The most important takeaway for each bowl game

Here’s the most important thing we’ve learned from each bowl game:

Dec. 22

SoFi Hawai’i Bowl

Louisiana Tech 31, Hawai’i 14

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For those who stayed up late enough, Louisiana Tech cornerback Amik Robertson put on a show in the second half of the Bulldogs’ 31-14 win against Hawai’i in the Sofi Hawai’i Bowl. At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, he doesn’t have ideal size, but his athleticism and ball skills stand out. After being named a FWAA freshman All-American last year and a first-team All-Conference USA selection this year, Robertson’s trajectory points toward the NFL. His two second-half interceptions stood out in an excellent defensive performance from Louisiana Tech. — Kyle Bonagura


Dollar General Bowl

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Troy 42, Buffalo 32

Buffalo held a 17-14 lead at halftime and even led 24-21 in the third quarter after taking a fumble recovery back for a touchdown. Buffalo had turnovers of its own, though, with three in the first half and a costly fumble in the fourth quarter that led to an eventual Troy touchdown, taking a 42-32 lead and putting the game out of reach. That was one of three touchdowns for Troy in the fourth quarter. Trojans quarterback Sawyer Smith was a big part of the win, completing 31 of 44 passes for 320 yards and four touchdowns. — Tom VanHaaren


Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Army 70, Houston 14

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The Black Knights were dominant from start to finish, winning in record fashion (the 56-point margin of victory is tied for the largest in FBS bowl game history, matching Tulsa’s 63-7 win over Bowling Green in the 2008 GMAC Bowl). Houston — shorthanded on defense and with an interim defensive coordinator — was no match for Army’s triple option as it rolled up a whopping 507 rushing yards and did whatever it wanted offensively. Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. (five touchdowns) operated the offense to perfection. The Black Knights scored 70 points on only 62 plays and didn’t punt once (every possession except one ended in a touchdown; the one that didn’t was cut short by a fumble). Army ended its season on a nine-game winning streak and coach Jeff Monken has led the team to back-to-back double-digit win seasons as well as its first 11-win season in program history, an impressive feat. — Sam Khan Jr.


Jared Birmingham Bowl

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Wake Forest 37, Memphis 34

Wake Forest continues to play some of the most exciting bowl games every year, and Alex Bachman‘s touchdown grab with 35 seconds to play to beat Memphis fits the bill. The bigger question for the Deacons moving forward might be at QB, where Sam Hartman was solid before getting hurt in November, only to see Jamie Newman blossom down the stretch. On the other side, Memphis has to be reeling from blowing yet another big first-half lead. It was a decent season for Mike Norvell’s team, but it could’ve been so much more if they’d closed games out. — David Hale


Dec. 21

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

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BYU 49, Western Michigan 18

BYU was facing a 10-7 halftime deficit against Western Michigan but came back in a big way with a 28-point third quarter — a BYU bowl record — and coming out with a 49-18 win. A big part of that comeback was because of quarterback Zach Wilson, who completed all 18 of his pass attempts before being pulled in the fourth quarter. Wilson had 317 yards through the air with four touchdowns. He now owns the BYU record for consecutive completions in a game, passing Steve Sarkisian and Steve Young, each of whom had 14. — Tom VanHaaren


Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl

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FIU 35, Toledo 32

FIU’s chances of winning nine games in a season for the first time in school history seemed to take a big hit when coach Butch Davis announced that starting quarterback James Morgan, the Conference USA Newcomer of the Year, would be sidelined because of a sore throwing arm. But his replacement, junior Christian Alexander, filled in just fine against the Rockets in the Bahamas. Alexander, who before the bowl game had attempted only 29 passes this season, completed 17 of 26 passes for 209 yards with one touchdown. He also ran 11 times for 83 yards. The Panthers trailed 10-0 after the first quarter and 17-14 early in the third, but then they scored consecutive touchdowns with time-consuming drives to win their first bowl game since the 2010 Little Caesars Bowl. — Mark Schlabach


Dec. 20

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

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Marshall 38, South Florida 20

USF made a bit of history, and not in a good way, in its loss to Marshall. The Bulls are the first team to finish 7-6 after starting 7-0. Not even playing on their home field served as much of an advantage, as the same issues that plagued the Bulls during their slump in the second half of the season plagued them again. That starts with inconsistency at quarterback, and interim playcaller Justin Burke could not fix it. Marshall, which came into the game known more for its defense, racked up nearly 300 yards of offense in the first half alone as it took control of the game early. The Herd were particularly effective running the ball, gaining over 220 yards on the ground with five rushing touchdowns. Coach Doc Holliday is now an impressive 6-0 in bowl games at Marshall. — Andrea Adelson


