Bowl games offer lots of excitement

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 6, 2006

Squinting, sometimes dozing, I relaxed in my double-recliner. Anendless procession of college football games paraded across thetelevision screen. They often started in the morning and ran pastmidnight.

Often, my wife Laurie would abandon her computer games and joinme on the cushioned love seat. She squeezed my left hand and rootedfor her favorite team.

“Which one should I pull for?” she inquired., “I like to see thesouthern teams win.”

One night, only the Christmas tree lights and the TV illuminatedthe living room. I had fallen asleep in the second quarter.

Laurie screamed with excitement and grabbed my left knee. Thesudden wake-up call gave me a shock. My heart was pounding. “What’swrong?”

“Did you see him make that catch?” she exclaimed. “It wasbeautiful.”

Thankfully, my heart beat was returning to normal as I tried tofocus on the screen.

For sure, this has got to be one of the most enjoyable bowlseasons on record. There have been enough nail-biting, cardiacfinishes to last a lifetime.

It all began on Dec. 20 in the New Orleans Bowl. Played at a newlocation, it was moved to Lafayette because of severe damage to theSuperdome caused by Hurricane Katrina and the occupants who tookshelter there. The Magnolia State’s pride and joy, the SouthernMiss Golden Eagles, got the bowl parade off to a happy start,beating an upstart team from Arkansas State.

Certainly, Southern Miss head coach Jeff Bower and his staffwill have a recruiting edge when they court those prized highschool athletes. “We were the only Mississippi team to go to a bowlgame, and we won.”

Ole Miss and Mississippi State can only groan and growl. “Wait’til next year.”

Nevada outscored Central Florida 49-48 in overtime to climax anexciting Hawaii Bowl. That OT session on Christmas eve was aharbinger of thrills to come.

It felt good to see the Memphis Tigers outscoring the Akron Zipsin Detroit’s Motor City Bowl. Chalk one up for C-USA.

On Dec. 28, Nebraska authored a big comeback to beat Michigan32-28 in the Alamo Bowl at San Antonio. Davey Crockett and JimBowie could have used both powerful teams in the battle for Texasindependence.

There were more close games as Oklahoma clipped Oregon 17-14 inthe Holiday Bowl at San Diego and Virginia shaved Minnesota 34-31in Nashville’s Music City Bowl.

One of the biggest surprises was LSU’s 40-3 smashing of Miami inAtlanta’s Peach Bowl. The trash-talking Hurricanes must have madethe Fighting Tigers mad. LSU managed to win big, without itsstarting quarterback JeMarcus Russell, who was injured. Entersophomore Matt Flynn who wins the MVP offensive award by completing13 of 22 passes for 196 yards and 2 touchdowns and nointerceptions.

Moving on to Dallas and the prestigious Cotton Bowl. Naturally,we were pulling for the Alabama Crimson Tide, mainly because offreshman quarterback/running back Jimmy Johns of Brookhaven. Downto the wire, Alabama edged Texas Tech 13-10, when JamesChristensen’s duck hook field goal attempt from 45-yards outwobbled over the crossbar and fell just inside the left upright astime expired.

Johns, recognized as Mr. Football in Mississippi after leadingthe Ole Brook Panthers to the Class 4A state championship in 2004,rushed the football 3 times for 19 yards. He also took 1 snap atquarterback and led the blocking on a toss sweep.

The TV announcers praised Johns several times for his athleticability. They mentioned his state high school championships in thediscus and the 110 meter hurdles. He is a prime candidate toreplace graduating quarterback Brodie Croyle next season.

Pass the Polident and the Geritol!

Tuesday night’s triple-overtime Orange Bowl thriller will betalked about for a long time. Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions escapedMiami on a 29-yard field goal by freshman Kevin Kelly, lifting PennState to a 26-23 win over the Florida State Seminoles earlyWednesday morning.

Both teams had their chances to win in the first two overtimesbut field goal attempts failed to split the uprights. Imaginetrying to concentrate on a field goal attempt while 80,000 fansscream their lungs out. That’s known as pressure.

Paterno celebrated his 79th birthday two weeks ago and probablyaged a few more months during the game. Florida State’s BobbyBowden is 76 and, like Paterno, has been coaching for over 40years.

Certainly, they are two of the gridiron’s grand old men. Theyalso have devoted wives and large families, too.

For sure, the Rose Bowl proved to be the best of the bowls asTexas surprised Southern Cal 41-38 in the National ChampionshipGame Wednesday night.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com