If you didn't get a chance to watch the two bowl games on Tuesday then you might not realize things were going along swimmingly (at least for Temple) until the injury bug struck down the best running backs on Temple and Miami, respectively.
In the EagleBank Bowl, Temple raced out to a 21-7 lead. The Owls' freshman of the year in the MAC Conference (and 1st team all MAC) running back Bernard Pierce sustained an undisclosed arm injury on the 3rd TD drive. He did not play again in the game. The UCLA Bruins added a FG with time expiring in the 2nd quarter to end the half down 21-10. Temple didn't score again. The Owls diminutive freshman RB Matt Brown did his best filling in for Pierce, but the speedster is best used as a compliment to Pierce's power. Temple had that change of pace setup working well until the injury. And, the porous UCLA secondary having to bite on play action was making Owls QB Vaughn Charlton not look like the liability he has been all season throwing the football. The Temple playcalling got a bit odd (would you run a 5-7, 167 lb., running back up the gut on 4th and 1 in FG range?) in the second half and they put the ball in Charlton's hands too often and it cost them. Akeem Ayers' pick six of Charlton with 6:01 on the clock put UCLA ahead for good. The Owls' offense had real problems moving the ball after the midpoint of the 3rd quarter while the Bruins slowly felt the momentum shifting in their favor. This game was really a disappointment because the whole Temple team slumped after the injury to Pierce. If he doesn't get injured, who knows if UCLA would have been able to get back into this one. You have to credit the Bruins players for not giving up even though they were freezing out on the field and played like it much of the first half.
Final Score: UCLA 30, Temple 21.
In the Champs Sports Bowl Miami's running back Graig Cooper went down in the second quarter. It is a dubious proposition to say that the result of this one would have been much different if he finished the game. Cooper wasn't going to go out on defense and stop Wisconsin's RB John Clay. Cooper had scored the Canes' only points (until 1:22 left in the 4th) within in the first minute of the game. Miami came out strong taking the opening kickoff to the house with a bit of trickeration. The play was called back to the Wisconsin 16 yard line because of an illegal block during the return. Cooper took the ball in on the first play from scrimmage. Wisconsin tied the game half way through the first quarter and then offense took a break in this game. Neither team would score again until Wisconsin's John Clay rumbled 52 yards into Canes territory in the 2nd quarter. The big run from Clay would set up his own TD a few plays later. The Badgers would add a FG towards the very end of the first half and the ensuing kickoff return injured Cooper. After the first TD, Miami was having serious issues protecting QB Jacory Harris and without the rushing threat of Cooper, the pressure on Harris got worse. No one did ANYTHING in the third quarter and only with 4:01 remaining in the contest did the Badgers add their second field goal. Miami was down 20-7 at that point. The game was seemingly in hand and Wisconsin dropped back in coverage and gave Miami short passing routes. The Canes finally decided it was time to show the viewing audience that they really were a football team and took advantage of a soft defensive scheme to go 79 yards and put the ball in the end zone. Then, following a mad scramble during an onside kick, Miami had the ball again down 20-14 with 1:22 left in the game. Harris was sacked on the first play and 3 incomplete passes later, the game was over. The only people who didn't see that kind of result in the works were Brad Nessler and Todd Blackledge who were telling those of us watching the broadcast, we have a game now! Don't leave! Not very convincing gentlemen. The U is not close to back. This team did not play like it wanted to be anywhere near a football field for all but 3 minutes of the bowl game. This was Miami's first 9 win team since 2005 and if you don't remember how that team played in its bowl game, let me refresh your memory: LSU 40, Miami 3. Wisconsin did not pile on near the points (3 turnovers didn't help the cause) that LSU did in 2005, but they dominated Miami's offense pretty much the same way. The Canes defense also got abused by Wisconsin to the tune of 430 yards allowed, 170 of that total on the ground. John Clay was unstoppable running the ball for Wisconsin. He finished with 121 yards on 22 carries and also scored twice.
Final Score: Wisconsin 20, Miami 14.
These two games brought my bowl picks record down to a miserable 3-6, Lincoln split the games and is now 3-2.
Bowl Challenge Standings
MWC 3-0 1.000 Pt. differential: 41
Sun Belt 1-0 1.000 (Dwight Dasher swagger override) Pt. differential: 10
Big East 2-0 1.000 Pt. differential: 23
Big 10 (C'mon there's really 11) 1-0 1.000 Pt. differential: 6
SEC 1-1 .500 Pt. differential: 16
C-USA 2-2 .500 Pt. differential: 8
Pac 10 2-2 .500 Pt. differential: -14
ACC 1-3 .250 Pt. differential: -11
MAC: 0-2 .000 Pt. differential: -13
Big 12: 0-1 .000 Pt. differential: -24
WAC 0-2 .000 Pt. differential: -42