Orange Bowl: The Orange Bowl, host of next season's title game, had first pick. It chose the north side of the bracket, hoping for another round of Florida State-Oklahoma, which has been a pretty heated rivalry in the playoffs so far.
Rose Bowl: That left the Rose Bowl with the south side of the bracket and a strong chance to have USC advance and act as host. They would be expected to play LSU, but you can't rule Texas out, either. And never forget that Bill Snyder is undefeated both in Holiday Bowls and against Pete Carroll...
Game 1: No. 5 Florida State Seminoles (11-2) VS. No. 13 Boise State Broncos (13-1)
Capital One Bowl
Florida Citrus Bowl - Orlando, Fla.
Saturday, Dec. 20, 2003 - 11 AM EST
Wind: NE 7 MPH
Final Score: Boise State 35, Florida State 3
Player of the Game
Boise State QB Ryan Dinwiddie
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Upstart Boise State has added another scalp to its collection.
The Broncos (14-1) advanced to the Final Four for the first time in school history, and had to beat the second winningest coach in playoff history to do it - in his team's home state, nonetheless.
Yes, Florida State (11-3) dropped a 35-3 decision to the boys in blue in the Capital One Bowl, preventing coach Bobby Bowden from winning his 10th playoff game, and it appears the sky may be the limit for the little WAC school that could.
Leading the way was David Mikell, who rushed 23 times for 171 yards and a TD. Ryan Dinwiddie was excellent, completing 13 of 16 passes for 301 yards and 3 TDs, and led his team to a 28-0 halftime advantage that proved decisive.
Meanwhile, the Seminoles had a tough time getting their offense in gear. They were out-gained on the ground 209-109 and in the air 301-169. Chris Rix completed a pedestrian 15 of his 30 passes. No Florida State runner gained more than 50 total yards from scrimmage.
The home fans, who made up the majority of the crowd in Orlando, had little to cheer for until the 9:23 mark in the 4th quarter, when Xavier Beitia at least prevented the shutout with a 41-yard FG that proved to be Florida State's only points of the day.
Game 2: No. 7 Texas Longhorns (11-2) VS. No. 2 LSU Tigers (13-1)
SBC Communications Cotton Bowl Classic
Cotton Bowl - Dallas, Texas
Saturday, Dec. 20, 2003 - 12 PM CST
Wind: S 15 MPH
Final Score: LSU 39, Texas 10
Player of the Game
LSU RB Justin Vincent
DALLAS (AP) - LSU players said after the game that they still remembered being humiliated by Texas 72-3 in the opening round of the 2001 playoff.
This time, the shoe was on the other foot, and delivering the kick in the state of Texas made it all the sweeter.
The Tigers (14-1) got their revenge in similar fashion, dominating the Longhorns (11-3) 39-10 to win the Cotton Bowl and become only the second SEC team ever to reach the Final Four, after Florida did so in 2001.
LSU started quickly, capitalizing on a safety and a 42-yard Justin Vincent TD run to take a 9-0 1st quarter lead. The Tigers then traded a FG and a TD with the Longhorns, for a 19-10 halftime lead. After a stalemated 3rd quarter, Vincent blew the game open with two TD runs in the final period to push the lead to 33-10, and the celebration was on.
Vincent led the punishing LSU rushing attack with 19 carries for 145 yards and 3 TDs, while Matt Mauck managed the game intelligently, completing 5 of 10 passes for 151 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Ryan Gaudet was a perfect 3 for 3 on FGs for the Tigers.
Chance Mock was up and down all day, going 12 for 23 for 156 yards and an INT, while Cedric Benson was decent with 28 carries for 101 yards and a TD. They got little help from their teammates, though, and normally-reliable kicker Dusty Mangum missed 2 of his 3 FGs.
Game 3: No. 3 USC Trojans (12-1) VS. No. 11 Kansas State Wildcats (12-3)
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Qualcomm Stadium - San Diego, Calif.
Saturday, Dec. 20, 2003 - 1:30 PM PST
Wind: WNW 8 MPH
Final Score: Kansas State 27, USC 20
Player of the Game
Kansas State RB Darren Sproles
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Bill Snyder just seems to have Pete Carroll's number.
