10 things I loved from the B1G bowl season
It’s officially over. One of the most unpredictable, exciting and interesting college football seasons in the B1G has come to an end.
As Dr. Seuss once said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” And in the B1G there was plenty to smile about, after a thrilling year.
The excitement didn’t halt in the regular season We saw plenty of fireworks and fun moments that trickled into the bowl season. With 10 teams from the conference playing in the postseason, there’s a lot to reflect on.
Here are 10 things I loved from the B1G bowl season.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba with a Rose Bowl performance we’ll never forget
The performance from Jaxon Smith-Njigba will go down as one of the all-time greatest in the history of college football. To do it in the Rose Bowl? That’s special.
Smith-Njigba capped off his magical season by hauling in 15 receptions for 347 yards (23.1 yards per catch) and 3 huge touchdowns. He helped lead the Buckeyes to a 48-45 come-from-behind victory over Utah to finish the year 11-2.
It was the perfect way to welcome in the new year for the Ohio State receiver.
Thanks to his big night, Smith-Njigba rewrote the Rose Bowl and Ohio State record books and will most likely be one of the top competitors for the 2022 Heisman Trophy.
Rutgers agreeing to play in the Gator Bowl at the last second
Let’s give a lot of credit to the Rutgers players, coaching staff and administration for making this happen. The Scarlet Knights were anticipating being at home during bowl season before Texas A&M opted out of the Gator Bowl, clearing a path for Greg Schiano and Co.
Basically, Rutgers had one week’s worth of notice to fill the vacancy. The staff had to figure out a way to get players back. Schiano said the Scarlet Knights had 5 practices before taking on a No. 17 ranked Wake Forest squad.
Who cares about the final score? Rutgers agreeing to play on limited notice is one of the awesome stories from the postseason. It also shoots down the idea that bowl games are “meaningless.”
Blake Corum’s postgame message to Michigan fans
It would’ve been really easy for Michigan to walk back to the locker room, head down and dejected after a 34-11 loss to Georgia in the Orange Bowl — and some did. It was a disappointing way to end an incredible season.
Blake Corum chose to hold his head high, though. As he exited the field for the final time in 2021, he sent a clear message to everyone wearing the maize and blue at Hard Rock Stadium on New Year’s Eve.
Congrats to the B1G Champs on a great season! pic.twitter.com/3W4GMYRQFD
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) January 1, 2022
“I promise you, we’ll be back,” Corum said as he walked into the tunnel in Miami.
Jim Harbaugh has been saying since Michigan’s win over Ohio State that “this feels like the beginning,” for the program. He expects bigger and better things to come in the near future.
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Clearly, Corum believes that’s the case, too.
James Franklin explaining that ridiculous fake punt attempt
If you watched the Outback Bowl, you were probably left scratching your head near the end of the first half. Penn State attempted a fake punt in one of the strangest formations you’ll see.
In what was a shock to absolutely no one, it failed miserably.
Penn State just ran arguably the funniest fake punt of the season pic.twitter.com/ugwDgZElPL
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) January 1, 2022
But there was actually something worse than the fake punt. Franklin’s explanation.
After the game, the Penn State head coach was asked about the purpose of the trick play. His explaination? The goal was to draw a pass interference call on Arkansas or have the pass intercepted in the end zone. There was no mention of trying to gain yardage, catch the defense napping or anything of the sort.
It was truly one of the most bizarre responses of the college football season.
Wisconsin’s 10-minute drive to win the Las Vegas Bowl
Winning football games at Wisconsin often depends on ball control, methodical drives and a strong rushing attack. So it was pretty fitting to see the Badgers win the Las Vegas Bowl in the most unexciting fashion possible.
Clinging to a 20-13 lead in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin put together an 18-play, 90-yard drive, eating up the final 9:57 on the clock to finish the game with a win. The Badgers didn’t put any points on the board, but instead saw time expire on a 3-yard run by John Chenal.
Graham Mertz threw just 2 passes on that game-winning drive.
If someone ever asks you to summarize Wisconsin football, just show them the final 9:57 of the Las Vegas Bowl. It might’ve been uneventful, but it was also a masterpiece.
