While we anticipate the end of college football season with the College Football Playoff game just days away, let’s go back and highlight bowl season 2017.
The advantage of sports blogging in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is the plethora of opportunities to see great football games in December. I enjoyed a few terrific bowl games: the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth and the Heart of Dallas Bowl at historic Fair Park in Dallas.
The Armed Forces Bowl takes place at Amon Carter Stadium on the Texas Christian University campus. This bowl game, as the name suggests, salutes current and veteran military members and this year, they received an incredible show. If I had one word only to describe the day, I would say: perfect. From the weather, to the celebratory atmosphere, with American flags, to an unforgettable victory by Army, the day was perfect.
During every quarter and at halftime, a different branch of the armed forces received recognition from the bowl organizers. An appreciation of military spouses also took place. These tributes added to the overall festive atmosphere.
The game itself featured the Army Black Knights and the San Diego State University Aztecs. Aztec running back Rashaad Penny placed fifth in Heisman Trophy voting, and his running skills were on full display. Penny ended his day with 221 yards rushing and four touchdowns on a mere fourteen carries.
With stats like that, an Aztec victory seems inevitable, doesn’t it? Well, not quite.
Army, not known for passing, played an attrition warfare strategy with their phenomenal rushing attack. The result ended in a bowl record-setting 440 total yards over 87 carries. The Black Knights also managed to score a go-ahead two-point conversion with :18 remaining in the game. On the Aztecs’ next possession, cornerback Elijah Riley recovered a fumble and returned it 29 yards for a final Army score as the game time expired. Final score: Army 42-San Diego State 35.
Historic Fair Park opened its doors to the West Virginia Mountaineers and the University of Utah Utes for the Heart of Dallas Bowl. This bowl recognizes the everyday heroics of first responders, and time was taken during every quarter to highlight different first responder groups.
While Fort Worth held the one word descriptor, perfect; Dallas encompassed a completely different set of circumstances. The weather was wet and very cold, the teams struggled with keeping the ball, and the bowl game itself fights for relevancy in an era where newer and bigger stadiums receive more attention than historic ones. The one word that raced through my mind for this game was: gritty.
In the cold and wet Dallas climate, the Utah Utes took control of West Virginia early and never lost it. The final score was Utah 30-West Virginia 14. Outstanding players included the Utes’ Tyler Huntley, who rushed for two touchdowns and the game’s MVP, Julian Blackmon, who intercepted two passes.
Keeping the ball and playing through adverse conditions lived up to the gritty moniker. Unfortunately, not many fans attended the game to see this tough battle.
Two bowl games, two cities, and two completely different game day experiences. What a great way to close out 2017!
Guest Writer: Laura Leigh Majernik