Kent State needed four tries to get the first bowl victory in school history. The Golden Flashes, making their first bowl appearance since 2012, upended Utah State in the Frisco Bowl to not only record the first bowl win for the program, but also record its first winning record in seven seasons.
Kent State won its final four games of the season to finish 7-6 overall. Sophomore kicker Matt Trickett drilled five field goals in the 10-point victory to give him 29 field goals this season. It was the third game Trickett posted four or more field goals in a game and his five made kicks is the most by a MAC player in a bowl game since 2013. Kent State Chapter President Antwan Dixon, a member of the 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team, had a career-best 99 receiving yards and recorded his first touchdown of the season.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions had a record breaking outing to outgun Memphis in the Cotton Bowl and post their third 11-win season in the last four years. Led by redshirt sophomore running back Journey Brown, Penn State rolled up 396 rushing yards – the most ever in a bowl game for the Nittany Lions. Brown had a career-high 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 202 yards is the most by a Penn State running back in its storied bowl history – surpassing the 194 yards posted by Saquon Barkley in the 2017 Rose Bowl. Brown’s record performance earned him the Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Bowl Season. Penn State’s seven total touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns both tied Cotton Bowl records. Sophomore All-American linebacker Micah Parsons tied a career-high with 14 tackles. He also had 3.0 tackles for a loss, 2.0 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles to earn Defensive MVP honors for the game.
Notre Dame: A convincing 24 point win over Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl gave the Fighting Irish back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time since 1988-1989. Sparked by a balanced offense and another stingy effort from a Notre Dame defense that recovered a pair of fumbles in the game to give them an FBS-best 19 on the season, the Irish grabbed control early and never let the Cyclones have a say in determining the outcome. Notre Dame Chapter Leader Drew White finished with five tackles in the game. The linebacker ended the season tied for first in tackles with 80.
Clemson: For the third time in four years the Tigers will play for the College Football Playoff National Championship. The defending champions won their record 29th straight game, rallying from a 16-point deficit in the first half to edge Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Clemson will play No. 1 seed LSU for the title on Monday, January 13 in New Orleans. Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence accounted for 366 total yards and three touchdowns, including a career-high 107 rushing yards. The Clemson defense sealed the victory with a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions – including a Nolan Turner pick in the end zone with less than a minute remaining. Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields had thrown only one interception all season before the National Semifinal.
Western Michigan: The Broncos saw Western Kentucky kick a pair of field goals in the final two minutes – including a game winner from 52 yards out with no time left on the clock – to claim the First Responder Bowl. Western Michigan senior cornerback Kareem Ali, a transfer from Temple, picked off a pass in the second quarter and returned it 88 yards for a touchdown. Ali’s pick-six, the first interception of his career, was the first interception ever returned for a touchdown by a Bronco in a bowl game. The 88 yards he covered is the most for an interception return by any Mid-American Conference (MAC) player ever in a bowl game – surpassing the previous mark by 32 yards. The three-point loss dropped WMU to 7-6 overall for the season.
Illinois: Making its first appearance in a bowl game since 2014, the Fighting Illini fell to California in the Redbox Bowl – the first bowl game appearance for Illinois since 2014. Turnovers fueled the Illini as they had a program-best 28 takeaways during the regular season. Despite outgaining Cal 450-395, the Illinois defense did not produce a single turnover for the first time all season. Junior punter Blake Hayes had five punts for 208 total yards with a long of 55 yards and dropped four of those five boots inside the 20-yard line. Hayes owns three of the top 11 single-season punting averages in Illinois history and no fewer than six single-season program punting records. Illini senior linebacker Dele Harding had six tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss in his final game. Harding finish his senior year with 153 tackles to finish sixth on the Illinois all-time list for a single season and the most by an Illini player in the last 25 years.
Florida State: The Seminoles had nearly 200 more yards of total offense than Arizona State in the Sun Bowl, but Florida State was undone by six turnovers that the Sun Devils converted into 14 points on their way to a seven-point victory. Seminoles redshirt sophomore wide receiver Tamorrion Terry had a career-best nine catches and 165 receiving yards including a 91-yard catch-and-run touchdown.That 91-yard touchdown catch was the longest passing play in Sun Bowl history (86 years). Terry’s six touchdown catches this season of 60 or more yards ties him with Oklahoma All-American Dede Westbrook in 2016 for the most in a season nationally since at least 2010.
Baylor: For the third time in seven years, the Bears went to a bowl game with 11 wins and chance to register 12 victories for the first time in program history. Undone in the first half of the Sugar Bowl by a dominant Georgia squad, Baylor fell behind 19-0 and despite a strong second half never fully recovered and ultimately fell to the Bulldogs by 12 points. Still, only two years removed from a 1-11 season, playing in a New Year’s Six Bowl with a chance to make program history was not on the Bears’ radar when the season kicked off.