Taulia Tagovailoa and Darryl Jones ruining Brent Pry’s interview
Everyone can use a good laugh during bowl season. That’s exactly what we got during the Pinstripe Bowl. Well, Virginia Tech fans probably weren’t too amused.
Midway through the second quarter, ESPN welcomed new Virginia Tech head coach Brent Pry onto the broadcast for an interview to talk about his new position. Just moments after the new leader of the Hokies talked about putting an emphasis on the defensive side of the ball, Taulia Tagovailoa connected with Darryl Jones on a 70-yard touchdown pass to put Maryland ahead 14-3.
The broadcast never returned to Pry for an interview.
New Virginia Tech head coach Brent Pry talking about how special the defense is going to be in Blacksburg pic.twitter.com/MXUJTZeSUn
— Stuckey (@Stuckey2) December 29, 2021
Minnesota producing a pair of 100-yard rushers vs. West Virginia
What an incredibly fitting end to Minnesota’s season. Hammered by injuries to the running back position all year long, the Gophers still found a way to produce on the ground. The Guaranteed Rate Bowl was no different.
Both Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving plowed through West Virginia’s defense, leading the way to Minnesota’s 249-yard performance on the ground. Thomas ended the game with 144 yards and a touchdown on 21 touches while Irving took 19 carries 129 yards in an 18-6 win.
Minnesota managed to win 9 games with Mohamed Ibrahim, Trey Potts and Bryce Williams all suffering injuries. It was because of great offensive line play and the next-man-up mentality in the running back room. The postseason was no different for PJ Fleck’s bunch.
Also, Daniel Faalele scored a touchdown in his final game at Minnesota. Maybe that should’ve been the bigger (literally) story.
Minnesota brought in the big man to score 🤯
Daniel Faalele is 6'9 380 lbs! pic.twitter.com/hQsye0FAS4
— ESPN (@espn) December 29, 2021
Michigan State’s last-ranked pass defense winning the Peach Bowl on an INT
Speaking of fitting endings, how about the way Michigan State sealed a comeback victory in the Peach Bowl?
The Spartans ended the season with the nation’s worst pass defense, allowing over 324 yards per game through the air. So how did Michigan State secure the postseason win over Pitt? An interception that Cal Haladay returned 78 yards for a touchdown.
— ✯✯✯✯✯ (@FTB_Vids_YT) December 31, 2021
Yes, Michigan State’s capping of a 31-21 win was a bit ironic, but it’s also a microcosm of how Mel Tucker’s squad persevered through most of the season. The Spartans just continued to find ways to win games, even when the outlook was bleak.
Haladay’s pick-six pushed Michigan State to an 11-2 record and a Peach Bowl title. Not a bad mark for Tucker’s second season in East Lansing.
Continued angst among Iowa fans with Brian Ferentz’s play-calling
Scrolling through Twitter during the Citrus Bowl was quite the treat. The frustration Iowa fans had over Brian Ferentz’s personnel decisions and play-calling ability trickled over into the postseason.
The Hawkeyes did show some signs of life offensively in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to pull out a win over Kentucky. And the team’s final drive — an interception thrown by Spencer Petras — didn’t leave fans with much confidence heading into the offseason.
There’s a push for the younger Ferentz to have a more limited role in the offense moving forward, but that’s probably not going to happen.
Iowa’s defense deserves a lot of credit, though. The Hawkeyes winning 10 games and still having a chance to win the Citrus Bowl despite rather putrid play offensively shows just how well Phil Parker does his job.
Broc Thompson balling out with double-knee surgery awaiting
One question kept circulating through everyone’s mind each time Broc Thompson made a big play in the Music City Bowl: How?
Thompson was preparing for double-knee surgery before the game but decided to give it a go, anyway. He stepped up admirably in the absence of David Bell and Milton Wright, making play after play for the Boilermakers.
The end result was a 7-catch, 217-yard, 2-touchdown performance. He nearly doubled his season totals in yardage and touchdowns with his Music City Bowl outing. Like Smith-Njigba’s in the Rose Bowl, this will be a game many remember for a long time.
Appropriately, Thompson ends the season as the Music City Bowl MVP and was a big reason why the Boilermakers claimed a 48-45 win over Tennessee.