DALLAS — Zack Moss took a third-down handoff and burst through the line into an opening in the middle of the field. Utah was off and running to another bowl victory.
Moss ran for 150 yards, including a career-long 58-yard run for a touchdown on the Utes’ opening drive in the Heart of Dallas Bowl as they went on to a 30-14 win over West Virginia on Tuesday. Utah is now 11-1 in postseason games under Kyle Whittingham, who matched Alabama’s Nick Saban for the most bowl wins by an active coach.
“He knows how to coach the team and he always caps the year off right,” Utah sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley said.
Huntley scored twice on 2-yard keepers , but the Utes led for good in their fifth straight bowl victory after Moss broke free early on a drizzly and chilly day in Cotton Bowl Stadium.
“It was very important for us to come out of the gates with a big play early on and set the tone,” said Moss, who like Huntley still has two seasons left with the Utes (7-6).
West Virginia (7-6) finished the season with its third straight loss. The Mountaineers had only 153 total yards without junior quarterback Will Grier, who broke a finger Nov. 18, and 1,000-yard rusher Justin Crawford, a senior who bypassed the bowl game in advance of the NFL draft.
“It was a pretty disappointing loss to end a pretty disappointing season,” Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said. “You never hear me use it as an excuse. If you lose guys, you need guys to step in and play at a high level and that is the bottom line.”
Whittingham’s debut as head coach was a Fiesta Bowl win at the end of the 2004 season. He co-coached that game with Urban Meyer, who had taken the Florida job three weeks earlier but returned to be part of Utah’s postseason win over Pittsburgh after his defensive coordinator had been promoted to head coach.
Under Whittingham, the Utes prepare for bowl games like regular season games, often in full pads and with continuing conditioning work. There is also a little bit of peer pressure.
“We’ve got a group of guys and have had several groups of guys come here that take a lot of pride in their bowl performance and the bowl record that we have,” Whittingham said. “This group was no different. Each subsequent group doesn’t want to be the group that lets the previous groups down. They want to keep that bowl prowess alive.”
Jones leads Duke over Northern Illinois, 36-14
DETROIT — In mid-November, after a loss at Army, the Duke Blue Devils were looking at spending a second straight holiday season at home.
That made Tuesday’s success in the Quick Lane Bowl even sweeter.
After a six-game losing streak dropped them to 4-6, the Blue Devils (7-6) had to beat Georgia Tech and Wake Forest just to get bowl eligible. They managed that, got a bid to spend Christmas in Detroit, and salvaged the season with a 36-14 win over Northern Illinois.
“People ask me how we came back from 4-6, especially since we don’t have a star player who we could turn to,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “I tell them that we have a roster filled with great teammates. They decided they had to work together if we were going to come up with a decent finish.”
Duke quarterback Daniel Jones finished with 338 yards of offense, throwing two touchdown passes while running for a third score, and Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown added rushing touchdowns.
“We knew Northern Illinois had a lot of success rushing the passer this year, but our offensive line really controlled things,” Jones said. “That really opened things up for our offense.
“We were frustrated after losing to Army, but we were finally able to channel that into motivation.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Childers threw for 234 yards and a score for Northern Illinois (8-5), while fellow redshirt freshman Tre Harbison ran for a touchdown.
Kansas State beats UCLA 35-17 in Cactus Bowl
PHOENIX — Alex Delton ran for 158 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, leading Kansas State to a 35-17 Cactus Bowl victory over UCLA on Tuesday night in what could be the final game of coach Bill Snyder’s career.
Delton replaced Skylar Thompson late in the first quarter and scored on runs of 68 yards, 3 yards and 1 yard. Alex Barnes added 117 yards and a touchdown for the Wildcats, who rushed for 345 yards.
Kansas State (8-5) struggled in the first half against UCLA’s potent offense, but shut down the Bruins in the second to give Snyder his 210th — and possibly final — win with the Wildcats.
UCLA (6-7) played without top NFL prospect Josh Rosen, who’s recovering from a concussion, and built a 10-point halftime lead without its star quarterback.
The Bruins’ offensive success didn’t carry over into the second half and their defense had a hard time containing Delton, saddling interim coach Jedd Fisch with a loss in his last game before Chip Kelly takes over the program.
Snyder turned around one of the nation’s worst programs after taking over in the Little Apple in 1989. He returned from a three-year retirement in 2008 and led the Wildcats to eight straight bowl appearances.
Snyder has not decided whether he will return for a 27th season or retire again to spend time with his family.
The 78-year-old coach made a quarterback change in the first quarter of the Cactus Bowl, replacing Thompson after an interception. Delton had an immediate impact with his legs, bursting through a hole in the middle, making a tackler miss and racing 68 yards for a touchdown.
Snyder took a gamble in the third quarter, opting to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Delton came through again, bulling his way through a massive pile — with some help from his teammates — for a hard-earned score.
Kansas State recovered Bolu Olorunfunmi’s fumble at the Bruins 24-yard line on the next play from scrimmage, and Delton hit Dominique Heath for an 8-yard touchdown to give the Wildcats the lead.
UCLA turned it over on downs — after a successful fake punt — and Kansas State turned its fourth-down try into a touchdown, with Alex Barnes putting the Wildcats up 28-17 with a 41-yard run.
Kansas State gave UCLA no hope of a comeback with a drive that lasted more than eight minutes and ended with Delton’s final TD run.
Rosen, expected to leave for the NFL after his junior year, was in uniform at Chase Field and warmed up before the game, but Devon Modster trotted out to the huddle for UCLA.
The Bruins still had their big-play game going even without Rosen, building a 17-7 halftime lead on two long TD passes by Modster.
UCLA’s offensive roll ended with halftime. The Bruins had 100 total yards and three first downs in the second half.