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New Year’s Day of college football bowl games did not disappoint in terms of quality games. All four games featured ranked teams, and there was plenty of drama. Big players made big plays early and often Wednesday, and a number of them were worthy of Sports Center’s Top 10. From one-handed catches to kick return touchdowns, we revisit the best plays from Wednesday’s action.
Outback Bowl – Minnesota vs. Auburn
Auburn started the excitement for the day. Noah Igbinoghene took a kickoff back 96 yards for a score, and not a single Gophers player that caught him. Auburn utilized his speed early on, but Minnesota found a way to hang on and find their playmakers.
Tyler Johnson started his monster day off the right way. An insane one-handed catch in the back of the endzone gave the Gophers a score early in the game. Replay showed that he might be out of bounds, but there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the call on the field. Johnson looked great, and produced an incredible final game as a Gopher.
Johnson wasn’t done with his big plays after the one-handed catch. He put a nice move on the Auburn safety above and Tanner Morgan found him wide open to give the Gophers the go-ahead touchdown. Even after this amazing play, Minnesota required one more to secure the win.
Facing a critical fourth down, the Gophers took a risk. A play action resulted in pressure right in Morgan’s face. He ran out of time to wait, and lofted a prayer that almost sailed too far. However, tight end Bryce Witham went up with one hand to convert the fourth down. That catch sealed the win, and gave the Gophers an 11-2 finish to their season.
Citrus Bowl – Alabama vs. Michigan
No Tua Tagovailoa? No problem. Mac Jones showed that the Tide didn’t need their star quarterback to win a big game. It helps having the receivers he did too. Jerry Jeudy took his first catch 85 yards for a score to get Alabama started. The junior receiver, in what could have been his last game with the Tide, finished with 204 yards receiving.
Not to be outdone by his teammates, Najee Harris went above (literally) and beyond to get in the endzone. A defender got in his way, but he jumped to get over them, and flipped his way into the endzone. It was one of his two touchdowns on the day, and he ended with 136 yards on the ground as well.
Rose Bowl – Wisconsin vs. Oregon
Oregon started the scoring with a quick touchdown, but we expected that. The next kickoff displayed Wisconsin’s athleticism. Normally the Badgers take their time getting on the scoreboard, but Aron Cruickshank decided to take a few seconds instead.
In an unfortunate turn of events, Anthony Lotti went to punt but the ball slipped out of his hands. With no teammates of his around, two Ducks defenders swarmed him, taking him down. Oregon safety Brady Breeze scooped up the fumble and took it back to give Oregon a 21-17 lead.
Wisconsin responded after the fumble with 10 points of their own for a 27-21 lead. Justin Herbert gave the Ducks the lead for good with 7:50 left in the fourth quarter. With Wisconsin keying on C.J. Verdell, Herbert pulled the ball and scampered his way to the endzone to tie the game at 27 (with the extra point putting them up for good). Herbert, not normally a runner due to injuries, finished with 29 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Sugar Bowl – Baylor vs. Georgia
Baylor’s start to the Sugar Bowl went about as poor as it could, and this turnover started the struggles. Charlie Brewer’s threw a great pass, but it found the hands of Richard Lecounte III. Georgia didn’t get any points off of the interception, but they jumped out to a 19-0 lead quickly.
George Pickens caught just 37 passes all year, but hauled in over 25% of that total in the first half. Jake Fromm threw a tremendous pass to Pickens above, and the young Bulldogs receiver helped lead Georgia to its big lead. The Bears receivers struggled to cover him the entire half, and it resulted in a career high for the freshman. Pickens outgained Baylor by himself in the first half.
Anytime a kicker or punter produces a non-kicking play, you must celebrate it. Those are just the rules. Especially if that play turns into points directly or later on.