I apologize up front for everything I wrote about Texas A&M. Please understand those are not my personal feelings. I am attempting to channel a mythical AP writer, who would probably come off very snide and condescending toward us if scenarios played out like this. It turned my stomach as much to write that crap as I'm sure it does for you to read it.
If it's any consolation, I can offer a little nudge-nudge-wink-wink regarding the outcome of the Cotton Bowl tomorrow... hint... hint...
Not too much else to discuss today. Pennington was good, but there was no way Marshall would have pulled off that win. I find it ironic that the 7-10 match-up is the exact same as the Holiday Bowl that year, and no matter how you slice it Arizona beats Nebraska. Add in their 1996 embarrassment to Arizona State, and it's clear that the Nubbies don't play too well in the desert when national titles are on the line.
I swear I didn't intentionally rematch A&M and K-State. I simulate these games exactly once and take what I get no matter what. That's the only way to allow for upsets - best 2 out of 3 would virtually eliminate the chance of a 12 beating a 5, for instance.
Realistically, Tulane was decent but played a crap schedule. They would not likely have beaten the Aggies in Kyle Field with a full head of steam from what happened in St. Louis. And there is no way Michael Bishop isn't getting us to at least the Final Four...
Game 1: No. 2 Florida State Seminoles (11-1) VS. No. 15 Marshall Thundering Herd (11-1)
Doak Campbell Stadium - Tallahassee, Fla.
Saturday, Dec. 12, 1998 - 11 AM EST
Wind: E 12 MPH
Final Score: Florida State 19, Marshall 13
Player of the Game
Florida State RB Travis Minor
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Marshall made a living all season by beating opponents from bigger conferences. Sebastian Janikowski made sure they kicked that habit when they visited Doak Campbell Stadium.
Florida State (12-1) beat Marshall (11-2) on Saturday 19-13, thanks in large part to Janikowski's 4-5 day on FG attempts. His only miss came from 50 yards out, but he also made a 49-yard kick.
The two teams traded leads with FGs in the 1st half, until Florida State's Travis Minor scored the first TD of the game on a 15-yard run. They took a 10-6 lead into halftime, and Janikowski's 49-yarder stretched the lead to 13-6.
But Marshall would not go away. With just under two minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, Llow Turner, who had only rushed for 12 yards on the day to that point, took a handoff, cut left, slipped one tackle, juked another defender, and saw open field. 61 yards later he crossed the goal line and tied the game at 13, while a stunned and silent Seminole crowd looked on anxiously.
Unsurprisingly, it was Janikowski who came to the rescue in the final period. After booting a 29-yard FG with 11:05 left on the clock, he lined up for 38-yarder with 32 seconds left in the game. Marshall burned a timeout trying to ice him, but to no avail. It split the uprights.
That left Marshall down 13-19, with one final chance. Turner returned the kickoff to the 37-yard line. But Chad Pennington's 4th-down pass to LaVorn Colclough was just short of the marker, and the Seminoles defense swarmed him before he could gain any yards after the catch. All that was left was for Florida State QB Chris Weinke to take a knee and celebrate a big 1st round playoff victory with his teammates.
Both quarterbacks were largely pedestrian. Pennington, who had put up impressive numbers all season, was held to 18-38 passing and 95 total yards, while Weinke was only slightly better in an 11-19 performance for 186 yards and 1 TD. Minor, named Player of the Game, was the only other player to amass more than 100 yards on the day, rushing 29 times for 109 yards.
Marshall has accepted a bid to the Motor City Bowl, where they will play Louisville. Still, they will wonder what could have been if they had just made a few more plays, or if Janikowski had just cracked under pressure once.
Florida State advances to the 2nd round, where they will meet the winner of today's game between Nebraska and Arizona.
Game 2: No. 3 Kansas State Wildcats (11-1) VS. No. 14 Air Force Falcons (11-1)
KSU Stadium - Manhattan, Kan.
Saturday, Dec. 12, 1998 - 12 PM CST
Wind: S 17 MPH
Final Score: Kansas State 30, Air Force 12
Player of the Game
Kansas State QB Michael Bishop
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - On a cold, gray Kansas day that threatened snow but never delivered, the Kansas State Wildcats extended their best season in school history by crossing an unprecedented threshold, and simultaneously seized a rare chance at revenge and redemption. Not bad for a day's work.
