Moving past Christmas means the teams from bigger conferences start getting involved. In three Boxing Day bowl games, Louisiana Tech (over Illinois in the Heart of Dallas Bowl), Rutgers (over North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl) and North Carolina State (over UCF in the St. Petersburg Bowl) came out as the winners.
Heart of Dallas Bowl – It’s easy to make fun of the Big Ten in recent years for their team’s records in out of conference clashes and bowl game records. The Fighting Illini didn’t make things better by losing 35-18 in the Cotton Bowl to Louisiana Tech, propelled by big plays instead of constantly beating Illinois all around. Kenneth Dixon caught an 80-yard touchdown pass just before the end of the first quarter to take a 14-3 lead and Xavier Woods returning an interception 69 yards helped them maintain a double digit lead in the second quarter. Two touchdown runs by Dixon and Blake Martin helped the Bulldogs run away with the game in the final quarter. Dixon finished the game with 142 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
Quick Lane Bowl – An impressive win for Rutgers, saving face for the Big Ten, taking a 23-0 and later a 40-8 lead over North Carolina before some garbage time points made it 40-21. The Scarlet Knights ran for 340 yards on 42 carries, including 202 for Josh Hicks. Robert Martin carried the ball across the goal line twice and Gary Nova, despite completing just 45% of his passes, managed to not get intercepted, throwing a couple of touchdown passes.
St. Petersburg Bowl – The best game of the day that featured another comeback, although UCF couldn’t finish it in time. The Wolfpack from Raleigh took a 34-13 lead in the fourth quarter before two touchdown passes from Justin Hollman to Josh Reese made the score look a bit more respectable. Jacoby Brissett had a big day with 262 passing yards and a touchdown throw, getting help from Matt Dayes (two touchdowns) and Shadrach Thornton who ran for 96 yards and also threw up a touchdown pass.