Category Archives: 2022

2022 Music City Bowl, Iowa vs. Kentucky, 12-31-22: Photo Gallery

Iowa Hawkeyes football has been all about defense in 2022, allowing 10 points or less on nine different occasions. The team allowed just 13.3 points per game for the season. On Saturday in Nashville they continued another consistent trend…scoring on defense. The team’s 21-0 TransPerfect Music City Bowl shutout victory over the Kentucky Wildcats featured two defensive touchdowns.

Scoring on defense has been a theme for a long time during head coach Kirk Ferentz’s tenure at the school, spanning from the late Norm Parker to current defensive coordinator Phil Parker (no relation).

“Forever it seems like that our guys have done a good job…we do a good job with turnovers making them offensive opportunities if you will,” Ferentz said after the game. “Those guys know where to go, know where to get and our guys hustle when there is a turnover. They’re trying to make it more than just getting a possession.”

Freshman five-star recruit Xavier Nwankpa started off the scoring on defense and delivered in his first career start. Replacing All-Big Ten safety Kaevon Merriweather -who declared for the 2023 NFL Draft- Nwankpa posted eight tackles, a 52-yard interception touchdown return and one pass breakup.

Nwankpa’s felt as if the performance only increased expectations for the future at Iowa.

“Definitely set the bar for me on where I gotta go, where I gotta improve from,” Nwanka said of the bowl game performance. “So just keep making plays, having fun during the spring and get ready for next fall.”

One of the players who will continue to join him in the secondary is 2022 TransPerfect Music City Bowl MVP Cooper DeJean. DeJean –a 10.7 100-meter sprinter and 24-foot long jumper at OA-BCIG High School Iowa)-also contributed to the defensive scoring with his third interception touchdown return of the season.

But he was quick to give credit to those around him.

“Winning MVP…I think is more of a team award, because without these guys on defense I couldn’t do what I was able to do,” DeJean offered modestly. “Those guys were pressuring the quarterback all game. A lot of credit to the guys up front and everybody else on the defense.”

Iowa led the nation with seven defensive touchdowns in 2022.

2022 SDCCU Holiday Bowl, UNC vs. Oregon, 12-28-22: Photo Gallery

The Oregon Ducks (10-3) were searching for something in head coach Dan Lanning’s first season to provide an exclamation point. Taking on a nine-win ACC Coastal champion -led by star quarterback Drake Maye- in the North Carolina Tar Heels (9-5) provided just the recipe. But after the Tar Heels went up 27-21 with just 2:29 remaining in the game, the outcome was still very much in doubt.

Enter Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix.

Up until that point, the Auburn transfer had been just okay. But he completed five-of-six passes on the drive for 56 yards, including the game-winning six-yard touchdown to senior wideout Chase Cota.

Nix talked about the connection in detail.

“That’s one of our go-to plays, we feel really good about that play (game-winning touchdown pass)…we’ve run it multiple times,” Nix recalled. “And sure enough they brought a house blitz and Chase knows over and over that’s the throw if we get house. He’s gonna get a natural pick going across the middle, and we did a great job of picking up the protection. We threw it over the middle and got a completion for a touchdown.”

On the other side of the field, ACC Offensive Player of the Year Drake Maye got off to a fast start (206 yards passing, 51%, 3 TDs) for the Tar Heels, but the Oregon defense began to combat some of his efforts in the second half.

A big reason?

They stayed in the present.

“I thought our team did a great job of being in the present,” Lanning said after the game. “Our players made great adjustments. Even some of those drives we stalled out…didn’t get a first down, I think our guys believed hey we’re gonna get a stop and get an opportunity to do it again. And that’s what it came down to. You’re talking about phenomenal players making great plays and down the stretch, that’s what you saw.”

2022 First Responder Bowl, Utah State vs. Memphis, 12-27-22: Photo Gallery

The 2022 Servpro First Responder Bowl featured two teams in the Memphis Tigers (6-6) and Utah State Aggies (6-6) trying to get over the .500 mark. Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan completed 20-of-29 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns to earn game MVP honors.

Despite the outstanding performance, Henigan was quick to credit teammates after the game.

“We had a bunch of players make plays,” Henigan offered. “Jey (Jeyvon Ducker) had a long touchdown run, and a couple here and there. Preiskorn (Caden) had a touchdown, Eddie (Lewis) had a good over the shoulder catch, Joe (Joseph Scates) had one up the sideline. They were just getting open for me and, with enough time, we were having success.”