Oh, and there was a football game, too.
Kansas State (12-1) earned another shot at the Texas A&M team that upset them in double OT last week, costing the Wildcats a Big 12 Championship, by defeating the Air Force Falcons (11-2) 30-12. Their 12 wins are the most in a season in school history, adding yet another accomplishment to Bill Snyder's worst-to-first career at the long-downtrodden school.
This was billed as a match-up of two powerful running games, and both teams delivered. K-State rushed for 321 yards and Air Force's triple-option attack produced 241 yards.
Air Force's Jackson Whiting kicked a 32-yard FG to give the Falcons an early 3-0 lead, but it didn't take the Wildcats long to answer. Less than a minute later, Snyder called a tight end screen play that had produced a spectacular touchdown last season in the Fiesta Bowl against Syracuse. This one outdid it.
Justin Swift raced untouched for 90 yards and a TD as QB Michael Bishop and several offensive linemen paced him and provided blocking interference most of the way, while the crowd noise from the home fans built steadily into a load roar.
Five minutes later, K-State scored again on a play that was only slightly less spectacular. Reserve RB Marlon Charles, spelling starter Eric Hickson, cut right, spun around an Air Force safety, and broke free for a 47-yard TD run. The slightly faster Charles needed no assistance to outrace the stunned Air Force defense to the end zone.
Over the next two quarters, K Martin Gramatica increased the lead to 23-3 with 3 FGs, although he uncharacteristically missed two more that would have widened the lead even more.
Air Force finally kicked another field goal early in the 4th quarter to end a 40-minute scoring draught, but the damage was already done. Bishop salted the game away with an 18-yard pass to reserve WR Brandon Clark to make it 30-6.
Air Force's Charles Gilliam rushed 31 yards for a TD with 6:30 remaining, but the subsequent 2-point conversion failed and Air Force did not seriously threaten again.
Bishop, a leading Heisman candidate, padded his already impressive resume with a 10-16 passing effort for 208 yards and 2 TDs, and deservedly earned Player of the Game honors. The K-State running game flourished behind Hickson's 20 carries for 157 yards and Charles' 11-carry, 115-yard effort.
Air Force QB Blane Morgan was decent, completing 9-15 passes for 112 yards. Despite that, and despite the Falcon's relative success running the ball, it was clear from the start that they didn't have enough talent to hang with the Wildcats.
For the second time this season, Kansas State and Texas A&M will meet on a neutral field, only the stakes have increased from a conference championship to the right to play for a national championship. It should be another classic.
Meanwhile, Air Force will complete its season in the Oahu Classic, where they will play the Washington Huskies.
Game 3: No. 11 Tulane Green Wave (11-0) VS. No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies (11-2)
Kyle Field - College Station, Texas
Saturday, Dec. 12, 1998 - 3:30 PM CST
Wind: W 8 MPH
Final Score: Texas A&M 20, Tulane 10
Player of the Game
Texas A&M RB Dante Hall
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Despite hosting the game, the Texas A&M Aggies were an underdog in this one. That tends to happen when your opponent is undefeated.
Kansas State will tell you that is exactly where the Aggies (12-2) want to be.
Tulane's (11-1) perfect season came crashing to a halt against the underrated Big 12 Champion, just as the Wildcats' did a week ago in St. Louis. Texas A&M's 20-10 win set them up for a 2nd round rematch with K-State.
The first half was a defensive struggle. Only a 23-yard Russell Bynum FG prevented both teams from entering the locker room scoreless.
But Player of the Game Dante Hall blew it open in the 3rd quarter, rushing for 2 TDs (the second one covered 49 yards), part of an overall 26-carry, 189-yard effort that helped the Aggies out-gain the Green Wave on the ground 333-109. Bynum added another FG to give the Aggies a commanding 20-0 lead after three periods.