Dec. 19

DXL Frisco Bowl

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Ohio 27, San Diego State 0

The Bobcats ended the season winning their sixth game in seven, while the Aztecs dropped their fifth of six. Ohio did it in much the same fashion as in its previous victories: offensive balance and a couple of timely turnovers. Ohio’s rushing offense, which entered Wednesday eighth nationally in yards per game, finished with 215 yards against a defense that had allowed only an average of 95 per game. The Bobcats also got some big plays from quarterback Nathan Rourke, whose 10 completions went for 206 yards and a touchdown. Rourke, a junior, is expected to return in 2019 and will be a solid foundation for longtime head coach Frank Solich to chase a third-straight nine-win season — or better. But the Bobcats will lose star runner A.J. Ouellette, who finished the night with 164 yards to end the season with 1,142. — Joel Anderson


Dec. 18

Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl

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UAB 37, Northern Illinois 13

Two years after UAB football returned, the program can claim a series of firsts: its first C-USA title, its first 11-win season and its first bowl victory. Although the team that beat Northern Illinois in the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl won’t be the same next season, with a reloaded defense and no Xavier Ubosi, who went off for three touchdown catches, the person throwing those long passes, Tyler Johnston III, will be back. The redshirt freshman improved to 4-1 as a starter and gives the Dragons reason for continued success. — Alex Scarborough


Dec. 15

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

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Appalachian State 45, Middle Tennessee 13

Brent Stockstill’s final game playing for his dad ended on a low note, while Appalachian State’s first game without Scott Satterfield showed that there’s plenty to like about the team new coach Eli Drinkwitz will inherit next season. Much of the talent on App’s depth chart is back for 2019, making the Mountaineers the obvious favorites to win the Sun Belt again next season. — David M. Hale


Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

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Georgia Southern 23, Eastern Michigan 21

Georgia Southern went back-and-forth with Eastern Michigan in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl before Tyler Bass hit a field goal with no time remaining to win 23-21. The Georgia Southern option offense gave Eastern fits in the first half, but Eastern Michigan opened the second half with a 75-yard touchdown and scored a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The win gave Georgia Southern its first 10-win season since the program joined the FBS in 2014 and stopped Eastern Michigan from winning its first bowl game since 1987. — Tom VanHaaren


Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl

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Fresno State 31, Arizona State 20

Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford has completed one of the most impressive two-year turnarounds in college football history. He inherited a 1-11 team following the 2016 season and in 2018 coached the team to its best season in school history. The Bulldogs set a school record for wins in a season (12) and, after entering the Las Vegas Bowl ranked No. 19 in the AP poll, will surely finish with their best final ranking, surpassing the No. 22 finish in 2004. The game didn’t mean as much for Arizona State, but it was another forgettable performance for the Pac-12, which is in desperate need of a good showing this bowl season. — Kyle Bonagura


AutoNation Cure Bowl

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Tulane 41, Louisiana 24

Steady is the word for coach Willie Fritz and Tulane. The program Fritz inherited was coming off back-to-back three-win seasons, and now, after winning four games and five games in his first two seasons, the Green Wave have won seven games, tied for first in the American Athletic Conference West and won the Autonation Cure Bowl. The 41-24 victory over Louisiana wasn’t pretty at times, as Tulane nearly coughed up a three-touchdown lead, but a strong finish signaled progress. Senior quarterback Justin McMillan must be replaced, but running back Darius Bradwell, who rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns against Louisiana, should be back for his senior season. — Scarborough


New Mexico Bowl Presented by Progressive

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Utah State 52, North Texas 13

Utah State had only four full-time coaches for the game following the departure of head coach Matt Wells to Texas Tech, but it didn’t matter. The Aggies were dominant from the start and closed out their second 11-win season in school history, leaving incoming coach Gary Andersen a strong foundation for continued success. Utah State’s only other 11-win season came in 2012, the final year of Andersen’s first stint leading the program, before he departed for Wisconsin and then Oregon State. — Bonagura


Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

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North Carolina A&T 24, Alcorn State 22

North Carolina A&T couldn’t run the football at all against Alcorn State, but it didn’t matter — not when Lamar Raynard was able to throw for nearly 300 yards, and certainly not when Malik Wilson returned a kickoff 79 yards — the longest in the history of the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl — for a touchdown late in the third quarter to seal the victory. It will be tough to replace the senior Raynard next season, but the good news for the Aggies is the two wideouts he found for touchdowns, Elijah Bell and Zachary Leslie, should return. — Scarborough

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