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College Gridiron 365

’22 CHEEZ-IT BOWL: The Biggest Night of the Norvell Era (Thus Far)

Jae Fortune

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For the first time since 2017, the Florida State Seminoles are celebrating a bowl game victory (and their best season in four years) after defeating the Oklahoma Sooners, 35-32, in Orlando.

#8 Ward Celebrating his second TD | 81 Yards and 2 TD at the Cheez It Bowl ©sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

FSU line tries to prevent pressure on QB TD for Oklahoma Line ©sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

 

 


 

A drama-filled sixty minute affair at Camping World Stadium saw the high-octane offense of Jordan Travis & Co., put up 500+ total yards on their foes from Norman. FSU’s dark-horse Heisman candidate, and game MVP also happened to hit the mark for 3,000 passing yards in a season, before halftime. In route to those passing yards, Travis connected to star receiver Johnny Wilson at will, including on an absurd one-handed circus catch that contributed to a school-record 202 yard evening for the redshirt sophomore.

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Travis #13 Throws the Football

©sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

Touchdown Noels!!! ©sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

Benson the nations top rusher only ran for 25 rushing yards. The Oklahoma team did not come to play. ©sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

 


 

In a bowl game that featured more tied scores, than time-outs, it’s fitting that defense was the deciding factor in the end. While both quarterback’s matched explosive play for explosive play throughout, Jared Verse made his presence felt when it mattered most. An early sack on Dillon Gabriel forced a crucial turnover, and Verse’s consistent presence on the edge provide some much-needed containment against an otherwise lethal OU ground attack.

©sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

But biggest moment of night was the final sack on Gabriel by the coveted NFL prospect, within the final minute of regulation, sealed the victory for Florida State. Post-game, when asked about coming to FSU, and choosing to play for Coach Norvell, Verse’s blunt response was telling:

“This was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.”


NORVELL’S REVENGE

On December 8, 2019, Mike Norvell was named the 11th Head Football Coach of Florida State. Many laughed at his resume, and his young program’s lowest moments.

And, most of all, we laughed at his cornrows.

But, guess whose laughing now.

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( Here’s a hint. )

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Frankly, college football is better when FSU is better than OU.

And in three years, Coach Mike Norvell has completely transformed Florida State from a free-falling former power into one of the most electrifying shows in college football.

Last season, FSU ended the year with a (5-7) record, and hope for the future. This season (10-3) puts Norvell’s team at the center of the ACC discussion, right next to Clemson (11-2). However, with the instability of the Tiger’s situation at quarterback, it’s not hard to pick the Seminoles as the conference front-runners in 2023. But for now, let’s just enjoy this moment of redemption, and (for Mike) vindication. As Cheez-it crackers rained down around him, any doubt about Coach Novell’s plan, style or approach is out the window after tonight.

As the only FBS program in the state to win a college football bowl game this season, FSU is back.

©sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

©sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II


GABRIEL’S RETURN

In 2019, a high-flying youngster from Hawaii arrived in Orlando as the future of Knight’s football.

Gabriel completes a rushing TD with a great block by Farood © sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

©sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

Three years later, that youngster is the starting quarterback of the Oklahoma Sooners. Frankly, Dillon Gabriel’s homecoming would have included a story book ending fit for the Magic Kingdom, but it was not to be. Regardless, UCF’s former signal caller was red-hot for the red and white as his Sooners fell to the Florida State Seminoles in Camping World. A stellar night for Gabriel included over 240 total passing yards (14 completion on 24 attempts), no interceptions and a rushing score that had Sooner Nation Boomin’.

Gabriel rushes for a 1st down © sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

In all likelihood, Gabriel would return to Norma next season. Selfishly, I would love to see a Gabriel-UCF reunion next season, as the Knights joins Oklahoma in the BIG 12 conference.


A BRIEF HISTORY: THE CHEESIEST BOWL IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Born on a (likely) sunny afternoon in 1990’s Miami, the then-Blockbuster Bowl featured a high-stakes clash between Penn State and Florida State. December 28th, Bobby Bowden’s FSU descended on Miami Garden’s Joe Robbie Stadium for an earth-shaking collision with Joe Patrino’s Nittany Lions. While the two (9-2) teams would present near identical stat sheets at the end, FSU would rise to the occasion with the 24-17 victory the inaugural ballgame.