Tulane was not so easily dispatched, however. Perhaps the Wrecking Crew defense softened after playing near-perfect for 45 minutes, or maybe Tulane's desperation fueled improved play. Either way, the 4th quarter belonged to the Green Wave, who entered the red zone early in the final period and kicked a 20-yard FG to finally get on the board, and then followed that up with a 17-yard Toney Converse TD run to trim the deficit to 10 with 4:47 remaining.
A&M squashed any hopes of a comeback, however, by forcing a 4-and-out on Tulane's next possession and then draining the clock behind Hall's determined running.
Tulane's quarterback play was a bright spot in a losing effort. Shaun King kept himself in the running for several postseason awards with an effective 18-28 passing effort for 193 yards. But Tulane's season-long balance dissipated in the face of the Aggies' tough-nosed run defense, causing several promising drives to stall before finding the end zone.
The few times A&M chose to pass, Randy McCown was exceptional, completing 7-9 for 86 yards.
Texas A&M awaits a rematch with Kansas State in the 2nd round, while Tulane will likely be invited to the Liberty Bowl as the Conference USA Champion, where they would meet the BYU Cougars.
It is uncertain who would coach the Green Wave in that game; Tommy Bowden has agreed to become the new Clemson coach in principle and may not wish to stick around to coach in a bowl now that the national title is out of reach for Tulane.
Game 4: No. 7 Arizona Wildcats (11-1) VS. No. 10 Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3)
Arizona Stadium - Tucson, Ariz.
Saturday, Dec. 12, 1998 - 6 PM MST
Precipitation: Moderate Rain
Wind: NW 8 MPH
Final Score: Arizona 31, Nebraska 13
Player of the Game
Arizona RB Trung Canidate
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Last year, under an old system, the Nebraska Cornhuskers won a share of the national championship. This year, given a chance to defend it on the field in the cold desert rain, they probably find themselves wishing the old system was still in play.
Upstart Arizona (12-1), which coach Dick Tomey has led to one of its best seasons in history, knocked off the defending champs 31-13 and in the process kept alive their own title hopes.
When the clock finally ticked to zero, there was only one candidate for Player of the Game honors in this one, as his name suggests. Trung Canidate rushed 19 times for a spectacular 200 yards and 2 TDs, including a long run of 67, as he repeatedly gashed the vaunted "Blackshirt" defense.
Canidate nearly out-rushed the entire Nebraska (9-4) backfield, who combined for 70 carries and 234 yards. Most of those yards were compiled in the 2nd half, as Arizona was pulling away. The potent Husker rushing attack was largely negated in the 1st half, as Arizona scored the first 17 points of the game.
Ironically, it took a big pass play from a team not prone to making them to get Nebraska back in the game. Running a no-huddle offense, QB Eric Crouch found TE Tracey Wistrom open in the middle of the Wildcats' zone and connected with him for a 74-yard TD with just 34 seconds remaining before halftime.
However, K Kris Brown, who later missed a 50-yard FG, missed the PAT after a botched snap, and Nebraska went into the locker room down 6-17 and needing to make some changes.
Coach Frank Solich reemphasized the running game in the 2nd half, but given their ineffective passing attack (Crouch was 6-14 for 120 yards, most of them coming on the Wistrom TD), the Huskers were in too much of a hole with not enough time to climb out, especially after Canidate ripped off his 67-yard run to make the score 24-6 just five minutes after halftime. Crouch and Canidate exchanged touchdowns in the 4th quarter, but this one was basically over.
Arizona doesn't have much time to celebrate, however. Their reward for conquering the Huskers, winner of three of the last four national championships? A date with yet another perennial power, Bobby Bowden's Seminoles of Florida State.
Nebraska is expected to be invited to the Alamo Bowl later today; their opponent will be a fellow playoff ejectee, Wisconsin.
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
CompUSA Florida Citrus Bowl
#1 Tennessee vs. #8 Florida
Florida Citrus Bowl
Southwestern Bell Cotton Bowl Classic
#3 Kansas State vs. #6 Texas A&M
Culligan Holiday Bowl
#2 Florida State vs. #7 Arizona
San Diego, Calif.
The Rose Bowl Game presented by AT&T
#4 Ohio State vs. #12 Virginia