His deference should not take away from the sophomore’s two-year run as a starter for the Tigers. The former Denton Ryan High School (Tex.) standout earned the starting job as a true freshman and has not looked back. Through two seasons as a starter, he has completed 62-percent of his passes for 6,893 yards with 47 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

The Servpro First Responder Bowl was played at the same site (Gerald J. Ford Stadium) as the team’s last game of the regular season. In that contest, Henigan threw a game-ending interception to SMU’s Brandon Crossley with just two seconds remaining in a 34-31 loss.

Henigan’s bounce-back effort from that heartbreak in his hometown did not go unnoticed by Memphis head coach Ryan Silverfield.

“I think the bounce back by Seth, who came out and played his tail off…kind of shows you the resilience that we’re all about,” Silverfield explained. “For me, that’s why it’s personal and I’m proud to be able to get a win today because of what it meant to those guys in the locker room.”

2022 Independence Bowl, Louisiana vs. Houston, 12-23-22: Photo Gallery

Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune -effectively a fourth quarter maestro in 2022– once again saved his best for last in the 2022 Independence Bowl. As temperatures ranged in the mid-teens, Tune heated up right on time.

With the game in the balance tied at 16, Tune and star receiver Nathaniel “Tank” Dell made an in-game adjustment on an audible that led to the game-winning 12-yard touchdown pass. Cougars head coach Dana Holgorsen had no problem allowing his star quarterback make the call.

“I told yall a couple of day ago that he (Tune) was going to call a lot of the plays based on his familiarity with what they were going to do defensively,” Holgorsen offered after the game. “He changed that play (game-winning 12-yard touchdown pass to Dell) right. That’s what make this relationship (pointing to Tune and Dell) so special.”

2022 Las Vegas Bowl, Oregon State vs. Florida, 12-17-22: Photo Gallery

The 2022 Las Vegas Bowl was largely dominated by an Oregon State Beavers (10-3) squad seeking its first 10-win campaign since the 2006 season under then-head coach and 2022 USFL Coach of the Year Mike Riley. Prior to that, the team’s current head coach, Jonathan Smith, quarterbacked the Beavers to an 11-1 record and 2001 Fiesta Bowl victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The Beavers had 24 first downs to the Gators 13, scored on five of its six Red Zone scoring attempts and converted seven-of-12 third down opportunities in a resounding 30-6 victory in Allegiant Stadium.

But when asked to compare the current team to the one in which he passed for a career-high 2,773 yards and 20 touchdowns at the beginning of the century, the 2022 Pac-12 Co-Coach of the Year was having none of it.

“Ahhh…yeah,” Smith said in an aw-shucks manner while laughing . “I’m not going to be a smart aleck now. I think that both those teams had really good players on it and, again, special years on both instances. Really happy with this team. I’ll leave it there.”

Florida (6-7) -led by first-year head coach Billy Napier– was without starting quarterback Anthony Richardson (opted-out) or senior wideout Justin Shorter.

2022 SWAC Championship, 12-3-22: Photo Gallery

The 2022 SWAC Championship game was filled with electricity from the start, as the Tigers got out to a 26-point lead at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders, the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year, put on a show for the fans. However, the performance of Southern quarterback Glendon McDaniel helped lead a furious comeback for the Jaguars (7-4) in the third quarter. Eventually, the Tigers (11-0) cruised to a 43-24 victory to earn their second consecutive SWAC championship.

UPDATE: The game was bittersweet for many Tigers fans, as both head coach Deion Sanders and Shedeur are now headed to lead the Colorado Buffaloes in 2023 after they took on UNC-Central in the 2022 Cricket Celebration Bowl.

Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee, 11-26-22: Photo Gallery

The Tennessee Volunteers responded to a 25-point thrashing from the South Carolina Gamecocks to post a resounding 56-0 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (5-7) on a rainy night in Nashville. Despite the Commodores holding nearly a 28-minute advantage in time of possession, the Volunteers scored at will. They rushed for 362 yards on just 31 carries and posted three touchdown runs of 50-or-more yards. In addition, they returned a punt for a score in the win.

Tennessee (10-2) running backs Jaylen Wright (5 carries, 160 yards, 2 TDs) and Dylan Sampson (12 carries, 131 yards, TD) cleared the 100-yard barrier while junior Jabari Small added 79 yards and two more scores.

USC vs. UCLA, 11-19-22: Photo Gallery

The USC Trojans, led by quarterback Caleb Williams, overcame a 14-point first quarter deficit to win a shootout in the battle of Los Angeles Saturday night.

Williams passed for a career-high 470 yards with two touchdowns and also added another 33 yards (TD) on the ground. His counterpart, UCLA star quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, accounted for six touchdowns (4 PASS, 2 RUSH) but also had four turnovers in the team’s hard-fought 48-45 defeat.

The Trojans (10-1) kept themselves relevant in the race for a potential CFP playoff berth with a huge game coming up against Notre Dame next week.