When the time came for fresh start, Orlando emerged as the obvious choice.

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Cheez It Bowl Fans © sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

About two years ago, Kellogg’s (of breakfast cereal fame) announced a multi-year deal with Florida Citrus Sports to introduce Cheez-It as the new title sponsor of the annual bowl game in Orlando.


Seminoles Nation: Congratulations to this 2022 team on being champions, and congratulations to your entire program on finding your next great coach.

 

College Gridiron 365

Kansas State Triumphs 28-19 Over NC State in Pop-Tarts Bowl Clash

Kevyn Bryant II

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Kansas State emerges victorious with a 28-19 win over NC State in the highly anticipated Pop-Tarts Bowl, setting Orlando abuzz with excitement.

Despite a valiant effort in the Pop-Tarts Bowl on Thursday night, the Wolfpack fell short in overcoming an early deficit, succumbing to Kansas State with a final score of 28-19.

The Wolfpack concludes their season with a 9-4 record, narrowly missing the chance to etch their name in school history with only the second 10-win campaign. The elusive feat was last achieved in 2002 with Philip Rivers at the helm, guiding the team to an impressive 11-3 record.

Facing the challenge without their All-America linebacker Payton Wilson, who opted to sit out the game in preparation for the draft, the No. 19 NC State struggled to contain the running game early on. The Pack found themselves in a tough spot as Wildcats quarterback Avery Johnson connected with DJ Giddens for a 37-yard score on fourth down, establishing a 7-0 lead.

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With Wilson absent from the lineup, Kansas State exploited the gap, amassing 258 yards on the ground, with Giddens contributing 151 yards. Despite NC State quarterback Brennan Armstrong’s 31-yard touchdown run against Kansas State on Thursday night, the Wolfpack was unable to seize control, never holding an advantage and only narrowing the gap to a two-point margin.

At the close of the second quarter, Kansas State maintained a lead of 21-7, with the halftime score standing at 21-10. NC State injected some intrigue into the game in the third quarter with a bit of trickery. Trent Pennix’s 60-yard touchdown run off a fake punt reduced the deficit to 21-19 with 1:50 left in the period.

The Wolfpack’s attempt to level the score was thwarted as Armstrong was taken down during the two-point conversion attempt. In his inaugural game as a freshman, quarterback Johnson, stepping in after Will Howard’s departure, threw for 178 yards, ran for an additional 71 yards, and orchestrated a decisive 15-play, 72-yard drive in the fourth quarter.

The game-clinching moment came as Jayce Brown secured an 8-yard TD pass from Johnson with a mere 2:48 left on the clock. Any hopes of a Wolfpack comeback were dashed when Parrish intercepted Armstrong on their subsequent offensive play.

Armstrong’s performance in the final game included running for 121 yards, scoring one touchdown, and passing for 164 yards. The Wildcats of Kansas State concluded the season with a commendable 9-4 record.

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College Gridiron 365

USF Bulls Secure Bowl Glory: Crush Syracuse 45-0

Kevyn Bryant II

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In a spectacular display of prowess, the USF football team, under first-year head coach Alex Golesh, ended its season on a high note with a resounding 45-0 victory over Syracuse in the Boca Raton Bowl. The win marked USF’s first bowl victory since 2017 and a significant turnaround, securing a winning record for the first time since 2018.

The Bulls’ defense played a pivotal role in the triumph, forcing four turnovers, including two scoop-and-score touchdowns, and orchestrating their first complete game shutout since 2009. Defensive MVP Daquan Evans led the charge with five tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble returned for a touchdown. Special Teams MVP Aamaris Brown-Bunkley contributed by returning a botched field goal attempt for a touchdown and adding three tackles.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Byrum Brown, named Offensive MVP, delivered a stellar performance, completing 19 of 26 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns. Brown also showcased his versatility by rushing for a team-best 64 yards on 14 carries and even catching a 21-yard pass from Sean Atkins. Brown became only the second Bull to surpass 4,000 total yards in a season, finishing with 4,101 yards.