In their third meeting in as many seasons, Kansas State (13-3) prevailed yet again over USC (12-2), despite a Trojan-friendly crowd (an obstacle the Wildcats overcame in Los Angeles in 2001) at the Holiday Bowl, and by the exact same score as their home win in 2002 - 27-20.
Darren Sproles again led the way for K-State, helping Snyder earn his 13th playoff win with 30 carries for 215 yards and 2 TDs. He completely out-rushed the entire USC backfield several times over; the "Lynch Mob" held USC to just 41 total rushing yards, thanks largely to Brandon Archer's three sacks.
Ell Roberson was just 7 of 13 for 123 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, but with the way Sproles gashed the Trojans, victory was hardly contingent upon the strength and accuracy of Roberson's arm. On the other side, Matt Leinart completed 21 of his 33 passes for 288 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and the majority of USC's offensive production.
Both Joe Rheem and Ryan Killeen were a perfect 2 of 2 on FGs. USC's Mike Williams caught 7 passes for 75 yards and a TD. Kenechi Udeze had 2 of his team's 4 sacks.
USC actually led 7-0 after the 1st quarter and 13-3 shortly before halftime, but a 48-yard TD pass from Roberson to tight end Brian Casey gave the Wildcats momentum heading into the locker room. Still, USC looked to be in control after LenDale White rumbled 46 yards for a TD and a 20-10 Trojan lead midway through the 3rd quarter.
That's when Sproles made his mark. First he scrambled 22 yards to pay-dirt with 8:53 left in the game to get the Wildcats back within 3, and then he capped another drive with a 7-yard TD run for a 24-20 lead (K-State's first of the game) with 3:46 remaining.
Still, things weren't settled for good until USC's last effective drive was ended with two emphatic sacks and Joe Rheem capped the ensuing Wildcat drive with a 20-yard FG with 27 seconds left in the game. Once it sailed through the uprights, the K-State faithful who made the trek to San Diego breathed a sigh of relief as they celebrated 17 unanswered points and their team's 4th Final Four appearance in 6 years.
Game 4: No. 9 Miami University RedHawks (13-1) VS. No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners (13-1)
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Sun Devil Stadium - Tempe, Ariz.
Saturday, Dec. 20, 2003 - 5 PM PST
Final Score: Oklahoma 33, Miami University 23
Player of the Game
Oklahoma RB Kejuan Jones
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Oklahoma built a solid lead and then held off a feisty comeback effort from a scrappy underdog to advance to its 3rd Final Four in 4 years.
The Miami University RedHawks (13-2) gave the Sooners (14-1) everything they wanted, and then some, as they fought back from a 30-10 deficit in the 4th quarter to make things interesting in a Fiesta Bowl that was much closer than the final score - Oklahoma 33, Miami 23 - might otherwise indicate.
Ben Roethlisberger was solid in a losing effort, completing 20 of his 37 passes for 266 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs. His chief receiver, Martin Nance, caught 8 of those passes for 97 yards, while Calvin Murray rushed 20 times for 199 yards and a TD.
Heisman winner Jason White (18-25, 227 yards) was steady, as usual, while Renaldo Works and Kejuan Jones combined for 173 yards and 3 TDs on the ground. Mark Clayton caught 6 passes for 79 yards, Lynn McGruder had 3 sacks and Trey DiCarlo connected on all 4 of his FGs in a textbook team win for the Sooners.
After falling behind 7-0 early, Oklahoma scored 20 unanswered points before halftime and added another TD after halftime, for a 27-7 lead midway through the 3rd quarter. Jared Parseghian and DiCarlo then traded FGs before Roethlisberger got to work.
He led a long scoring drive that culminated in an 8-yard TD pass to Nance with 8:15 left in the game, and the Sooners merely answered with another FG. That left the door open for an improbable comeback, even though only 2:44 remained on the clock at that point.
Roethlisberger didn't need much more than that to put a scare into the Oklahoma faithful, though. Just 22 seconds later, he slung a 60-yard TD pass to Michael Larkin to draw his team within 10. However, the 2-point conversion failed and Oklahoma recovered the onside kick and counted itself lucky to be able to run out the clock.
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The Rose Bowl Game presented by PlayStation 2
#2 LSU vs. #11 Kansas State
FedEx Orange Bowl
#1 Oklahoma vs. #13 Boise State
Pro Player Stadium
Miami Gardens, Fla.