ACC Bowl Recap
It was an all-around lackluster bowl season showing from the ACC as the conference went 4-5 in its bowl contests. Clemson was the only team that really looked impressive considering the other three wins were by a combined margin of just 12 points. Here’s a look back at how each ACC team fared in their bowl.
Sun Bowl, Miami 14: Washington State 20
Four turnovers and a poor rushing attack doomed Miami in this one. Two of those turnovers were in the first half, allowing Washington State to take a 20-7 lead. Miami had to punt on all four of its third quarter possessions, and two late-game turnovers gave Washington State all they needed to hold off a Hurricane comeback. Brad Kaaya looked very average in this game, throwing for 219 yards with one touchdown and one interception. As a team, Miami was only able to rush for 114 yards on 3.9 yards-per-carry.
Pinstripe Bowl: Indiana 41, Duke 44
This was another game for Duke that involved a late-game controversy, but this time they were on the winning side. After Duke kicked a field goal in overtime, Indiana apparently missed their attempt over the right upright. Although many protested and said it was good, the play could not be reviewed and Duke began their celebrations. Overall, this was a great back-and-forth game. Duke won it on the ground, with 373 total rushing yards. Thomas Sirk ran for 155 and two scores, and both Jela Duncan and Shaun Wilson rushed for over 100 yards. It was a great finale after Duke staggered to the finish of the regular season.
Independence Bowl: Tulsa 52, Virginia Tech 55
The Hokies were able to send off Frank Beamer with a thrilling victory over Tulsa. This game was all about offense, as both teams combined for 1161 total yards. Michael Brewer threw for 344 yards, 227 of them to Isaiah Ford alone, but it was the rush game that scored the majority of Tech’s points. Four different players combined for five total rushing touchdowns.
Military Bowl: Pittsburgh 28, Navy 44
The Navy ground game proved to be too much for Pitt as Navy rushed for 417 yards and ate up 42 minutes of clock, led by Kenan Reynolds who ran for 144 yards and four total touchdowns. Turnovers were an issue for Pitt with Nathan Peterman throwing three interceptions. Their offense appeared to stall often, only gaining 335 total yards. At one point, Pitt was down 31-7, and the offense just wasn’t potent enough to mount a comeback. Star wide receiver Tyler Boyd was held to just 53 yards on six catches.
Russell Athletic Bowl: North Carolina 38, Baylor 49
In a fun-to-watch shootout, UNC failed to cope with a powerful Baylor ground game. Playing with their third string quarterback, Baylor resolved to pass the ball just 18 times and rush a whopping 84 times. It sure worked. The Bears racked up an incredible 645 rushing yards, often times running the same play over and over again. The Tar Heel defense looked completely lost in how to stop them. Baylor’s Johnny Jefferson ran for 299 yards and three touchdowns by himself. The defense completely let UNC down in this one.
On offense, North Carolina had another strong showing. Marquise Williams was prolific in the passing game, throwing for 243 yards and three touchdowns while adding 81 yards on the ground. Elijah Hood ran for 118 yards but was kept out of the end zone.
Belk Bowl: NC State 28, Mississippi State 51
In the biggest loss for an ACC team, NC State was completely out-played by Mississippi State. Dak Prescott had a career day with 380 passing yards and four touchdowns. He and the rest of the Bulldog offense were completely unstoppable. Offensively, it wasn’t a terrible day for NC State. Their run game was the focal point, racking up 210 yards and three touchdowns. Jacoby Brissett had a disappointing outing, throwing for 214 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Both interceptions led to Bulldog touchdowns. The defense gave up 569 total yards, and only Clemson was able to score more than 51 points on the Wolfpack.
Music City Bowl: Texas A&M 21, Louisville 27
Louisville relied on 20 first quarter points and a strong second half defense to seal a victory against the Aggies. Lamar Jackson was brilliant as he threw for 227 yards, rushed for 226 more, and scored four total times. No one else on the field came close to matching that kind of individual performance. The Cardinals certainly have a lot to look forward to in 2016.
Orange Bowl: Oklahoma 17, Clemson 37
The lone ACC bright spot, Clemson looked absolutely dominant in this game. The first half was close, with Oklahoma taking a one point lead into the locker room. In the second half however, it was all Clemson. The defense shut out a prolific Sooner offense and Deshaun Watson put together another stellar performance. Watson threw for 187 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 145 yards and another score. Wayne Gallman also had a fantastic game, rushing for 150 yards and two scores on 26 carries.
Peach Bowl: Houston 38, Florida State 24
The word that comes to mind when describing FSU’s performance against Houston is "sloppy". They started sluggishly, allowing Houston to take a 21-3 halftime lead. FSU scored plenty more points in the second half but conceded 17 fourth quarter points, thus sealing their fate.
All aspects of the Seminoles looked awful in this game. Sean Maguire threw four interceptions. Dalvin Cook finished with just 33 yards rushing (his lowest total all season) with one touchdown and one lost fumble. The defense allowed the most points they’ve given up all season. Roberto Aguayo missed a field goal. This game should have been easy for the Noles, but they finished an otherwise great season on an extremely disappointing and sour note.
Overall, the ACC had a pretty poor bowl season. There were many winnable games that teams just couldn’t pull out. North Carolina and Florida State especially could have given the conference a huge boost, but fell short. It's a fitting end to a season that had so much potential. Of course a Clemson national title is still a possibility, and that alone can give the conference a great image. Until that happens however, ACC fans will have to contend with mediocrity.