Atkins, the Bulls’ first 1,000-yard receiver, secured six passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulls’ offensive prowess propelled them to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. Brown’s connection with Atkins and a 31-yard touchdown pass to Khafre Brown highlighted the offensive dominance. John Cannon’s 40-yard field goal further extended the lead to 24-0.

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The defense continued its relentless performance, with Evans forcing another fumble, and Tramel Logan returning it 61 yards for a touchdown, making it 31-0 at halftime. USF’s defense held Syracuse to just 159 yards, 10 punts, and a mere nine first downs throughout the game, limiting them to 1-of-17 on third downs.

The second half saw Tavin Ward intercepting Syracuse’s first possession, setting up Brown for a 35-yard touchdown pass to Atkins, further widening the gap to 38-0. Nay’Quan Wright’s two-yard touchdown plunge in the early fourth quarter sealed the deal at 45-0.

The victory marked USF’s largest margin of victory in a bowl game and its fourth bowl win against an autonomous “power” conference program. The Bulls outgained Syracuse 407 to 159, with notable individual achievements from Brown, Atkins, and Logan.

Looking ahead, USF has already welcomed 25 new recruits on the first day of the NCAA Early Signing period, securing a top-class ranking in The American and among non-autonomous “power” programs. The Bulls will shift their focus to spring practice in March, building on the momentum gained from their outstanding Boca Raton Bowl triumph.

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College Gridiron 365

USF Bulls Secure Bowl Berth with Dominant Victory Over Charlotte

Kevyn Bryant II

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In a triumphant display on Senior Night at Raymond James Stadium, the USF football team (6-6; 4-4 American) punched their ticket to the postseason, securing a resounding 48-14 victory over Charlotte (3-9; 2-6 American). The Bulls celebrated not only the achievements of 16 seniors but also the program’s 11th bowl berth, marking the end of a drought since 2018.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Byrum Brown led the charge with another stellar performance, throwing for 253 yards and four touchdowns. Brown’s remarkable day also included 43 yards rushing and a touchdown, making him the first Bull to surpass 3,000 passing yards in a season, with his 2023 total reaching an impressive 3,078.

A standout throughout the season, wide receiver Sean Atkins continued his impressive run, logging his seventh-straight game with seven or more receptions. Atkins made seven grabs for 61 yards and a touchdown. Notably, he also showcased his versatility by throwing a 62-yard touchdown pass, becoming the first Bull since 1998 to both catch and throw a touchdown in a single game.

Running back Michel Dukes contributed significantly to the offensive prowess, running for a career-best 104 yards on 15 carries. The Bulls’ offensive excellence was complemented by a robust defensive effort that saw Logan Berryhill securing his third interception of the season, while Mac Harris and Daquan Evans notched their first interceptions.

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Jhalyn Shuler and D.J. Harris led the defensive charge with nine tackles each, playing a crucial role in holding Charlotte to less than 300 yards of offense and forcing three turnovers.

The turning point in the game came just 20 seconds into the second half when Brown connected with Jaden Alexis on a deep pass. Alexis, in a spectacular display of skill, spun his defender around and zigzagged for a 60-yard touchdown, giving USF a commanding 28-7 lead.

Although Charlotte managed a response with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Jairus Mack, the Bulls remained undeterred. Brown orchestrated a drive resulting in a field goal and followed it up with a daring onside kick, which USF successfully recovered at their own 46. Brown then capped off the drive with a 35-yard touchdown run, extending the lead to 38-14.

As the Bulls continued to dominate, John Cannon added his second field goal of the day, and USF entered the fourth quarter with a commanding 41-14 lead. The victory marked a five-win turnaround from the previous year, the largest in program history, and a return to the bowl season for the Bulls.

Reflecting on the game and the historic season turnaround, USF fans began to celebrate a bright future for their football program. The Bulls now eagerly await the official announcement of their bowl destination on December 3, savoring the prospect of postseason action for the first time in five seasons.

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