Freshman QB leads UNC to victory in Military Bowl
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Having guided North Carolina to a winning season and a lopsided bowl victory in his first year back at the school, Mack Brown has raised expectations — for himself and the fans — moving forward.
The veteran coach wouldn’t have it any other way.
Freshman Sam Howell threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns in addition to catching a TD pass as the Tar Heels blew out Temple 55-13 in the Military Bowl on Friday to cap a satisfying return season for their 68-year-old coach.
Howell completed 25 of 34 passes and ran for 53 yards on three carries to help the Tar Heels (7-6) secure their first bowl victory since 2013. North Carolina was 4-6 before winning its last two regular-season games to qualify for a bowl bid.
North Carolina went 3-9 in 2017 and 2-9 last year before hiring Brown, who coached the Tar Heels from 1988-97 prior to heading to Texas for a 16-year stay. Coming off a five-year absence from coaching, Brown — with help from Howell — quickly turned the program around.
“The last three weeks we’ve been a really good football team,” Brown said. “It’s fun. Now these guys coming back have something to build on. Seven [wins] is not enough anymore. You want to go to a bowl every year and get a streak of wins.”
Temple (8-5) has played in a bowl game in each of the past five years — and lost four of them. This was the Owls’ first trip under coach Rod Carey, who came to Temple after a run of six-plus seasons at Northern Illinois in which he was 0-6 in the postseason.
“It’s hard to swallow because I don’t know if there is that big a gap between these two teams, but there was today,“’ Carey said.
It might take a while before the Owls view this season as a success.
”’The further away we get from this moment, we will feel a lot better about it,“’ Carey said.
For Brown, there was no better feeling than frolicking with the players in the jubilant locker room at Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium.
“To be where we are now compared to where we were a year ago when I walked into that meeting and looked into those faces that were sad and disappointed because they just lost their coach and had a tough year,” Brown said, “that dressing room was a lot of fun downstairs.”
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Clemson coach Dabo Swinney grew up an Alabama fan when crowning a champion in college football was all about polls and bowls, and the best teams often never got a chance to settle it on the field.
“It’d be pretty cool to go back in time and take some of those teams, get the top four, and kind of do the playoff,” Swinney said Friday during the final Fiesta Bowl news conference with Ohio State coach Ryan Day. “And that’s what we have. We have a really cool setup in college football.”
With the College Football Playoff, national champions are now undisputed. More often than not the title game has produced intrigue and thrills. What the playoff has lacked in its first five years is drama on semifinal day. Only two of the 10 semifinals have been one-score games. Average margin: 21 points.
The Fiesta Bowl has a chance to buck the trend. No. 2 Ohio State (13-0) faces Swinney’s third-seeded defending national champion Tigers (13-0) on Saturday night in a rare CFP semifinal that feels a like it could be a championship game.
Clemson has won 28 straight games, the nation’s longest current streak. The Tigers are No. 1 in the nation in points allowed and No. 4 in points scored. Ohio State has won 19 straight games, second only to Clemson. The Buckeyes are No. 1 in the nation in scoring and No. 3 in points allowed. The winner advances to the national title game on Jan. 13 in New Orleans to face either No. 1 LSU or No. 4 Oklahoma.
“When you look at the guys on both sides of the ball on both teams, you’ve got a lot of NFL players who will be playing for a long time,” Day said. “It will be fun to see those guys playing against each other and competing. But you talk about a collection of power, speed, strength, you kind of look on both sides. It’s there.
“Clemson, they’re strong, they’re powerful, they’re tough. They’re fast. They have speed. We have speed. They