 80-yard drive that took 7:47 off the clock. Hopkins reeled off a 77-yard touchdown run on Army’s next drive before the Black Knights’ defense scored on a strip sack on Houston’s ensuing offensive possession. At that point, it was clear Houston had no chance. By the time halftime rolled around, Army’s lead was 42-7.

As pointed out by Matt Brown of The Athletic, Army tied two bowl records — points scored and margin of victory — in the win. The only other team to score 70 in a bowl game was West Virginia in its win over Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl. The Black Knights’ 56-point victory tied the record set by Tulsa in 2008 when it beat Bowling Green 63-7 in the GMAC Bowl. Army also set a school record with a whopping 10 sacks on defense.

Saturday’s win was the ninth straight to close out the year for Jeff Monken’s team. Monken has done a tremendous job turning the program around. The Black Knights are 29-10 over the past three years and have a streak of three consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1988-1990. On top of that, Army has now won a bowl game in three consecutive seasons for the first time.

What a way to cap off a historic season for the Black Knights.


Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons overcame a 28-10 deficit to storm back and beat Memphis 37-34 in the Birmingham Bowl. The win gives Wake Forest a winning record in three straight seasons for the first time since 2006-2008. It also marked the first time in program history that it won a bowl game three years in a row. The Demon Deacons dealt with a ton of injuries this year, but rallied by winning three of four down the stretch behind Jamie Newman, who began the year as the third-string QB. Newman threw for 328 yards, ran for 91 yards and combined for four touchdowns (1 passing, 3 rushing) in the win.

Troy: Neal Brown’s tenure at Troy has been pretty damn good. The Trojans beat Buffalo 42-32 on Saturday night to win the Dollar General Bowl and clinch a 10-3 season.

Troy was 4-8 in 2015. That was Brown’s first season. Since then the Trojans have reeled off three-straight seasons of double-digit wins. It’s crazy that Brown wasn’t hired at a Power Five conference school this offseason and it’ll be even crazier if he’s not at a Power Five school in 2020. That’s nothing against Troy, which has become one of the best teams in the Sun Belt under Brown’s watch. But what he’s done at Troy is worth a chance at a big school.

Xavier Ubosi, WR, UAB: UAB beat up Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl to capture its first-ever bowl victory, 37-13. Xavier Ubosi had a major role. The senior wide receiver caught seven passes for a whopping 227 yards and three touchdowns. His three scores were all long ones: 70 yards in the first quarter, 46 yards in the second quarter and 66 yards in the third quarter. Pretty good.

Memphis’ <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/255453/" data-ylk="slk:Tony Pollard">Tony Pollard</a> now has seven kickoff return touchdowns. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Memphis’ Tony Pollard now has seven kickoff return touchdowns. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Tony Pollard, RB, Memphis: With Darrell Henderson sitting out as he prepares for the NFL, Pollard got an increased workload out of the backfield in Saturday’s Birmingham Bowl, carrying 17 times for 109 yards and a score. He also returned a second quarter kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The score was his seventh kick return TD of his career, tying an FBS record held by three others. Pollard brought four kicks back last year, so most teams avoid kicking to him. He made Wake Forest pay on Saturday. He can make the record his own next year as a senior.

Ohio: Ohio trounced San Diego State 27-0 in the Frisco Bowl, limiting the Aztecs to just 287 yards of offense. The Bobcats offense put up 215 rushing yards, including 164 from senior A.J. Ouelette, to finish the season at 9-4. Frank Solich, now 74 years old, does not get enough credit nationally for the work he has done in Athens. The Bobcats have won at least eight games in four straight seasons and nine times overall in his 14-year tenure.

Florida International: Before Butch Davis was brought in as head coach last year, FIU had just two winning seasons in its history. In two seasons under Davis, the Panthers have a 17-9 record after the 35-32 win over Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl. The Panthers were seven-point underdogs and played the game without starting QB James Morgan, but still were able to pull out the second bowl victory in program history. The win gave FIU a record nine wins on the season.


Houston: Remember when Houston president Renu Khator said “We’ll fire coaches at 8-4″ when the school hired Major Applewhite as the team’s head coach to replace Tom Herman?

Well, we have bad news for Applewhite. The loss to Army means Houston finished the 2018 season at 8-5.

Look, Applewhite isn’t getting fired. The Cougars didn’t play the end of the season without a healthy Ed Oliver and a healthy D’Eriq King. Oliver is a top-10 pick. King was the first quarterback in the country to get to 50 total touchdowns in 2018. But it’s easy to see how another season that includes a handful of losses will warm up Applewhite’s seat. Houston wants to be a player in the college football world. Finishing the season at one game better than South Florida isn’t it.

South Florida: South Florida made college football history on Thursday night, and it was not the good kind. With a 38-20 loss to Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl, USF became the first team in FBS history to start a season 7-0 before finishing it with six consecutive losses. That’s an epic collapse, and head coach Charlie Strong is reportedly making swift and decisive changes. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Strong is expected to dismiss 11 suspended players from the program and fire four assistant coaches.

Memphis: Memphis blew yet another double-digit lead in its 37-34 loss to Wake Forest in the Birmingham Bowl. Against the Demon Deacons, the Tigers jumped out a 28-10 second quarter lead. By halftime, Wake cut that to 28-24 before taking a 30-28 lead entering the fourth. Memphis surged ahead 34-30 with a touchdown at the 1:15 mark, but allowed Wake Forest to march 75 yards for a score in just six plays and 41 seconds. That left 34 seconds on the clock, and Memphis quickly moved into the red zone on a big pass play to tight end Joey Magnifico. But instead of trying to win the game with a touchdown, Memphis inexplicably played for overtime. That move backfired when Riley Patterson missed a 43-yard field goal as time expired to seal the victory for Wake Forest.

Northern Illinois has been reaching for a bowl win since 2011. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Northern Illinois has been reaching for a bowl win since 2011. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Northern Illinois: Can you remember the last time Northern Illinois has won a bowl game? It hasn’t happened recently. NIU has been to six bowl games in the last seven seasons but hasn’t won a bowl game since 2011. That was Dave Doeren’s first season at the school. He’s now at NC State. Jordan Lynch was a sophomore who threw 20 passes and sat most of the season behind Chandler Harnish. While that was only seven years ago it feels like college football lifetimes ago.

San Diego State: The Aztecs had a slide at the end of the season that rivaled South Florida’s. San Diego State was 6-1 at one point but ended the season on a 1-5 skid. The only victory in the final six games of the season came in a 31-23 win over New Mexico. While three of the Aztecs’ final four regular-season losses were by a single possession — and the other loss was by nine — SDSU wasn’t even close to being in the game against Ohio. The Bobcats simply overmatched San Diego State. 2018 marked the first time in four seasons that the Aztecs didn’t reach at least 10 wins.

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